Ookla, the maker of the popular Speedtest app and website, declared T-Mobile the fastest wireless carrier in an evaluation of more than 12 million speed tests around the United States.
T-Mobile‘s “speed score,” which factors in download and upload speeds across the carrier’s network, edged out Verizon for first place. AT&T and Sprint came in third and fourth place, respectively. On average, Ookla reported download speeds of 27.33 Mbps across all carriers, and upload speeds of 8.63 Mbps.
Although T-Mobile technically came out ahead, Verizon argues that it was effectively penalized for offering broader rural coverage. Ookla’s report notes that “Verizon’s rural performance numbers are likely drawn down by the fact that they offer coverage in areas where other carriers do not,” and that “an extensive rural presence can pull down nationwide performance numbers.” For Verizon and AT&T, 29.1% and 20.1% of their tests came from rural areas respectively, versus just 11.3% for T-Mobile.
And while T-Mobile’s speed scores were much higher on Samsung’s Galaxy S9, Verizon’s score was slightly higher on the iPhone X. This is likely because the S9 uses newer networking technology that T-Mobile got an early start in supporting.
Ookla notes that speed scores could change drastically next year, as carriers begin deploying 5G wireless. Still, that technology will only appear in major cities at first, and only on a small number of devices. With 4G LTE now widely deployed across the country, this year’s scores could be the best snapshot of what most users will experience for several years to come.