T-Mobile butts head with Verizon in OpenSignal’s latest U.S. results

The John Legere juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down. Ever since the outspoken CEO took over T-Mobile in 2012, he’s been promising the Un-carrier would become a major force in the U.S. mobile scene. In our latest test results, we’re seeing the culmination of those efforts. T-Mobile won four of six performance categories we measured in our new State of Mobile Networks for the U.S.

OpenSignal testers measured the fastest speeds among the four nationwide operators on T-Mobile’s LTE network, though it did wage a close-fought battle with Verizon for the title. In our February report, Verizon and T-Mobile were tied for first place in speed, but with average LTE download speeds of 16.3 Mbps, T-Mobile managed to beat out its larger competitor in our latest results.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mike Mozart

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mike Mozart

Verizon was still the clear winner in our 4G availability metric, which measures the proportion of time customers have access to a particular network. Our testers on Verizon’s LTE network could latch onto a 4G signal 86% of the time. T-Mobile is gaining ground though. It surpassed AT&T in LTE availability, supplying its customers with a 4G connection 83% of the time in our measurements. We found an LTE signal on AT&T’s network 80% of the time, but Sprint landed a distant fourth in this category with an availability metric of 70%.

For this report, we dove into our regional data to see how the operators’ 4G services fared in 31 different metro markets. We found T-Mobile’s and Verizon’s battle over speed replicated on the city level with one of the two operators either winning or drawing for our fastest LTE award in 30 instances. AT&T took our prize for fastest LTE connections in the remaining market, Austin, and tied for the top spot in six more cities.  Verizon, however, dominated our regional results in LTE availability. We tracked an LTE signal most consistently for Verizon in 17 of the 31 cities, and in the remaining 14 metro areas Verizon tied with another operator for first place.

While Sprint lagged its three larger competitors in our speed and availability metrics, it won our award for 4G latency. Low latency connections mean web pages start loading more quickly and consumers experience less lag time when using real-time communications apps. We measured Sprint’s 4G response time at 57 milliseconds.

It’s clear from our results that T-Mobile has momentum, but it will be interesting to see if the Un-carrier can keep up the pressure. Verizon and AT&T certainly aren’t dallying. Both are refarming spectrum from their 2G and 3G networks to add more capacity to their LTE networks. Even Sprint is in the midst of a network upgrade that promises to boost its LTE speeds tremendously. Meanwhile, regulators have kicked off a spectrum auction that could determine the direction of operators’ 4G networks for the next half decade.

You can see the full results or the U.S. report here.

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