T-Mobile edges out Verizon for fastest LTE network, according to Ookla

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has the fastest LTE network in the U.S. market, according to a new report from Ookla's Speedtest.net, edging out Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ).

According to the report, T-Mobile averaged downlink speeds of 19.62 Mbps, compared to Verizon's 18.52 Mbps. AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) came in third in Ookla's rankings, with average downlink speeds of 14.61 Mbps and Sprint (NYSE: S) came in fourth with average download speeds of 10.44 Mbps.

As PC Mag explains, Ookla named T-Mobile the fastest wireless network in the country, even though Verizon won the speed race in more individual cities (Verizon won in 83 metro areas while T-Mobile won in 79). T-Mobile got the No. 1 spot because the national test included data from more locations than the metro area tests did, Ookla said. AT&T won in nine metro areas while Sprint won one.

"We rank mobile networks using the average LTE download performance. This provides an accurate view of the typical performance you can achieve using a modern smartphone or tablet on a given mobile network," Ookla explained. "Because LTE has become pervasive in the United States, we focused on LTE tests, rather than the average of all tests, which would unfairly bias mobile networks with customers using older, non-LTE devices. We also share average LTE upload performance for each mobile network."

T-Mobile said last week its "wideband LTE" service, which refers to markets that have bandwidth of at least 15x15 MHz dedicated to LTE, is currently available in 212 market areas and is now expected to be available in more than 250 market areas by year-end. Wider spectrum channels lead to faster speeds.

T-Mobile executives have crowed about the carrier's LTE speeds, and say the company's network is the fastest based on download speeds from millions of user-generated tests.

In its earnings announcement, T-Mobile said that in the second quarter of 2015, T-Mobile's average LTE download speed was 18.5 Mbps compared to Verizon at 18.2 Mbps, AT&T at 14.8 Mbps, and Sprint at 10.6 Mbps. T-Mobile has often cited Ookla for its speed claims and those figures certainly line up closely with Ookla's own test results.

Verizon, for its part, has emphasized delivering a reliable LTE data performance across the country with average speeds of between 5-12 Mbps. However, the carrier has also been deploying its AWS-1 spectrum across the country, and has those airwaves on the air in more than 400 markets. That additional spectrum can lead to faster speeds for devices that support it; most new Verizon smartphones do.

AT&T has been deploying carrier aggregation in certain markets across the country, including Dallas, New York City and San Francisco. Carrier aggregation, which is the most well-known and widely used technique of the LTE Advanced standard, bonds together noncontiguous bands of spectrum to create wider channels and produce faster speeds. 

Sprint disclosed it has also started the deployment of two-carrier carrier aggregation in the 2.5 GHz band in 80 markets, including parts of Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and San Francisco. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said yesterday that with carrier aggregation Sprint expects capacity and speeds to double, and that, in markets like San Francisco, customers with capable are seeing peak speeds of 125 Mbps to 135 Mbps.  Sprint currently has seven devices in its portfolio capable of accessing two-carrier carrier aggregation in the 2.5 GHz band and will expand that portfolio of devices over time.

For more:
- see this Ookla post 
- see this PC Mag article
- see this TMoNews article

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