Mobile Leads US Market in LTE Availability, Speed in Q4

Testing Firm: T-Mobile Is the 'Operator to Beat'

Latest OpenSignal State of the Mobile Networks report shows T-Mobile still on top, Verizon and AT&T recovering

In OpenSignal's previous report, T-Mobile had swept all six categories.

T-Mobile USA Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) built on a lead it established last summer to once again claim the title as the fastest 3G and 4G mobile networks in the United States.

This latest report is based off of nearly 2.4 billion tests through nearly 240,000 devices from October 1, 2017 to December 30, 2017. During this period, OpenSignal looked at 5.9 billion tests taken on 237,213 mobile devices across the U.S. OpenSignal says the Uncarrier tallied an average download speed of 19.4 Mbps, putting it ahead of runner-up Verizon and its 16.5 Mbps average. T-Mobile had already almost caught up with Verizon in terms of 4G download speeds (16.65 Mbps and 16.89 Mbps, respectively) by last winter, but then took a commanding lead by August and maintained it through 2017. AT&T customers' average latency was 58.2 milliseconds, T-Mobile's was 59.7, Sprint's was 69.6, and Verizon's was 70.

"Sprint still sat in last place in 4G speed, but if it continues its steep upwards trajectory, it could soon put pressure on AT&T for the third-place slot", analysts wrote.

On 4G availability, T-Mobile edges out Verizon with a 93.14 percent rating, compared to 92.72 percent.

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Although anecdotally T-Mobile hasn't been known to have comparable availability to Verizon, for whatever reason it has beaten Big Red in OpenSignal's tests. The carrier, along with Sprint, have managed to weather the demands of unlimited data packages, which have seen both AT&T and Verizon only recently begin to recover from a downtick in typical speeds.

As OpenSignal's report reveals, Verizon and AT&T's download speeds dipped because of the return of the unlimited plans, but started to show signs of rebounding by Q4 of 2017.

T-Mobile's download speed has steadily climbed over the past year, according to OpenSignal's testing. As in our last report, the two leading operators were extremely close in this metric, though T-Mobile barely edged out Verizon for our 4G availability award in the 4th quarter. That places AT&T behind its own performance this time a year ago, making it the only company to have lost 4G performance compared to the OpenSignal February 2017 report. Sprint's average 4G speeds have risen a remarkable 33% over the past year to 12 Mbps in the 4th quarter. Sprint saw its 4G availability go up 9 percentage points in the past year, OpenSignal said. That neck-and-neck race was evident in our 33-city analysis where Verizon had the advantage.

One part of OpenSignal's report that's sure to be welcomed by all wireless users regardless of which network they use is the availability of 4G signals that the firm found during its testing. Verizon won our 4G availability award outright in 11 markets, but it drew with T-Mobile for the award in the remaining 22 markets. "In this report, which includes an additional month of data, we saw more evidence of a big Verizon end-of-year push in 4G speed". Both speeds and coverage are up notably compared with a year ago, and Sprint appears to be a viable rival to AT&T.

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