Verizon has long been thought of as the nation’s broadest network, with coverage that always seems to stretch to areas where other networks don’t. AT&T is no stranger to vast network coverage either, and T-Mobile constantly touts the improvements made recently to its always-expanding 4G LTE network in TV commercials. Meanwhile Sprint continues to build out its network as well, still recovering from the WiMax mistake it made early on.
With all of this 4G coverage all over the country, one question still remains: Which carrier has the fastest 4G LTE network?
Countless tests have been conducted over the years that sought to answer that very question, and it’s important to repeat these tests annually. Why? Because LTE networks are not static — they’re constantly being expanded and upgraded with net technology.
OpenSignal became the latest to update its annual test results on Tuesday, and the big winner was clear: T-Mobile. America’s scrappiest carrier was awarded three victories in different categories, including 3G latency, 3G download speed and 4G download speed.
To assemble its study, OpenSignal collected data from more than 376 million tests performed with a publicly available speed test app used on more than 180,000 smartphones. The firm found that Verizon and T-Mobile were neck and neck where LTE download speeds are concerned, but T-Mobile managed to narrowly beat its much larger rival.
“Verizon is still the operator to beat when it comes to network reliability, but T-Mobile is squaring off against the super-carrier in download speed,” OpenSignal said in its report. “Nationally both operators are averaging 4G connections of 12 Mbps, and in a speed comparison in the 11 largest U.S. cities, T-Mobile just barely edged out Verizon. AT&T and Sprint hardly even factored in the contest.”
Verizon came away with the award for best 4G coverage and Sprint was awarded lowest 4G latency. According to OpenSignal’s data, AT&T didn’t take the top spot in any category, though it was No. 2 in network coverage and in 3G network speed.
UPDATE: A Verizon spokesperson contacted BGR via email with the following statement:
Surveys that use crowd-sourced data sound cool, but they can be misleading – when you can’t reliably connect to a network, there’s no way to measure its performance or speed. OpenSignal’s own methodology page on their website states that the results include “an inherent bias” due to the crowd-sourced nature of their surveys. Most respected, impartial third-parties that use actual testing equipment rate the Verizon Wireless network as fastest and most reliable – in fact, in four national studies in a row, Verizon has won RootMetrics awards for best overall performance, reliability and speed.
UPDATE 2: Sprint supplied BGR with the following emailed statement:
We’re pleased to have won the LTE latency award for the third consecutive time, an important measurement of application performance. As for speed, we think what really matters most is the actual customer experience, which is why we’re proud of Nielsen Mobile Performance data showing we deliver the fastest LTE download speeds. We’ll keep working hard to be provide the best experience for our customers, but we also know that network performance differences are often indiscernible to most customers in most markets. For example, in this report there’s only a three second difference for downloading a 7MB file comparing T-Mobile’s speed versus Sprint’s. However, when it comes to value, there’s a huge difference between carriers. Sprint is the clear winner with its 50% off offer. Customers no longer have to choose between a good network and one they can afford – at Sprint, they can have both.