Fastest mobile networks of 2017: T-Mobile edges out AT&T, but Verizon is still king

William Gayde

Posts: 378   +5
Staff member

You've seen the commercials. Every provider claims to have the best mobile network and they use carefully chosen wording to prove it. Sometimes it's only in certain cities or with certain plans and phones. In an effort to cut out all of the marketing fluff and fine print, PC Magazine conducts a yearly nationwide speed test among the four major carriers to determine who is definitively the fastest mobile carrier.

To nobody's surprise, Verizon was the winner yet again. What was interesting in this year's study was T-Mobile's jump to second place ahead of AT&T. They finished at only one point behind Verizon, too. PCMag's results show Verizon offered the most reliable and consistent high-speed network overall, but split individual wins for 36 cities and rural regions three ways with AT&T and T-Mobile. Tests were performed using Galaxy S8 smartphones with a customized version of the software. The TL;DR is as follows:

Verizon: fastest mobile network overall

AT&T: fastest average download speeds

T-Mobile: nearly the same performance as Verizon but far cheaper

Spring: fast speeds but still playing catch up on reliability

Although only the "big four" carriers were tested, this still accounts for the vast majority of providers. Smaller carriers like Cricket, MetroPCS, Virgin, Google Fi, and Boost Mobile all reuse the big four's networks. The ongoing price war between the four carriers has definitely been beneficial to customers.

Maximum and average download speeds have consistently improved for 8 straight years. Sprint made large improvements in 2015 and 2016 but those have appeared to slow down. While Sprint does offer the same top speeds as the other providers, they are much less consistent overall.

Looking to the future, 4G will continue to advance until 5G arrives in a few years. In the meantime, carriers are investing heavily in small cells which can help fill in coverage holes and boost capacity in popular areas. Mobile network technology is relatively slow to evolve though, so don't expect gigabit download speeds to happen overnight. After all, PCMag was still testing 3G speeds up until last year.

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Posts: 585   +336
I've never even been close to 200Mpbs on AT&T, that's so laughable. If you could ever get 5 bars on AT&T you might be able to achieve this.

Recent speed test over AT&T with 1-2 bars (which is pretty much all of DFW)


Posts: 8,645   +3,288
200 Mbps down on 4G??? The fastest speed I've ever encountered here with Vodafone/Verizon is about 25 Mbps and that's considered breakneck speed... at 2am. My good old fashioned ADSL line is a lot faster, is uncapped and unshaped... not to mention much, much, much cheaper and that explains why I don't use or need more than 50MB 4G LTE per month.


Posts: 1,996   +663
Let's be honest, both can matter.

If you have a cup and I have a bucket, who cares if the water comes out one miniscule droplet at a time?
That is true however most speeds are plenty for 1080p streaming unless you are in a rural area.

1. Bandwidth Caps
2. Coverage Areas
3. Speed


Posts: 1,362   +653
Occasionally, there are some weird problems with tmobile where I have all the people complaining to me about dropped calls and inability to call.
But other than that, it has been a worthy carrier for me.
I just love paying 25 bucks for something I had to pay over 50 on Verizon.
And I wonder, does atnt's family plan still has shared data?
When I first heard about this questionable feature, I knew that there was no way I
would ever be an AT&T customer.