T-Mobile Ranks Fastest Network for 2018

John Lister's picture

T-Mobile is the fastest, most reliable mobile broadband in the US according to a newly-published study. It seems some of its rivals struggled to cope with demand after switching to unlimited data plans.

The good news is that speeds are increasing across the industry, with AT&T the only one to actually lose speeds. In its defense, AT&T was the only network stopping T-Mobile sweeping all six categories in the tests.

The data comes from measurements from 237,213 mobile devices owned by users of Open Signal, an app for checking connection speeds. While the company says this represents real world use rather than theoretical speeds, one possible drawback is that the type of person who uses a speed test might not be representative of phone users as a whole. (Source: opensignal.com)

Sprint Doesn't Live Up To Name

The most high-profile category was 4G download speeds where T-Mobile was top with 19.42 Mbps compared with 17.77 Mbps on Verizon, 13.27 Mbps on AT&T and 12.02 MBps on Sprint. (Source: mashable.com)

A year earlier, Verizon and T-Mobile were virtually identical on 4G speeds. Open Signal says it detected a clear decline in both AT&T and Verizon's speeds last year after they introduced unlimited data plans and that likely caused network demand to grow. Verizon didn't make up the difference until the end of the year, and AT&T is still behind the speeds it offered before the unlimited plans.

AT&T Doesn't Lag Behind

T-Mobile was also top of the charts for 3G speeds - which in turn made it top for speed overall, the availability of 4G service (with a signal available 93.13 percent of the time) and the latency of 3G phones. AT&T was best for 4G latency.

Latency is the delay in devices sending and receiving instructions to transfer data, rather than the speed of transferring data itself. Poor latency can be a particular problem in online games and video or voice over Internet services such as Skype.

Local factors still play a big role though. Open Signal broke the results down by 33 regional markets and while T-Mobile and Verizon dominated, seven markets had either AT&T or Sprint tied for first place.

What's Your Opinion?

Do the results match your personal experience? Which is more important to you: speed or availability? Is a drop in speed a price worth paying to be able to get an unlimited data deal?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I would certainly take up the unlimited data option - if it was affordable and I actually needed it. Right now I work in an office that has WiFi and most places I go to have WiFi, so my phone doesn't need data. Also I'm not tethered to my phone like most people that "absolutely must have data". That said, where I am from most cell companies offer an unlimited data plan on 4G up to a certain interval (say, 25GB) - beyond that, the plan is still unlimited but bandwidth becomes slower. So instead of getting 20mb/sec you might get 10mb/sec after the initial 25GB.

Watcher007's picture

I tried T-Mobile about a year ago and went back to Verizon. They lured me away with Unlimited data because I have a teenage daughter who uses lots of data but coverage was so bad I ended the contract and stuck with Verizon who had the better coverage. Since then I have gotten Verizon's "Unlimited Data" plan that switches from 4G LTE to 3G after we exceed 14GB plus any data left over from the previous month.

I always advise people to choose a provider that has the best coverage for where you will be the majority of the time. At the end of the day all of the larger carriers have essentially the same phones for about the same priced plans. The best phone with the most available data that gets horrible reception is of no value to me.