For a while, users have put up with Verizon’s more expensive rates for cellular service because they believed that they were on the fastest LTE network in the United States. These users would have been right about that last October when Verizon had an average LTE speed of 12.18 Mbps and T-Mobile had a disappointing 12.17 according to OpenSignal. Obviously that was a joke. T-Mobile has been working really hard to improve their network with John Legere’s Uncarrier crusade.
T-Mobile dominated the 3G market with an average of 3.48 Mbps, while the runner up, AT&T, managed an average 2.32 Mbps speed. Verizon and Sprint managed to get only an average of 0.64 Mbps each. With LTE, T-Mobile still comes on top with an average of 12.11 Mbps. Verizon lags behind at 11.34 Mbps followed by AT&T at 8.30 Mbps and Sprint dead last at 6.38 Mbps.
All of these speeds are fine and dandy, but as a nation, the United States is less than ideal. The average download speed in the US over LTE was a modest 9.9 Mbps. For perspective, the global average was 13.5 with top countries averaging above 30 Mbps. The US is increasing LTE speeds, but they are falling behind on a global scale. However, this does come with better LTE coverage with LTE subscribers getting an LTE signal 81% of the time, placing the US firmly in the top 10 where only 7 other countries have managed to surpass 80%.
In a city by city basis of 11 major US cities, T-Mobile and Verizon fight over top spot. OpenSignal states that “T-Mobile just barely edged out Verizon. AT&T and Sprint hardly even factored in the contest.” It is clear that T-Mobile’s network is getting stronger and faster, but they are still behind Verizon in terms of coverage. Verizon boasts a coverage of LTE subscribers getting LTE coverage 86.3% of the time, while AT&T manages 82.63% of the time. T-Mobile takes third with 81.23% and Sprint lags behind at 70.05%.
As for the speeds we can expect in the future, they will get better, just not as soon as we all would like. The Verge reports that the FCC will be auctioning off parts of the 600 MHz band this coming March, but it is still currently being used by local TV stations. These stations and others using the 600 MHz band are there to stay for at least another 39 months, meaning carriers won’t have access to more network bands anytime soon.
However, OpenSignal remains hopeful. As carriers transition to VoLTE and use LTE connections to send voice traffic, they can start phasing out the 2G networks that are currently carrying the bulk of it. When phone calls no longer utilize the 2G networks and are all on LTE, carriers can then use the 2G band for LTE connections opening up more bandwidth and improve coverage.