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Verizon has lost its only advantage over T-Mobile

Published Feb 8th, 2017 3:14PM EST
T-Mobile vs Verizon coverage
Image: T-Mobile

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T-Mobile is cheap and Verizon is good. That’s the logic that’s guided people’s choice of cellphone carriers for years, but according to the biggest test of networks in the US, it’s no longer true.

OpenSignal has published its newest “State of Mobile Networks: USA” report, and the results will make bad reading for Verizon’s execs. T-Mobile and Verizon are now tied for first place in network speed, and within spitting distance of each other on every other metric. In every way that can be measured, T-Mobile’s network is just as good as Verizon.

The report uses crowd-sourced data to test all the networks nationwide. OpenSignal gets users to download its app — 170,000 of them were using the app for this report — and then continuously runs network speed tests to gather data on speed, latency and regional availability.

The approach is different to most other network tests, which uses “road-testing” to check speeds and availability in a number of pre-set locations. OpenSignal’s methodology is less repeatable, but by using millions of data points rather than thousands, it builds a better picture of national availability.

According to the data in the report, Verizon still has the edge in availability, with users able to get an LTE signal 88.17% of the time, instead of 86.60% on T-Mobile. That’s a tiny difference, and the only time when Verizon beats out T-Mobile. Both carriers have identical overall download speeds, and a nearly-identical ping.

So, what about AT&T and Sprint? They’re in third and fourth place respectively, but Sprint continues to be the only network that’s particularly bad. It’s the only network with availability below 80%, and the overall download speed of 7Mbps is pathetic compared to T-Mobile and Verizon’s 14Mbps.

What does all this mean for you when you’re trying to choose a mobile plan? Basically, there’s no reason not to go with T-Mobile. The speed and coverage you get will be the best you can buy, but T-Mobile’s single plan offers quasi-unlimited everything for $70 per month, with additional lines costing far less. Verizon, on the other hand, doesn’t even offer an unlimited plan.

Now yes: T-Mobile has had problems with salespeople cramming bills with unwanted charges, and that unlimited plan isn’t really unlimited. But the limitations on the unlimited plan won’t be an issue for the vast majority of people. What it comes down to is that T-Mobile offers service that’s just as good as Verizon, but much cheaper. That’s why it’s adding users while Verizon is hemorrhaging them, and why most people in the country would be better off to switch.

Chris Mills
Chris Mills News Editor

Chris Mills has been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, starting at Future Publishing, Gawker Media, and then BGR. He studied at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.