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T-Mobile leads 5G race for coverage and speed — and the gap is growing

Opensignal T-Mobile 5G
(Image credit: John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In the early days of 5G, T-Mobile has scored some convincing wins when it comes to launching and extending its 5G network. And according to one third-party testing firm, T-Mobile's lead on network size and speed is expanding.

Opensignal published its quarterly 5G user experience report for July, and T-Mobile 5G is the big winner when it comes to speed, availability and reach. Even better for the carrier, it's outpacing the growth of rivals AT&T and Verizon for 5G download speeds.

5G coverage in the U.S. remains a work in progress, as carriers look to expand and improve the coverage first launched a little more than two years ago. You can expect a lot of jockeying for position as 5G coverage matures. But Opensignal's new report is a helpful snapshot of where we are right now, and it paints a rosy picture for T-Mobile, which just last month announced that its 5G network now reaches 300 million people.

If you are getting 5G from T-Mobile, you're seeing faster download speeds than you would from other carriers, according to Opensignal's testing. Between March 16 and June 13 — the period covered for this report — Opensignal tallied 5G download speeds of 87.5 Mbps for T-Mobile. AT&T and Verizon had identical 52.4 Mbps averages.That gap is twice what it was when Opensignal published its 5G findings in April.

Opensiganl 5G download speeds

(Image credit: Opensignal)

Put another way, T-Mobile's average speed has increased by 16.3 Mbps since Opensignal's last report. In that same time, Verizon's 5G download speed ticked up 4.5 Mbps while AT&T's actually fell by 2.7 Mbps. The rate of T-Mobile's download improvement between July and April was also greater than how it improved between April and January of this year.

Not only are T-Mobile's 5G download speeds faster than those of its rivals, the signal is also reaching more people, Opensignal claims. The testing firm rates 5G reach on a 10-point scale, awarding the Uncarrier a 7.1 result that's up from 6.8 in the April report. AT&T 5G saw the largest gain here, with a reach score of 5.5. Verizon, which initially focused on high-speed deployments in dozens of cities before launching a slower nationwide 5G network, has the lowest reach score of 3.0.

In terms of availability, T-Mobile customers can get a 5G signal 36.3% of the time in Opensignal's report, while AT&T's availability reached 22.5%. Verizon 5G brought up the rear with a 10.5% rating, which is actually down from its 5G availability of 11.2% in April.

opensignal 5G reach and availability

(Image credit: Opensignal)

It's not all bad news for Verizon, which claimed the titles of best 5G voice and 5G gaming experiences in Opensignal's ratings. The testing firm says Big Red is gaining on T-Mobile for 5G upload speed — 14.2 Mbps versus 15.1 Mbps for T-Mobile. It also tied AT&T for best 5G video experience after AT&T enjoyed the solo win back in April.

As you can see by those availability percentages and by the sub-1 Gbps download speeds, 5G is far from reaching widespread usage or the promised speeds that 5G advocates have touted. There's a long way to go before we can definitively say who has the best 5G coverage of all, but T-Mobile can at least point to a promising early start.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.