We've past the midway point of 2022, and as far as one wireless network testing firm is concerned, the rankings for 5G performance look a lot like they did at the start of the year. And that's good news if you're getting your wireless service from T-Mobile.
According to the latest report from RootMetrics, T-Mobile retained its spot as the best 5G network in the U.S., thanks to both speed and availability. While those factors are making it tough for rivals Verizon and AT&T to unseat T-Mobile among the best phone carriers for 5G coverage, the two networks made strides in the first half of the year.
Verizon in particular looks promising with the addition of integrated C-Band 5G, which came online at the start of the year. In the areas where C-Band spectrum was available, RootMetrics found that it provided significant speed improvements, reaching speeds of more than 250 Mbps in one market. Combined with Verizon’s continued dominance in 5G data reliability in RootMetrics' rankings, the mobile phone provider may soon be within striking distance of T-Mobile.
T-Mobile continues to have the best 5G availability
Based on RootMetrics' numbers, T-Mobile dominates in terms of how much 5G coverage is available in a given market. The Uncarrier had the highest 5G availability in 100 markets, crushing AT&T (39 markets) and Verizon (3 markets).
In fact, T-Mobile was the only carrier that didn’t record less than 55% 5G availability in any market. 5G availability also increased in 110 markets for T-Mobile, which was more than either of the other two mobile carriers.
That said, Verizon and AT&T did make some improvements — particularly Verizon. Big Red improved in 99 markets and improved to 85% or greater 5G availability in five more cities than it did during the last six months of 2021.
AT&T fell short in some markets, with less than 25% 5G coverage in 36 markets. However, the carrier did make strides in 85 markets and had more markets than Verizon with 85% or greater 5G network coverage.
Verizon C-Band improves 5G speed but still falls short of T-Mobile
While Verizon and AT&T were probably hoping to catch T-Mobile with their new C-Band spectrum 5G networks, they still have a bit to go before they can claim the top spot. T-Mobiles median download speeds were phenomenal, with more than 250 mbps in nearly 40 markets; it also boasts the only network that did not record speeds below 25 mbps.
However, C-Band did provide major benefits for Verizon. C-Band is a type of mid-band 5G spectrum that AT&T and Verizon acquired access to and have only just started rolling out in the U.S.
For AT&T, the gains appear to be middling, partially because its rollout is more limited than Verizon's approach. RootMetrics only recorded C-Band spectrum in 23 markets for AT&T, but in 81 markets for Verizon. This allowed Verizon to increase 5G speeds in 63 cities where it utilized its C-Band spectrum.
T-Mobile uses mid-band 5G, though it will not launch C-Band spectrum networks until 2023. Still, its mid-band spectrum holdings acquired in the Sprint merger have given the Uncarrier a massive boost. It's a big reason why T-Mobile has now held the title of fastest 5G network for 12 months in a row.
5G reliability remains a strong suit for Verizon
This was one area where AT&T’s 5G network stood out. AT&T phones successfully connected to the 5G in their market 99.5% of the time in 107 markets, better than any other network.
Unfortunately, that’s the end of AT&T's highlights, where the carrier only managed to stay connected in 54 of those markets, well behind T-Mobile and Verizon. T-Mobile made small improvements in both areas but remained third in getting connected and second in staying connected.
Verizon was the clear winner in terms of 5G reliability. It had a connection success rate in just five few markets than AT&T but stayed connected in more than 100 markets, which no other network came close to. This was the third straight 6-month period where Verizon’s 5G network won best reliability for RootMetrics.
T-Mobile is still RootMetrics' top-ranked 5G network
Despite having C-Band spectrum access that produced genuinely significant improvements, Verizon and AT&T could not catch T-Mobile in the first half of the year. Honestly, we’re not surprised, as that's consistent with previous test results.
Speed data during the second quarter of this year showed that T-Mobile was the fastest mobile network in the U.S., and that dominance is showing in its 5G networks as well. The 5G market is constantly shifting, but for now, T-Mobile's reign is proving to be pretty constant.