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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.

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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