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 (opens in new tab) 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 is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.