Fastest wireless network 2020: It’s not even close

San Francisco: A Stroll in the Park for AT&T

AT&T continues to set the pace when we test LTE network speeds in San Francisco. And it's not just because the carrier enjoys a considerable home field advantage at the baseball stadium that used to bear its name.

We recorded an average download speed of 57.3 Mbps for AT&T, topping runner-up Verizon's 44.9 Mbps average. While Verizon bested AT&T on average upload speed — 16.7 Mbps to AT&T's 13.2 Mbps result — AT&T fared the best on our app download test. Its 22-second average was 15 seconds better than the time Verizon turned in.

To be sure, AT&T benefits from the fact that we test at AT&T Park (which has since been renamed Oracle Park), where the carrier posts a staggering download speed of 155.6 Mbps. (Verizon's otherwise blazing 85.9 Mbps average at the ballpark is a distant second.) But AT&T fared well at other sites where its rival carriers faltered.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Average Download Speed, San FranciscoAverage Upload Speed, San FranciscoAverage App Download Time (Min:Sec)
AT&T57.3 Mbps13.2 Mbps0:22
Verizon44.9 Mbps16.7 Mbps0:37
Straight Talk31.7 Mbps10.2 Mbps2:23
Metro18.8 Mbps10.2 Mbps1:20
Sprint17.7 Mbps2.8 Mbps1:58
Boost16.2 Mbps2.7 Mbps2:30
T-Mobile16.1 Mbps11.1 Mbps1:03
Cricket7.5 Mbps5.9 Mbps0:44

Inside a Haight-Ashbury district restaurant, it was the only carrier whose download speed topped 10 Mbps (and by a healthy margin at 40.7 Mbps). AT&T enjoyed similar spreads when we tested in Golden Gate Park and inside a neighborhood grocery store.

AT&T-owned Cricket wasn't so peppy, with the carrier's 8 Mbps data speed cap limiting downloads to a 7.5 Mbps average in the City by the Bay. Sprint and Boost struggled, too, with the slowest average upload speeds and app download times around the 2-minute mark. Straight Talk also had trouble with downloads, averaging 2 minutes and 23 seconds on its Discord download even though it was using Verizon's fast network.

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

AT&T may have won in San Francisco, but it was only runner-up nationally. Verizon captured our overall ranking for the fastest wireless network, topping both AT&T and T-Mobile. Check out our full national results.

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.