T-Mobile vs Verizon vs AT&T: first-ever ‘5G Enhanced’ speed tests yield surprising results

If you’ve been following the development and evolution of the US wireless industry for more than a minute, you already know that the nation’s 5G networks are very much not created equal. On top of that, the same 5G network can produce wildly different download (and upload) speeds depending on what state, city, and even what neighborhood you live in, as evidenced among others in a recent Ookla report highlighting the huge disparities between, for instance, New York and New Mexico.

Of course, the main cause of those gaps has nothing to do with geography and everything to do with the deployment of a number of 5G resources collectively grouped together under the mid and high-band labels. The latter technology, also known as mmWave, was initially viewed as the industry’s true game changer by Verizon and AT&T, but T-Mobile placed a huge bet on the slower mid-band 5G flavor instead that paid off handsomely.

Verizon is coming after T-Mobile hard

You know how Magenta completely crushed Big Red in this exact same firm’s latest three-month measurements of both 5G and overall mobile network experiences? Well, things are not anywhere near as simple when talking strictly about 5G Enhanced numbers.

Before discussing just how incredibly close those are in tests conducted between March 16 and June 13, 2022, we should point out that “5G Enhanced” is merely a generic term coined by Opensignal to encompass all the different marketing labels used by carriers to describe their various mid-band and mmWave offerings.

5G+, Ultra Capacity, Ultra Wideband, it’s all here, and from an availability perspective, T-Mobile’s dominance is just as clear as in all those other reports lumping these “enhanced” signals together with 4G LTE-like low-band 5G.
The speed battle is a different kettle of fish this time around, with T-Mo barely coming out on top as far as downloads are concerned and Verizon statistically tying its arch-rival in the upload category. In case you need a refresher, Magenta was close to 100 Mbps ahead of the silver medalist in the overall 5G download speed section of the previous Opensignal report, which only goes to show… how bad Big Red still is at the low-band game.

Then again, it’s clearer and clearer that Verizon’s C-band service is a worthy rival for T-Mobile’s mid-band technology, although for some reason, we can’t really say the same thing about AT&T’s own C-band signal… just yet. Of course, a win is a win, and it’s especially impressive that the “Un-carrier” can cling on to this coveted 5G Enhanced download speed trophy with virtually no mmWave footprint.

T-Mobile still needs to step it up in a few categories

That’s right, all is not perfect in the magenta-coated paradise. In fact, Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband users are statistically more likely to be satisfied with their multiplayer mobile gaming, FaceTime, and Netflix binge-watching sessions than their T-Mobile Ultra Capacity 5G-rocking counterparts.

More worryingly for T-Mo, AT&T’s 5G+ network ranks second in games and voice app experiences, although Magenta can be (semi) content with its “adaptive video experience” silver medal.

These are three smartphone use cases that carriers and industry analysts expect to hugely benefit from all the gradual 5G enhancements and big breakthroughs in the future, and already it looks like mid-band technology is making mobile life easier, faster, and more convenient for millions and millions of users across the nation.

It’s interesting to note, for instance, that Verizon’s video streaming score is considerably higher on “5G Enhanced” than overall 5G, not to mention that all big three carriers can currently offer a much better viewing experience where mid-band 5G is available than what was possible prior to these deployments. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing, right? To see everyone push the envelope, even at a (wildly) different pace.

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