RootMetrics: T-Mobile behind Verizon on maximum observed download speeds

data strong

T-Mobile loves to boast about how its network is the fastest LTE network around. This claim is based on averaging out actual user-observed download speeds. And there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, average download speeds shows us a much more accurate view of what to expect from a carrier when we sign up to one of their plans. But how about maximum observed speeds?

In partnership with RootMetrics, Fierce Wireless published a report which shows how each of the major U.S. carriers come when maximum observed download speeds are compared. As explained in the report:

Maximum actual speeds for downlink and uplink performance show the limits of the network. They demonstrate the engineering that carriers have engaged in to really let customers put the pedal to the metal. Such maximum speeds are also highly dependent on how much spectrum carriers are devoting to LTE and can provide a window into how carriers are using their spectrum resources. They are also dependent on a host of factors including congestion on the network, the user’s proximity to the cell site, and other elements.

When compared over 8 regions, T-Mobile came second to Verizon. Maximum observed download speeds were taken across the 8 regions, and then averaged across all 8. When compared this way, the average top speed seen by T-Mobile users in real life was 42.63Mbps, some way behind Verizon’s 57.21Mbps and slightly ahead of AT&T’s 42.39Mbps. Sprint was nowhere to be seen, with an average high of 22.23Mbps.

As mentioned, there are many ways to read this. Perhaps what’s clearest is what we already know. There are a number of markets nationwide where T-Mobile doesn’t have its wideband LTE market active. Top speeds in those areas will certainly bring the average down.  In some areas, T-Mobile’s absolute high has reached way above 140Mbps. And we’re often sent LTE speed tests showing results between 60-75Mbps.

In all honesty, I don’t see anywhere near as much value in maximum observed speed comparisons as I do in the total average speeds. It doesn’t give a clear picture of what you’ll get when you sign up. Rather, it shows what the network is capable of. And it’s no surprise that Verizon’s average was higher than anyone else’s. While T-Mobile’s wideband LTE is in 25 markets, Verizon says it has 400 of its 500 LTE markets covered by its AWS LTE, giving 20+20MHz capacity in a number of them.

And year, in many of RootMetrics network reports, Verizon’s average download speeds are lower than T-Mobile’s, and that’s almost certainly down to the extra congestion. After all, it has more than double the number of subscribers T-Mobile has.

In short, the report is interesting and you should read it, but you’re better off basing your purchasing decisions on actual average speeds and real-life use rather than network potential.

Source: FW

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  • Jay J. Blanco

    Interesting because Verizon doesn’t have many users on aws. So of course they’ll be fast right now I’ll give it 6 months. The network will be congestion on both ends.

    • taxandspend

      They don’t? The Galaxy S4 and S5 support it.

      • Bori

        And most phones that have been out since.

      • terryjohnson16

        No. They don’t. Majority of Verizon’s customers have legacy 700Mhz LTE phones, which don’t support AWS. So it will some time before they start seeing a dent in their AWS speeds. Same thing happened when Verizon first launched LTE on their 700C spectrum.

        • Brad C

          As much as i love to hate on Verizon, most of the phones released over the last two years have had AWS and 700MHz, I still have a UDP line on Verizon and i can say both the 700MHz and AWS bands have been fairly speedy lately. Although i do still like the voice quality on T-Mobile as well as the international features so i keep them around as well!

        • terryjohnson16

          2 years doesn’t count. Verizon should have offered phones with AWS from the jump prior to buying the AWS spectrum. It is a standard.

        • taxandspend

          So you’re saying Verizon customers all have old phones? The new ones (past couple of years) have it.

        • terryjohnson16

          My point is that verizons customer mostly have legacy 700 devices. Aws just start appearing on their devices recently. Not even 50% or more of their customers have upgraded.

        • taxandspend

          So you believe that out of the hard core users (ones that would bog down the network), that most don’t have the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, etc.?

    • terryjohnson16

      True. Majority don’t have AWS-supported phones on Verizon.

    • kev2684

      actually i think a whole lot of their phones had AWS even before they started launching XLTE. 5s, 5c, 6, 6s, note 3, note 4, s4, s5, g2, g3, one max, one m8, droid mini, droid maxx and a bunch of lower end phones are capable. apple and samsung subs alone should account somewhere between 10-20mil of their subscriber base. i think they are just really fast at deploying sites that has AWS and overshadowed T-Mo on average because T-Mo has some extremely slow cities and pulled down their record speeds while VZW doesn’t.

      • Jay J. Blanco

        Verizon deplodeployed 15mhz. & 20mhz. Of lte. While t-mobile has deployed 5 and 10mhz in many city with aws hspa still launched because of legacy devices. ugh so that’s hurting t-mobile with speed epically in my market.

  • RiskyBidThis

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a case of the midwest and mid-Atlantic states dragging T-Mobile down. They desperately need spectrum in a lot of markets in both regions which cripples their ability to provide decent LTE service.

  • winnt

    Petal to the Metal????? Not in SW Florida.. Right now I have 1.9Mbps download and .16 Mbps upload… Not exactly screaming fast!!!!!!

    • RiskyBidThis

      This covers SE Florida, not SW (Fort Myers/Cape Coralish I’m guessing?).

      The good news for you is that they hold plenty of spectrum in that area so they should be able to provide great service as they upgrade their towers and backhaul.

    • dizzy-wiz

      Pedal.

      …as in pushing the accelerator to the floorboards on a vehicle.

      Petals are on flowers… :-P

  • VG

    I’m a fan of T-Mobile and of its progress in rolling out Wideband LTE, but let’s not sugarcoat this … Verizon is also doing a great job in rolling out its version, and they have a much more extensive cellular network than T-Mo.

  • Bryan Pizzuti

    I wonder if RootMetrics’ test were subject to the same throttling that the general run of users have to deal with.

    • derp hurr-durr

      The general run of users rarely have to deal with throttling, if ever.

      Heavy “top 1%” users may, but very few people actually give a crap about them. :)

  • besweeet

    Whenever they upgrade backhaul and remove soft speed caps (such as 40Mbps down), they might come out ahead.

  • VR

    I use root metrics a lot. It’s a hobby to test areas which have not been tested. I also switched from Verizon to TMobile almost a year ago. Here is my anecdotal experience:

    1. Verizon absolutely kills TMobile in coverage, and in-building signal. TMobile sucks three feet outside of town or anywhere indoors.

    2. In the Pacific Northwest TMobile bests Verizon in maximum *and* average speeds (in my own testing). My best two test speeds (using root metrics) for TMobile in Portland is 75.5 & 67.4 down and 17.5 and 24.4 up. My best ever on Verizon was 47 down.

    3. TMobile is much better in crowds (their network is better designed for congestion).

    4. Verizon (at least until they go full VoLTE) uses way more battery for LTE & CDMA. TMobile is much more efficient due to not using CDMA.

    • itguy08

      For #1. It all depends on the tower location. I work in a Data Center and get 3 bars of LTE deep inside the server room (think lots of metal and RF) on the first floor. Brick building. Why? Cause there’s a T-Mobile tower 1/4 mile away.

      • VR

        Sure, but not all of us can live or work next to a good tower… My company has contracts with AT&T so we have on-Site towers for them. Verizon works well in the buildings. TMobile & Sprint just suck in the buildings.

        I’m not complaining. It’s just the reality of the situation.

        • itguy08

          I hear you. I’ve also had good luck in buildings when out too. Malls, Stores, etc – I usually get some form of signal be it 4G, LTE or even EDGE.

    • UglyPete

      Better in crowds???? You have got to be kidding. Try going to an NFL game and get a text message or upload a photo to Instagram.

      • VR

        That is exactly where I have had the best TMobile crowd performance (well two NFL games and a simultaneous NBA/CHL game)

        Our Verizon phones crumble when in crowds and stop working almost entirely.

        I have found this to be the case in Oakland, Seattle (which is challenging because the stadiums are also in the densely occupied downtown), and Portland (not NFL – but ~35k people in one spot for two simultaneous sporting events).

        TMobile holds up much better with massive user numbers than Verizon (this may change as Verizon continues to roll out VoLTE. Their main problem is that the CDMA -> LTE bridging is really inefficient, the sooner Verizon (and sprint) can dump CDMA completely the more efficient their radio communications will become).

        • calilove

          Depends were u go lol here in los angeles in staples center go to a bb game tmobile craps out COMPLETLY. No txts or data Att and verizon are the only ones that work. Also i was in sports arena in pico rivera a few weeks ago when alot of spanish singers came .It was packed prolly more than a thousand people i couldnt even call or send a txt or use data on my tmobile g3 even tho it had 3 to 4 bars lte or hspa not even calls worked pretty frustrating . My friend on her att galaxy s5 had no problem calls,txt data worked on att. So i kinda noticed att handles those things alot better than tmobile..

        • Drew

          Tmo rocks at Fenway Park. Seriously, my seat mates were using my hotspot because Verizon was sucking.

    • Number 1 will also be solved once 700MHz band 12 is up and running, and more phones become compatible.

      • Ashton3002

        Not exactly. it’s scattered across the place like polka dots. The map has spurts here and there but not everywhere. So it won’t solve it for everybody. Like some think

        • itguy08

          Don’t forget that Verizon and AT&T also have some 1900 only areas too.

        • Ashton3002

          Not much at all. And if it is they are in places where T-Mobile doesn’t offer coverage.

        • True, but at least T-Mobile is working on their building penetration problem with the lower band frequencies. And trying to buy more spectrum from others

  • DDLAR

    This is a lot of fun to watch. However, I really struggle to see much for the average user for any speeds above 5Mb/s. Of course, coverage is a different story. But, the article is about speed not coverage.
    Am I missing something?

  • JaswinderSinghJammu

    People who live in bigger cities and rarely leave metro areas are just fine on T Mobile. Only time I have run in to problems due to lack of coverage is when I am traveling which isn’t very often. Sep 2014 trip on I-5 to southern California was a good example. I got a prepaid Verizon jet pack for the trip. Turned on WIFI and all t mobile phones were connected to WIFI and kids and wife played games, Youtube and calls. Why would I want to pay Verizon’s high prices all time?

    • TechnoRealz

      Same here on I95 East Coast.
      Thanks for idea about Jet pack.

      • JaswinderSinghJammu

        Sure no problem. If you don’t use a lot of data and need the jetpack for just calls, you should’ve need more than a GB or 2 at the most. That’s all the calls thru jetpack WiFi.

        • TechnoRealz

          Our recent trip down I95 to FL highlighted TMO’s lack of hwy+rural DATA coverage esp. noticeable through SC & GA where we were getting G speeds. The call coverage was surprisingly fantastic.

          So when using Google Maps we constantly were without signal to pull the maps down & acquire location.

          Plus on long trips, surfing the net would have nice.

          How are your net speeds with the JetPack? Were you able to do speed tests?

        • JaswinderSinghJammu

          Yes Verizon speed was acceptable around 5-7 mbps practically every where even in between cities and we had 3 phones and a tablet hooked in

    • VR

      The coverage problem is mostly in the western USA. So much of the west is extremely rural.

      Verizon is a terrible company all around. TMobile is much better for customers. But the coverage difference is indisputable. That’s just the way it is.

      We make do with no signal in the boonies, and just carry a DeLorme in-reach satellite communicator for emergencies ($12 a month).

  • KlausWillSeeYouNow

    Well put, Cam. This made a lot of sense; you explained the conundrum well. Best article I’ve read in a while.

  • Glad I Left CA

    Okay, VZ has faster speeds.. but is it worth DOUBLE the $$ for about 20% more, without unlimited data either?

    The speed may be there, but the value sure isn’t.

    • NorCalOffspring

      And t-mobile is expanding coverage nationwide aggressively :)

    • Steve R.

      Agreed, I’m leaving Verizon for T-moble this week, and it works well in our area. We’ll be saving at least $25 a month, but will mostly be getting peace of mind from not having to worry about going over our data cap.

      • jacky

        i got hit by verizon data overages like 200 dollars sometimes even up to $400 in data overages verizon will get you in data overages. before i went to t mobile.

        • Steve R.

          Oh wow, that would definitely be enough bill shock to get me running away from Verizon as well.

      • jacky

        verizon xlte is fast but verizon will get you in data overages rest assured they will get you.

    • HeatFan786

      If you can deal with 2-3 GB on prepaid 4G LTE with Verizon on a Droid Turbo, it’s not too bad of price. If you can get T-Mobile to work just as well, don’t even bother lol.

  • ianken

    Check out my Ookla Speedtest result. What’s your speed? http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/a/1067348175

  • gmo8492

    Damn Sprint… Just… I don’t even want say.

    • Jay J. Blanco
    • Bori

      I really really hate to admit it, but Sprint in Cincinnati is a hell of a lot better than Tmobile :-(

      • Romdude

        Sprint in parts of Honolulu is faster than Verizon which isn’t saying much. I’ve observed verizon at 1.5mbps at my friend’s phone, 5mbps at a sprint one and 26mbps for mine on t-mobile in the same spot. Hopefully they upgrade your area and you can do a free iphone test drive to see if it works out for you later.

  • Bori

    Check out my Ookla Speedtest result. What’s your speed? http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/a/1076550148

  • TMobileslovesFlorida

    Can someone explain the need for “soft caps”? will they be removed soon? I have noticed that in Jax FL, Chicago, and Phoenix markets the Max I get is almost always ~40 mbps with full bars and about 25 ms ping. I am pretty sure only Jax is an official wideband market in the above list.

    • Mike Palomba

      They’re probably to make sure everyone can get a useable data speed rather then slowing everyone down. What do you need more then 40 for anyway on a mobile phone. Surfing the web, watching an hd video, even downloading a file doesn’t need much bandwith and 40 is more then enough

      • jacky

        Lol sprint where you can barely use data because its slow.

      • TmobilelovesFlorida

        That make sense- they are trying to keep it lowered so a few hogs don’t take all the bandwidth. I just find it interesting that I have never gotten these 60, 80, or 100 mbps speeds ever — just always right around 40 mbps and it seems that this limit is just a software implemented speed cap. Of course it works great and honestly how much faster can you load and instagram or a youtube video? I have an iPhone 6 if that makes a difference.

        • Mike Palomba

          My other theory is that people with the unlimited plan get the soft cap. I the unlimited plan and I’ve never gotten higher then 40. I’m not sure if it’s the cap or if where I test just doesn’t go much higher then that

        • tmobilelovesflorida

          In my family we are on the 4 for 100 deal with 2.5 of full LTE each

  • Brian the populist.

    These are my speeds in nyc bronx very happy mi results http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/a/1075508266

  • HeatFan786

    To get the Sprint 22.23 mbps, you need to be underneath a tower on a clear sunny day while nobody is using the network at that time.

    • jacky

      LOL sprint the slow network. always last place always

    • Mr Paul

      To get above 1 megabit with T-Mobile, you need to be in the middle of one of their preferred cities.

      Here, just North of NYC, was T-Mobile on a good day for me, in a 100% LTE covered area, with HSPA+ (the best signal my phone could receive until I traveled another 3-4 miles into another town):

      http://oi59.tinypic.com/4ztiky.jpg (Tested 10/27/14 using Clifton, NJ speedtest server) (and sorry, I don’t have T-Mobile anymore or I’d redo it and besides potentially worse results, I’d get a more proper link on speedtest.net)

      Sprint in my area (no, you T-Mobile worshipers, I don’t use Sprint) has shown on tests across RootMetrics, OpenSignal, etc., up to ~10 megabits down and ~5 up, meaning T-mobile is over 5-10x slower than Sprint in my area, which has virtually no Sprint LTE coverage unlike T-Mobile claims…

  • jacky

    hum how many bars of 4 glte do you have i think detriot dont have wideband network yet in place.

    • Bori

      When it comes to lte one should not follow bars, they are not a true representation of lte signal. At the time of this speed test I had 3 bars, -103 dbm’s. I am not located it Detroit, I am in Cincinnati, however the speedtest choose the test location in Detroit. I was however in Detroit back in May, and they had 20MHZ, do Detroit does have Wideband. (Lucky folks!) lol.

      • I agree, I have only 1 bar of LTE and still manage to pull in 26mbps down, however my up suffers at 3mbps then again it also depends on network congestion and which server the speedtest chooses.

        • Bori

          That’s pretty impressive. I seriously doubt I’ll see anything like that here, for now at least. I can have full bars and average 8 to 10 if lucky, on the downside, 3 to 4 on the upside.

        • Nick

          http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/a/1073343058
          That’s the top I’ve ever gotten in the greater Cincinnati area

  • Mr Paul

    Wow, three times the download speeds I used to get with T-Mobile. Lucky you!

  • Bori

    Ouch…

  • ronjon400

    thats faster than my home internet via brighthouse.

  • ronjon400

    Here are my speeds and I’m just about 6 miles from the tower.
    http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/i/1068292354

  • ronjon400