Verizon vs T-Mobile vs AT&T: the big winner of this H1 2021 5G report might surprise you

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While RootMetrics already declared its overall H1 2021 US carrier winner a couple of weeks ago after conducting an impressive number of 4G LTE and 5G tests across the nation, the analytics firm is turning its attention squarely to the latter category today.

Unsurprisingly, at least if you’ve been keeping an eye on these types of reports for the last couple of years or so, the wireless service provider found to deliver the “best everyday 5G experience” is different from the one that earned the overall 4G LTE/5G title at the end of the year’s first half, which in turn was different from Opensignal, Ookla, and umlaut’s latest 5G heavyweight champion.

Two huge crowns for AT&T

Despite what so many industry pundits seem to think, AT&T really doesn’t look like the big loser of the country’s transition from 4G LTE to 5G. Not yet, that is, with RootMetrics rating Ma Bell’s “combination of wide everyday 5G availability, speed, and data reliability” as the best of the best across the 125 most populated metro areas in the US.
Of those 125 key markets, the nation’s third-largest mobile network operator by subscribers managed to dominate 20 in terms of “fastest everyday 5G download speeds”, which may not sound very impressive… until you hear how many individual wins went the competition’s way.

In second place, Verizon racked up just 16 speed victories, followed by T-Mobile with an even humbler tally of 13 gold ribbons. All the other battles were essentially too close to call, which says a lot about the marginal differences most users on the big three networks might actually experience on a daily basis, at least in highly populated metros.

Of course, speeds are only one piece of a fairly intricate puzzle, which makes AT&T’s “everyday 5G experience” win that much more important, reflecting the carrier’s somewhat surprising advantage over both T-Mobile and Verizon in how often consumers can acquire and maintain a noticeably faster connection than a good old fashioned 4G signal.

One major award for T-Mobile and one for Verizon

The main takeaway of the latest in-depth 5G RootMetrics report, like so many others from so many different research firms before, is that all three major US carriers have their strong and weak points.

As usual, T-Mobile’s greatest 5G strength lies in its network availability, which trumps the competition in 81 out of 125 key markets, a number that’s almost twice as large as AT&T’s tally while absolutely crushing Verizon’s pitiful total.

Big Red, of course, shines as far as everyday 5G reliability is concerned, which means that its not very widespread and not particularly fast 5G signal is generally easier to find and harder to lose once found in no less than 99 markets compared to what Magenta and Ma Bell have to offer.

Going forward, these findings appear to suggest that Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are all in this to win this, showing solid progress across the board and preparing a number of major network upgrades, improvements, and expansions that could change the status quo at any moment.

Speaking of spreading the 5G love, it’s definitely worth pointing out that this research, while extensive and impressive, is not representative of the nationwide user experience, altogether ignoring the small cities and rural areas where T-Mobile claims to excel.

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