The first half of 2021 saw a widening swath of Americans with access to 5G mobile networks and better performance on those networks, according to Rootmetrics’ latest data.
“5G is quickly becoming more widespread, speeds are getting faster, and we expect the end-user … experience to become even better going forward as the networks continue to mature and bolster their spectrum holdings,” Rootmetrics said in its most recent report on carrier network performance testing results from the 125 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas.
In terms of specific carriers, honors continue to be split among the three national carriers. AT&T took the top honors in Rootmetrics’ “best Everyday 5G” category, T-Mobile US was rated best in 5G availability and recognized as having “excellent” 5G availability and improving speeds, and Verizon won for reliability and improving speeds and availability.
Rootmetrics examines mobile network operators’ 5G performance through several lenses: What it looks like when devices are able to make a 5G-only connection for the duration of a data task; what happens in “5G mixed mode” scenarios when a user switches between 4G and 5G during the same task, which the test company says is happening more and more frequently; and “Everyday 5G,” which combine the results of both of those scenarios that show “how the networks perform when connected to 5G for any amount of time.” So for AT&T, it won through providing the best combination of Everyday 5G availability and Everyday 5G performance the most often during Rootmetrics’ testing.
Rootmetrics also awards rankings across three categories: Availability, reliability and speed. In these individual categories:
-T-Mobile US had the best availability in the most markets tested: 81 out of 125, with AT&T the closest competitor at 44 (those figures include ties). “T-Mobile also showed much faster speeds since [the second half of 2020]—in large part because of its increased usage of mid-band spectrum—as well as good data reliability in most cities,” Rootmetrics reported.
-Verizon shone in reliability, winning the top ranking in 99 out of 125 markets; AT&T was second with 59 markets. Rootmetrics said that Verizon’s network is showing “rapid 5G expansion, providing users with 5G in far more cities than it did in [the second half of 2020]. What’s more, Verizon’s speeds were close to those of AT&T and stronger than those of T-Mobile.”
-AT&T had a much narrower win in fastest download speeds, winning in 20 markets while Verizon was fastest in 16 markets and T-Mo in 13.
The testing company said that while AT&T most often provided what it judged to be the best combination of availability, speed and reliability, “until 5G becomes ubiquitous, consumers will, at times, need to weigh the benefits of high availability and lower performance or lower availability and high performance.”
It also added the caveat that the 5G landscape is changing quickly — so no mobile carrier should rest on its laurels. “The mobile landscape—and the 5G race in particular—is highly dynamic and prone to rapid change, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the leaderboard shift as we move further into 2021 and beyond,” Rootmetrics concluded.