Verizon speeds slowed after unlimited plans introduced

David Matthews

TS Maniac
Staff member

Mobile network measurement company, OpenSignal, analyzed 5.07 billion datapoints collected from 172,919 users (using the OpenSignal app) between March 31 and June 29, 2017. Based on the study, OpenSignal released data that shows Verizon LTE speeds have diminished since they re-introduced unlimited plans in February.

"Six months after reintroducing unlimited plans, Verizon and AT&T experienced a marked decline in 4G speeds in our tests. The impact appears to have hit Verizon the most. Its average LTE download test fell 2 Mbps to 14.9 Mbps in the six months between reports."

This revelation should come to no surprise considering Verizon has the largest customer base. The more people who consume data, the more bandwidth that is consumed thus slowing down speeds for everyone. However, Verizon and AT&T were practically forced to offer unlimited plans largely in response to T-Mobile's "Un-carrier" strategy of offering unlimited plans at cheaper rates.

T-Mobile's unlimited plan does come with a huge caveat however. The carrier often advertises "Binge On", a feature that allows subscribers to watch a plethora of streaming services without using up their data. While that sounds great on the surface, the resolution of the video is limited to standard definition in order to ease the burden on their networks. Many proponents of net neutrality have decried this strategy as a violation of earlier net neutrality rules put in place by the FCC.

Regarding the other carriers, "As both T-Mobile and Sprint have offered unlimited data plans for some time, OpenSignal didn't see any adverse effect on their speeds. In fact, both operators' LTE speeds climbed upwards in the last six months. T-Mobile was the fastest operator in our test results with average LTE download speeds of 17.5 Mbps and overall speeds of 16.1 Mbps."

In a surprising bit of revelation, OpenSignal also found that not only were T-Mobile's speeds faster than Verizon, they very narrowly beat out Verizon on LTE availability. The testers were able to find a 4G signal on T-Mobile 90.9% of the time compared to 89.8% on Verizon. However, Verizon still has better overall availability if you include 3G.

This news bodes well from a competition standpoint. Clearly, T-Mobile's investments in lower end spectrum for better building penetration and longer distances have done wonders for their overall coverage. Because their customer base is smaller, they're able to gradually build up their network as they gain subscribers. This presumably has the effect of creating a more robust network while allowing for future growth. A stellar marketing department and brash yet quirky CEO also helps as well.

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