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Ranking data speeds on the nation's major wireless networks

By Shawn Knight · 9 replies
Jun 13, 2018
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  1. If you’re looking for the absolute fastest wireless network in the country, look no further than the nation’s largest carrier: Verizon.

    In the latest update to its annual Fastest Mobile Networks report, PCMag awarded the first place finish to Verizon with an overall score of 99 followed by T-Mobile with an aggregate score of 93. AT&T, the nation’s second-largest provider, tallied a score of 88 and Sprint brought up the rear with 75 points.

    In gathering its data, PCMag used custom field test software from Ookla loaded onto sets of four Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones and driven around the country in rental cars – one down the East Coast, another along the West Coast and the third in the center of the US. All said and done, the publication visited 30 cities and executed nearly 88,000 tests from May 1 through May 23, 2018.

    While Verizon earned top honors, it’s important to note that we’re not just looking at who has the fastest download speeds. Indeed, PCMag’s results account for several factors including reliability and consistency as well as latency and upload / download speeds. In many cities, the carrier with the fastest average download speed didn’t win the award.

    Peak LTE connection speeds have jumped from the 200Mbps range to the 300Mbps range while average download speeds are up by about 10Mbps and latency is down by roughly 10ms compared to 2017. Carriers are pouring a ton of money into their networks and it’s evident that consumers are directly benefitting from this continued investment and competition.

    Another important takeaway worth highlighting is that carrier selection is only part of the equation. In the event your benchmark tests aren’t as anticipated or reflective of PCMag’s results, consider the device you’re using before contemplating a carrier switch. Newer phones can utilize the latest network technologies that older devices may not support.

    In fact, one could argue that carrier selection isn’t nearly as important as it once was. These days, all networks are fast and speeds are going to increase (exponentially so) with the advent of 5G networks. Smaller carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint are locking arms to wage war against bigger competitors and even the heavyweights are eyeing mergers in hopes of remaining at the top.

    That’s neither here nor there, however, as we’re living in the moment. Most consumers don’t make decisions based on the future but rather, on what’s happening right now. Furthermore, national results aren’t the best indicator of hyperlocal performance. For that, you’ll want to check out PCMag’s individual city and regional results.

    Permalink to story.

  2. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,842   +193

    I use to have all 4 major players they all use the same towers LOL. Of course they make it sound like there are towers for each carrier.

    V - to me this company is so expensive and the late fees are awful. service at a price though.
    T - they're strong cheap and change plan prices without telling you. Weak still in some areas
    A - good if you have others on their network to call, prices slightly higher than V service is okay
    S - use to be nextel once, still pricey service coverage is unknown plans and phones are dear.

    If I had to choose it would T though for the money I am spending service on high speed data is excellent no lag on video from you tube. unlimited everything now $70 instead of $60. Their off-shoot MPCS is lousy SMS, calling and etc. Yet so many on using it. C from AT&T no data on that service there GP wasn't that hot either. V leader yet cost the most over T. T you can do a lot more not pay the bill past 7 days still no late charge and ATP can be stopped too. Oh yes they do refund the money as credit to you account if you fight them on it.

    T = T-Mobile to me they should get 99.9% in the high data listing.. I see no mention of Comcast new X cell service. But that service only support iPhone.
    Clamyboy74 likes this.
  3. Axiarus

    Axiarus TS Evangelist Posts: 442   +259

    Huh? I have Verizon and pay $80 for "Unlimited". That is expensive now?
  4. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,842   +193

    $80 for you only when you added 3 or more it was like $200 a month. I only pay $70 for two adults unlimited everything plus high speed data, that's the key. V $80 and T $70 plus high speed data and unlimited everything.
  5. FliGuyRyan

    FliGuyRyan TS Enthusiast Posts: 43   +19

    I've been with T-Mobile since 2013, and I will NEVER switch unless they change their culture in an extreme way. They're constantly progressing and moving the market with them. They've been a catalyst for change since 2013/2014 when I worked there and they started the UnCarrier movement.

    I have a grandfathered unlimited data plan that costs me $17 on my "alumni" discount (15%). That combined with amazing speeds and I only hit about three spots where I don't get service around town. In fact, I pulled a Speedtest on March 18th of this year and it reached 145 down and 34.2 up. Freaking incredible...
  6. mctommy

    mctommy TS Addict Posts: 296   +68

    You are so wrong. All the carriers each have their own antennas on same or different towers throughout the US unless they don't have one, then they are roaming on each others network. While the towers may be used by 1-4 carriers called co-locators (most typical will have 3 arrays of antennas), they have different technology and band... so they are NOT using the same towers.
  7. T-Mobile and Sprint's networks are still abysmal. If you go anywhere outside of a major city you lose LTE connectivity immediately.

    Verizon is expensive for a reason, and that's because they have the best coverage and speeds of any carrier in the US.
  8. Axiarus

    Axiarus TS Evangelist Posts: 442   +259

    Pretty much this.
  9. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,800   +1,510

    Started off well -- unique ANTENNAS, but they are frequently mounted on common TOWERS :grin:
    The tower per se does not participate in the question -- it's just a mounting point for antennas.
  10. mctommy

    mctommy TS Addict Posts: 296   +68

    My mistake. It should have been they are not using the same antennas. Tipstir's first post (first 2 sentences) would lead most people to believe that all 4 carriers are using the same antennas but they are not. Also not all towers can accommodate more than 1 set of antennas... most typical in rural areas are 3 colocators.

    As for his last sentence, Comcast is not a wireless service provider but rather a Verizon MVNO.

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