Ookla Performs Reality Check on Major Mobile Network Data Speeds

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Ookla Performs Reality Check on Major Mobile Network Data Speeds

Mobile service provides like to brag about how fast their networks are. That's because the mobile network that can claim to deliver the speediest networks will shamelessly use it as a tool to win new customers. But for a reality check, independent researcher Ookla conducted a study during the first half of 2017 that analyzed mobile carrier speeds and connection reliability. The company’s data discusses which U.S. carriers offer the fastest speeds and, generally speaking, what kinds of connections Americans can expect. The study is aimed at helping folks determine which carriers offer the best mobile experience to the greatest number of customers. Obviously, the Ookla results won't reflect actual network performance in every location across the country. Thus, your personal experience may vary.

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U.S. Market Mobile Networks Are Speedy in General

The U.S. mobile market has solid speeds, according to the Speedtest survey by Ookla. The company found that the average American gets 22.69Mbps download speeds and is able to achieve 8.51Mbps upload speeds.

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T-Mobile’s Network Is Surprisingly Fast

Next, Ookla examined each carrier's network performance. The company found that T-Mobile had the fastest average download speed nationwide, with 23.17Mbps download speeds. According to Ookla, T-Mobile’s success is due in part to a tight grid of cellular sites and a smaller subscriber base hitting the network than Verizon or AT&T.

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Verizon Is Closing In

Verizon landed in the second spot in the study, with an average download speed of 21.13Mbps this year. In a discussion of the performance, Ookla said Verizon has been renovating its network with more cell sites and updating its infrastructure to boost speed and coverage.

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Sprint's Performance Was Markedly Lower

Sprint was the biggest disappointment in the Ookla study. Its network generated an average of 15.39Mbps download speeds. As low as that might seem, Sprint’s download speeds were actually up 23.7 percent compared to the prior year, according to Ookla, thanks to increased investments in its network infrastructure.

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AT&T Placed Third Among the Big Four Networks

AT&T ranked third in this study, with download speeds of 20.05Mbps. Ookla noted that AT&T’s performance test results have remained steady. But thanks to network maintenance efforts, its  performance has been improving, according to Ookla.

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Ookla Tests Performance With iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S7

Ookla also tested how the carriers performed with popular devices including the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7. Again, T-Mobile was tops, with average download speeds of 25.51Mbps on the iPhone 7 and 27.36 on Samsung’s device. Verizon was stable, with speeds of 23.66Mbps and 23.99Mbps on the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7, respectively. AT&T’s speeds hovered around 23Mbps on both devices. Sprint came in last, with iPhone 7 speeds of 17.09Mbps and Galaxy S7 speeds of 20.66Mbps.

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Network Performance Varies in Different Locations

As Ookla noted, speeds can vary depending on where users connect to networks. In big cities, for instance, T-Mobile’s average download speed was 23.5Mbps, just topping Verizon’s 23.21Mbps. AT&T came in third place in metropolitan areas, with 21.17Mbps download speeds. Sprint brought up the rear, with 16.2Mbps speeds.

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Ookla Assigns an Acceptable Performance Threshold

Ookla noted speed can vary depending on where people are, so it assigned an “acceptable” download threshold of 5Mbps across the country. It found that T-Mobile was able to keep a steady 5Mbps in 78.1 percent of cases, just topping Verizon’s 77.8 percent. Verizon was tops in metropolitan markets, with 79.8 percent. T-Mobile and AT&T followed with 77.9 percent and 76.5 percent, respectively. Sprint could hold 5Mbps speeds two-thirds of the time.

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How Unlimited Data Plans Affected Network Performance

Earlier this year, the big carriers widely offered unlimited data plans to customers, and Ookla wanted to know if those plans affected download speeds. Ookla found more customers experienced speeds less than 5Mbps on Verizon and AT&T networks after the Unlimited plans were implemented. T-Mobile and Sprint, meanwhile, have fewer customers with slow download speeds when compared to before offering unlimited plans.

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It Wasn't All Bad News for Sprint

Sprint was hit hard in the Ookla study, with reports of low data speeds and poor performance. But it wasn’t all bad. The company’s speeds are improving and Sprint claims it actually delivers faster speeds than its competitors in five markets. While that amount is far behind T-Mobile’s count of 40 and Verizon’s 35, Sprint appears to be moving in the right direction.

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