RALEIGH – T-Mobile is the fastest mobile network, a study testing the speed of the nation’s three major mobile network carriers conducted by PCMag found.
The company’s 5G network also ranks first in the Triangle, the study found.
But that top spot comes with a caveat: whether you can access a 5G network on your device matters.
The report, Fastest Mobile Networks, found that T-Mobile’s new 5G infrastructure was a key in landing in the top spot, not just in the Triangle, but across the country, including in Charlotte.
The analysis found that T-Mobile’s network showed 79% 5G availability in the Triangle. That compares to the study results for AT&T 5G availability of 15% and of Verizon 5G availability of 22%.
AT&T is still the faster carrier, if connecting to a 4G network, the study found.
“T-Mobile has filled in most of the urban and suburban areas of the Triangle and Charlotte with its new 5G network, while AT&T and Verizon are largely waiting for some new airwaves which become available next year,” said Sascha Segan, lead analyst, mobile for PCMag in an interview. “AT&T’s 4G network is still extremely reliable, though—T-Mobile is great where you can get 5G and not so great where you can’t, while AT&T is more consistent across the metro areas.”
The study tracks access and speed at 13 site locations in the Triangle, seven in Raleigh, one in Cary, three in Durham, and one in Chapel Hill, Segan confirmed.
Explaining T-Mobile’s ranking
It’s not a secret why T-Mobile received high marks in Raleigh, and also in many of the 30 major metropolitan areas and six rural areas where data was gathered to conduct the analysis, wrote Segan, who also authored the report.
“It’s mid-band spectrum, which T-Mobile calls “ultra-capacity” 5G,” noted Segan.
T-Mobile president Neville Ray shared that the carrier’s 5G infrastructure is accessible to some 165 million people, as of July, when Ray wrote a blog post highlighting that metric, and noting that the company anticipates 200 million people could have access to its 5G networks by the end of the year.
The mid-band spectrum, ultra-capacity 5G airwaves, acquired in the acquisition of Sprint, said Segan “let T-Mobile’s network give consistent results between 150Mbps and 500Mbps of download speed.”
That ultimately pushed the carrier past its two competitors, Verizon and AT&T, in the tests conducted by the publication this year.
Verizon invested in mmWave 5G technology in 2017, said Segan. Meanwhile, T-Mobile made a different choice, which was the acquisition of Sprint and the subsequent upgrading of what Segan called a “massive cache of largely unused mid-band airwaves,” converting those into 5G infrastructure.
“It’s clear that this technology is the future of 5G for most people,” wrote Segan in the report. “The carrier’s range and capacity will only grow as it continues to build and add equipment, and AT&T and Verizon will have to hustle to catch up.”
The FCC may play a role, said Segan, “making more mid-band spectrum available for 5G networks.”
“5G means more capacity,” said Segan. “That means less crowding and slowdowns, fewer data caps, and wireless home Internet to compete with cable.”
But just because T-Mobile 5G infrastructure helped the company take the top spot in PCMag’s rankings this year, T-Mobile isn’t the fastest network for all devices, nor for all geographies, the study showed.
The ultra-capacity 5G network, for instance, is expected to only cover about 60% of the U.S. population, and 79% of the Triangle, according to the study. And, in rural areas, the study found that AT&T showed faster low-band 5G network connectivity than T-Mobile’s network.
“In the future, [5G] can be the backbone for industrial and agricultural robots, or drive point-to-point wireless connections into rural schools and businesses which currently have inadequate Internet,” said Segan.
To boost access and to boost connectivity speeds in rural areas, said Segan, more towers, equipped with fiber lines installed inside of them, need to be constructed. “At least every few miles,” said Segan. “That’s a lot of new infrastructure!”