According to data gathered by Ookla-owned Speedtest, T-Mobile is currently offering the fastest mobile data in the United States. Overall, average speeds across all four major carriers increased 19.2 percent over the past 12 months, but it appears to be T-Mobile who has taken a pretty significant lead over the competition in the first half of 2017, with Verizon trailing behind it.
The average mobile data speed saw a double-digit increase over the same period, reaching an average of 22.69Mbps in the first quarter of the year, placing the U.S. at the 44th place on a global level, two spots down from the previous year. In terms of uploads, speeds saw a very slight increase of four percentage points over the six-month period, reaching an average of 8.51Mbps. Furthermore, both upload and download speeds saw a slight decrease in Q2 compared to Q1 2017, possibly due to the increasing popularity of unlimited data plans which increase network overload. Despite this, T-Mobile who has been pushing unlimited data plans for over a year now has managed to clock in the highest average speed at 23.17Mbps. The reason behind this appears to be T-Mobile's smaller customer base when compared to the likes of Verizon and AT&T, as well as its tightly packed cell grid. The fact that the company has been refarming much of its spectrum for LTE use also appears to have played a part in helping carrier become the fastest in the 40 percent of large cities. In fact, according to Speedtest, T-Mobile could eventually become the first LTE-only carrier in the US. Following T-Mobile is Verizon, with an average speed of 21.13Mbps. The report notes that the company is consistently reliable and network densification has helped the carrier significantly, but its unlimited data plan has weakened its network's performance. Closely behind Verizon is AT&T at 20.05Mbps, though just like the former, AT&T has also experienced a drop in network performance since focusing on its unlimited data offering. Nonetheless, it's noted that the carrier's network has recently started to improve thanks to the deployment of the new LTE spectrum.
Finally, the fourth-placed Sprint trails behind its nearest competition at just 15.39Mbps, but this still represents an impressive increase of 23.7 percent in the first half of the year. Taking into account the fact that the company is yet to take complete advantage of its 2.5GHz spectrum, Speedtest expects the firm to continue improving significantly over the upcoming quarters. Considering the increased importance of unlimited data plans, though, it will certainly be interesting to see how network performance varies by carrier over the coming months.