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AT&T was declared the fastest US network, but its rivals aren’t having it

April 5th, 2019 at 6:04 PM
Wireless network speeds

Emails started being sent out to reporters the moment Ookla announced the results of its latest speed test, in which it declared AT&T as the fastest wireless network in the US. T-Mobile, for example, quickly claimed that AT&T misled its way to a win — one that displaced T-Mobile, the frequent winner in both Ookla as well as OpenSignal speed tests.

The Un-carrier immediately pounced. In an email to journalists, T-Mobile claimed AT&T’s “5G E” logo on its phones that’s been lambasted as misleading nevertheless made customers curious enough to run more speed tests on Ookla’s speed test app, “disproportionately” giving AT&T more tests in LTE advanced areas. “While a win is a win,” the note from T-Mobile continues, “you have to wonder ‘at what cost?'”

A statement was provided from T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray: “When you look at the overall customer experience, there’s only one fastest LTE network: T-Mobile. We’ve led the industry on LTE speed for five years (20 straight quarters), all without lying to customers or pretending LTE is 5G.”

As we and others reported just a few days ago, AT&T announced that Ookla, which is the maker of the popular Speedtest utility, has named it the fastest wireless network in the nation based on the results of first 2019 testing. According to the carrier, the Speedtest results show that AT&T’s speeds improved by more than 15% over the first three months of 2018, which AT&T attributes in part to the company’s massive investment into its US operation since 2014.

Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs as well as AT&T’s chief technology officer, said in a prepared statement that the speed test results prove the company’s wireless network strategy and build are benefiting customers in ways that its rivals can’t match. It’s also worth pointing to one report which notes that, according to an Ookla representative, AT&T was already shaping up to be the fastest wireless network during the first quarter even before changing the LTE icon on its phones to the controversial “5G E”.

The other thing to keep in mind here is that the Ookla results are not so much definitive in and of themselves as they are just one more data point to be aware of. For example, OpenSignal last week noted that AT&T’s 5G E network is, at best, no faster than T-Mobile’s and Verizon’s related offerings. It’s also important to note that the Ookla results are crowd sourced, which is distinct from companies that use data from road tests that involve taking identical smartphones running on different networks to different locations all over the country and running tests.

Additionally, the network speed a mobile customer encounters is also dependent on a number of things that can sway results from one place to the next, including how many other users are drawing from a cell site and whether a customer is indoors or not.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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