Here's how Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T's 5G networks compare in five major cities

Here's how Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T's 5G networks compare in five major cities
While T-Mobile is expected by many analysts to take the lead in the fledgling 5G wireless industry at some point after combining its nationwide "high-speed" network with Sprint's extensive mid-band spectrum, the current situation is a lot messier.

That's because Magenta's aforementioned "nationwide" 5G network does indeed excel in terms of coverage but not speed, with the latter point being undoubtedly the key strength of Verizon's mmWave 5G technology, which is unfortunately very hard to access in the real world even as far as major cities are concerned.

To help better understand the individual strong suits and weaknesses of the big four US carriers at the dawn of a new era, RootMetrics recently conducted a series of tests across Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. These focused on both 5G speeds and availability while also comparing the former with the real-life capabilities of the 4G LTE signals that are obviously quite easy to come by in large metropolitan areas like the five listed above. 

The tests yielded many unsurprising conclusions, as well as a few things you probably didn't see coming.

Verizon's 5G availability is a big problem, but its 4G LTE network continues to impress


You can mock Big Red as much as you like for shifting the focus of its advertising efforts from the potential future benefits of 5G to the current real-world strengths of 4G LTE, but the truth is the backbone of America's largest wireless network still performs incredibly well in most places.

 

Believe it or not, Verizon's 4G LTE speeds were higher in these independently conducted measurements than T-Mobile's 5G results in each of the five big cities assessed by RootMetrics. Meanwhile, it should no longer come as a major surprise that Verizon's high-band 5G network is capable of completely crushing all the direct competition stateside... in the very few cases you can actually go beyond a ubiquitous 4G signal. 

We're talking absolutely insane maximum download speeds of over 800Mbps in D.C. and 780Mbps in Chicago, as well as median download speeds going as high as 247Mbps in Los Angeles, but also microscopic 5G availability of between 0.04 and 0.2 percent in the same cities.

T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network is not even performing well by 4G LTE standards


Magenta gave AT&T a lot of flak for its 5GE shenanigans, which is why it's pretty hard to defend the sub-par speed results of T-Mobile's "real" 5G network. We're talking a "top" median score of 34Mbps across the five cities evaluated by RootMetrics, as well as maximum download speeds of below 100Mbps in Indianapolis and Washington D.C.


Incredibly enough, it looks like you might be better off sticking to T-Mo's "antiquated" 4G LTE technology in Indianapolis, D.C., and Los Angeles than buying an expensive new phone that can tap into the "Un-carrier's" mediocre 5G network. On the bright side, said 5G network is indeed relatively widespread already, exceeding 40 and 50 percent availability scores in Chicago and D.C. respectively.

Sprint has by far the most well-balanced 5G network stateside


In case you were still wondering why T-Mobile is so desperate to close its high-profile merger as soon as possible, today's report emphasizes Sprint's strategic importance in the road to fast 5G capable of delivering real benefits for real customers once again.

 

The "Now Network's" mid-band spectrum can strike the best balance between speed and availability, offering a much faster signal than what T-Mobile or AT&T can get using low-band 5G while covering a lot more ground than Verizon's mmWave network. Sprint's 5G also provides a very palpable upgrade over the carrier's 4G LTE speeds, as evidenced by these new RootMetrics tests. 

This is definitely the best of both worlds, and you can now understand why experts expect T-Mobile to gain an almost insurmountable lead over Verizon and AT&T in the near future as far as 5G advancement is concerned.

AT&T has a lot of room to improve


That's an elegant way of saying "Ma Bell" can't currently compete with its rivals when it comes to either 5G speeds or availability.

 

We're talking both literally and figuratively, as AT&T's 5G network was literally nonexistent in Chicago, Dallas, and D.C. at the time of these measurements, while tests performed in Indianapolis and Los Angeles produced lower median and maximum download speeds than on 4G.

What's perhaps harder to grasp and explain is why AT&T hasn't been able to at least spread this low-band 5G signal in a similarly wide manner as T-Mobile. On the plus side, the nation's second-largest wireless service provider recently flipped its own Verizon-rivaling mmWave switch, although we obviously have no reason to expect that to do a better job at penetrating walls and other obstacles.

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