AT&T wins on speed, Verizon on consistency in Q1-Q2 2019, says Ookla

Overall, the mean download speed over mobile in the U.S. increased to 33.88 Mbps. (Pixabay)

Over the past year, AT&T has managed to leapfrog the competition to produce the fastest mobile broadband download speeds across the country, according to Ookla’s most recent Speedtest U.S. Mobile Performance Report released today. The report credits this accomplishment in part to the fact that AT&T is now delivering LTE service over seven licensed frequency bands, and it has increased the amount of seeded devices capable of four- and five-carrier aggregation.

The 2019 Speedtest U.S. Mobile Performance Report is based entirely on Ookla’s Speedtest data captured during the first half of 2019. During this period, over 2.7 million unique mobile user devices were used to perform more than 11.5 million consumer-initiated cellular network tests on Speedtest apps.

Ookla chart 1

In regard to AT&T, the report also noted that the addition of FirstNet spectrum meant a required maintenance visit to cell sites and the addition of new hardware at those locations. “AT&T wisely used this opportunity to also upgrade the existing radio access infrastructure, including replacing the aging Alcatel-Lucent equipment with Nokia in some areas and adding the 2.3 GHz WCS spectrum for additional capacity,” states the Ookla report. “This strategy, combined with a slew of Category 15-20 LTE smartphones, meant a tremendous boost in coverage, speeds and overall capacity.”

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Overall, the mean download speed over mobile in the U.S. increased 24.0% between Q1-Q2 2018 and the same time frame in 2019 to 33.88 Mbps. This raised the U.S. three spots in world rankings for mobile download speed over the prior year. This is an increase of 45.1% over Q1-Q2 2018. T-Mobile was the second fastest (up 9.4% year over year), and Verizon Wireless was the third fastest (up 9.5% year over year). Although Sprint was the slowest operator, it showed the second largest year-over-year improvement (36.8%).

The Ookla report also ranked the most consistent national operator in terms of speeds. The Ookla authors think this is an important category because there are many places where mobile internet speeds are not consistently high enough for common use cases such as streaming HD video. The report created an “Acceptable Speed Ratio" (ASR) category, and it found Verizon to be the top operator in this category. 

Ookla chart 2

The report partly attributes Verizon’s top ASR performance to its network densification efforts: increasing the amount of spatial streams and adding License Assisted Access (LAA) to urban cores. “Virtually all mid-band spectrum assets have been repurposed for LTE, and in many markets, a portion of the 850 MHz spectrum is used to fortify the coverage layer,” states the report.

Fastest states and cities

Rhode Island was the fastest state in the U.S. during Q1-Q2 2019 with a mean download speed of 49.71 Mbps, according to Ookla. Minnesota ranked second for mean download speed in Q1-Q2 2019, the District of Columbia third, Delaware fourth and Massachusetts fifth. 

In the losers category, Wyoming was the slowest state in the U.S. for mean download speed over mobile during Q1-Q2 2019 for the second year in a row. Mississippi was the second slowest, Iowa third, Alaska fourth, and Oklahoma fifth. 

In terms of the fastest cities, Minneapolis took top honors, St. Paul ranked second, Atlanta third, Pittsburgh fourth and Fort Wayne fifth place. Laredo was the slowest city on the list for the second year running. Madison was second slowest, followed by Fresno, Oklahoma City and Stockton.

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