Fastest wireless network 2020: It’s not even close

Chicago: Verizon's Windy City Domination

Our testing in the Second City played out a lot like the LTE speed tests we conducted in New York did: Verizon beat all would-be rivals.

Big Red had the best average download speed by far — its 85.8 Mbps result was far ahead of Sprint's second-best average of 64.6 Mbps. Verizon also dominated on upload speeds, where the closest result to its 28.3 Mbps average was the 26.3 Mbps result Straight Talk tallied — and Straight Talk was using Verizon's network.

It was only in our app download test where Verizon faced tough competition. T-Mobile actually tied Verizon for best average download time with 11 seconds. AT&T was right behind at 12 seconds, followed by Sprint at 15 seconds. That's a pretty tight race.

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Average Download Speed, ChicagoAverage Upload Speed, ChicagoAverage App Download Time (Min:Sec)
Verizon85.8 Mbps28.3 Mbps0:11
Sprint64.6 Mbps6.4 Mbps0:15
AT&T60 Mbps20.5 Mbps0:12
Boost58.4 Mbps7.2 Mbps0:29
T-Mobile57.7 Mbps18.4 Mbps0:11
Straight Talk53.8 Mbps26.3 Mbps0:20
Metro45.6 Mbps19.6 Mbps0:31
Cricket7.8 Mbps6.5 Mbps0:41

Chicagoans should give Cricket a wide berth. It had the worst download average and second-worst upload average. It also had the slowest app download time at 41 seconds. It's also worth noting that Metro by T-Mobile underperformed parent company T-Mobile in both download speed (45.6 Mbps to T-Mobile's 57.7 Mbps) and app download times (31 seconds, which was 20 seconds slower than T-Mobile's time).

Our results reflect an average of five tests conducted at six sites around Chicago. At each test site, we also downloaded the 40MB Discord app from the Google Play store onto Galaxy S9 phones tied to each carrier.

Verizon's Windy City result mirrored our overall rankings. Verizon is the national champ for the fastest wireless network, topping both AT&T and T-Mobile. Check out our full national results.

Looking Ahead to 5G: While our speed testing focuses entirely on LTE, the reality is that carriers are beginning to launch 5G service in some markets. Verizon is the first to bring 5G coverage to the Windy City, launching its network in April 2019. We've done some preliminary testing with the Galaxy S10 5G and found Verizon's 5G network to be fast, if inconsistent at this stage.

Tom's Guide Staff

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  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here:
  • danbfree
    2016? Your tests are from September of 2015 and despite not being that "old", things have changed a lot since then and again, is not from 2016. Bad clickbait headline!
  • Mike_310
    i call BS. Verizon is only 5% faster than tmobile yet the same app downloads 40% faster on Verizon?
  • chrisfo1
    You should change what speeds were actually being measured. Verizon does not have 24Megabytes per second download. That is insane cellular data speeds and is very very misleading. Those numbers are most likely Megabits* speed, not Megabytes. Mbps stands for Megabits. 1 Megabyte = 6 Megabits. When you download those speed test apps or go to websites testing your internet speed, you are testing the Megabits. So you should be seeing 144Mbps when you measure your speeds on the websites and apps. I am very certain you are not seeing such speeds via cell data lol. Not even close actually.
  • veladem
    @CHRISFO1 I easily get 50-100Mbps via Ookla on Straight Talk/AT&T. If you'd like a screen cap I can easily get you a few tested over the last half year or so.
  • taylorh_9
    In San Jose, I can safely say that T-Mobile is easily 2-3x faster than Verizon in most places (we have both.) Some places Verizon is faster or as fast. However T-Mobile's coverage kind of stinks. It's either all or nothing and you get nothing far too frequently whereas Verizon can range from slow to fast, but it always works.
    So speed tests are interesting, but I'm really more interested in consistent good performance in the most places, not rockin' fast performance in spots. Based on my experience, that's how these two measure up.
    Despite that, I'm eyeing the day I can switch to T-Mobile. Sadly some places I currently need coverage (remote rural) T-Mobile simply has no signal whatsoever.
  • flameout00
    Definitely depends on which part of the Country you are in. Maybe I'm just in a really great spot, but I get around 130 Mbps download and 15 upload (Sprint, Galaxy S7 Edge, Ookla speedtest app) and these results are fairly consistent
  • PReed4962
    Cricket advertises their speed at 8Mbps - it is not meant to be as fast as AT&T - its also A LOT less expensive.
  • Zuper_
    These tests are always meaningless. Verizon spends its money in cities. Sprint is hardly a national carrier, drive through flyover country with a sprint phone and you will be roaming on the verizon network most of the time.
  • Chris_442
    I'm in North jersey and since my galaxy S8 got here last week I've been averaging download speeds on sprint btwn 35mbps to 45mbps with two tests this weekend as high as 67mbps. I drive for a living and those speeds have been pretty consistent across much of the urban/suburban NY metro area. Those speeds are twice as fast as what I was getting with my S6 five days ago. Maybe the new in phone antenna is the difference. Sprint has been trying to get manufacturers to build phones with the latest antenna for a while now and Samsung finally delivered. I'm sure Verizon had something to do with delaying advancement in technology especially by a competitor.