Fastest wireless network 2020: It’s not even close

Philadelphia: Sprint's Time to Shine

Sprint may be in fourth among the Big Four wireless providers, but in Philadelphia, at least it wound up on top in our LTE tests.

When we did our networking testing at sites around the City of Brotherly Love, Sprint's network posted the best average download speed. Boost, the prepaid carrier that uses Sprint's network, actually posted the overall top speed at 44.2 Mbps, but Sprint itself wasn't far behind with a 43.2 Mbps average.

MORE: Sprint: It's Not As Bad As You Think

Sprint benefited from a consistently strong network, whether in more densely populated areas, like Fishtown and the popular Spruce Street Harbor Park on the east side, to more remote reaches outside the city, like a warehouse down in the Navy Yard.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Average Download Speed, PhiladelphiaAverage Upload Speed, PhiladelphiaAverage App Download Time (Min:Sec)
Boost44.2 Mbps2 Mbps0:56
Sprint43.2 Mbps2.7 Mbps0:32
AT&T36.1 Mbps9.7 Mbps0:39
Metro28.6 Mbps12 Mbps1:08
T-Mobile26.2 Mbps12.1 Mbps1:18
Verizon16.9 Mbps3.6 Mbps1:30
Cricket5.9 Mbps2.7 Mbps1:24
Straight Talk3.7 Mbps4.5 Mbps2:15

Sprint also had the fastest time on our app download test in Philly, downloading Discord in an average of 32 seconds. Only AT&T came close at 39 seconds, and Boost was the only other carrier whose average download time was less than a minute.

As for upload speed, T-Mobile averaged the fastest at 12.1 Mbps. Its Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary was the only other wireless provider to top 10 Mbps on average.

The biggest surprise from Philly was Verizon's lackluster performance, given how the carrier dominated the rest of our testing. Only Straight Talk (which was using Verizon's network) and Cricket (which puts a cap on data speeds) posted worse averages for download speeds.

Our results reflect an average of five tests conducted at six sites around Philadelphia. 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 Philadelphia performance was an outlier. On a national level, the carrier came out on top as 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.