Both AT&T and T-Mobile nabbed bragging rights in Q2 mobile performance, according to new analysis by Ookla. AT&T’s 4G LTE network ranked fastest and most consistent, while T-Mobile’s 5G coverage dwarfed that of its two competitors.
Each put out press releases boasting their respective wins, as rival Verizon fell behind both AT&T and T-Mobile in most categories. Notably that includes Ookla’s 5G Capable Speed Score, which measures tests on 5G-capable devices but also accounts for connections over LTE and older technologies.
Ookla’s Q2 results for mobile and fixed broadband are based on 85.1 million consumer-initiated Speedtests from over 1.6 million unique user devices. Speed Scores are calculated using each provider’s download and upload speeds to give an overall network performance speed rank, with the latter accounting for 10% and 90% attributed to download. Scores are from tests in competitive geographies and on devices with modern chipsets.
According to Ookla, as of July 5, there were 5,164 cities with commercial 5G deployments. Of those 5,013 were from T-Mobile, which is primarily using low-band 600 MHz spectrum for its nationwide 5G deployment. Like T-Mobile, AT&T is also largely focused on low-band, refarming existing 850 MHz spectrum. According to the report, AT&T had just 237 5G deployments, followed by Verizon with only 39.
At the end of June, AT&T said its 5G service was live in 335 markets, covering multiple cities within those and reaching 179 million people. T-Mobile, meanwhile, says its 5G service reaches 225 million people.
All three operators have deployed 5G using millimeter wave in at least some markets (Verizon is exclusively using mmWave at this point, with rollouts in parts of 35 cities). T-Mobile is the only carrier turning on mid-band spectrum for 5G, as it works to integrate and activate the 2.5 GHz it acquired through its merger with Sprint.
T-Mobile pointed out that results show its 5G service is available in 20-times more cities than AT&T and Verizon combined, and nearly 130-times more cities than Verizon alone. In usual character, T-Mobile also took the opportunity to take a dig at rival Verizon.
“Sure, it would be easier to deliver blazing speeds in postage stamp-sized areas like Verizon, but our strategy is different. T-Mobile’s strategy is built on delivering a meaningful 5G experience people can actually use,” said Neville Ray, president of Technology at T-Mobile, in a statement.
Like 4G LTE, for 5G-capable speed scores AT&T was clearly the winner at 57.52. That compares to second-place T-Mobile at 49.22, followed by Verizon at 47.23. Ookla also included Q2 results for Sprint, though T-Mobile recently deactivated those legacy 5G sites.
Ookla's 5G Capable Speed Score for Q2 2020. (Ookla)
When it comes to strictly 5G connections, Verizon had the highest speed score at 870.50 – well above AT&T (78.68) and T-Mobile (64.26). This is consistent with other independent tests, including June results from Opensignal, showing Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G Ultrawideband service delivers super-fast speeds. The trade-off is very limited deployments, as the short-range signals are only available in small pockets of certain cities.
Verizon is one of the applicants set to vie for mid-band spectrum at the FCC’s 3.5 GHz auction later this month, and is expected to participate in the C-Band auction teed up for December. The carrier has also been testing dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology with hopes of rolling out broader coverage.
AT&T keeps 4G LTE crown
Since most consumers aren’t using 5G connections yet, results for 4G LTE are still important and AT&T came out on top in two key categories.
AT&T nabbed the top spot for fastest U.S. mobile network in Q2, with a score of 41.23. That’s double digits ahead of Verizon who ranked last at 30.77, and better than second-place T-Mobile at 33.69.
The carrier noted it’s held Ookla’s fastest network title throughout 2019 and during the first half of 2020. AT&T’s been bolstering its network with LTE-Advanced technologies and additional spectrum from its FirstNet public safety and 5G networks.
Ookla's Q2 2020 4G LTE Speed Score in competitive geographies with modern chipsets. (Ookla)
AT&T’s was the fastest operator in 79 of the 100 most populated U.S. cities, compared to Verizon (9) and T-Mobile (7). The carrier won regionally as well, clocking the fastest download speeds in 38 states plus D.C. T-Mobile was the fastest in eight states, while Verizon was the fastest in just one.
Users on AT&T’s network also had the most consistent quality of service network, according to Ookla, meeting minimum download (5 Mbps) and upload (1 Mbps) thresholds in 79.7% of tests. T-Mobile was very close at 79.2%, while Verizon placed third at 73.8%.
Verizon did get the highest marks for 4G availability at 99% (tied with Sprint), followed by AT&T (97.8%) and T-Mobile (97.5%). T-Mobile, meanwhile, had the lowest median latency at 31 ms, with Verizon in second at 33 ms and AT&T in third at 35 ms.
Overall, mobile speeds in the U.S. are increasing, with median download speeds jumping 15.8% between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020 to 29 Mbps.
Updated with additional information on AT&T 5G markets and population coverage.