AT&T has secured the top position in the US for mobile data speeds based on a speed metric analysis gathered by widely-lauded firm Ookla, the company says. The test results place the service provider's top average download speeds at around 40.7Mbps, a 15-percent increase over the first three months of the year.
By comparison, the other three carrier's data rates are said to have "plateaued" with T-Mobile arriving in second at 35.4Mbps. Sprint and Verizon landed at 34.9Mbps and 33.3Mbps, respectively.
The nation's fastest first-quarter contender chalks up the gains to the nationwide expansion of its arguably deceptively marketed 4G LTE-based 5G Evolution network. The company says that the advanced LTE standards allow speeds at double the rate of its standard LTE implementation.
It also says it has invested over $130 billion over the past five years. Its expansion of the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum in over 500 markets is included in that and contributed to improvements since that band can be used by the average customer when not in use by emergency services.
While Ookla's crowdsourced data analysis for network speeds is among the most respected methods in the world, it isn't necessarily the best way to determine which network is best for a given mobile subscriber. As often as not, there are conflicting results due to differences in how network analysis is conducted.
For example, in the summer of last year, varying reports showed almost simultaneously that Verizon and T-Mobile each had the fastest network. Perhaps more pertinently, at least one of those showed that Sprint was on the verge of overtaking AT&T as the fastest mobile network on average. At the time, AT&T was listed as the third-fastest carrier. That highlights flaws in each of the measuring methodologies and Ookla has its own bias by the very nature of how its crowdsourcing works.
That's not to say that AT&T's growth in the first quarter of 2019 is not impressive but the results can be skewed based on the density of populations and carrier networks where the tests are being performed by end users.
On the state of 5G
AT&T goes further in its report to claim that it is the only carrier currently operating a dedicated 5G mobile network in the US. That's no longer the case since, as of April 3, Verizon has officially launched its network in parts of two metropolitan areas. That's compared to a similar situation for AT&T over parts of 12 cities.
Both companies plan to ramp up efforts in next-gen networking over the next several months, with Verizon aiming for 30 cities in 2019 and AT&T's efforts underpinned by its 5G Evolution network. Like Sprint's rollout of advanced 4G LTE, AT&T's 5G E is touted as a backbone that will ultimately support both 5G and 4G as the former of those networks grows.
Both Sprint and T-Mobile are currently undertaking efforts to catch up, with Sprint's network expected to begin with commercial availability in May. The latter carrier has plans to serve at least nine cities by the year's end. For now, the only carrier offering mobile equipment in the US for 5G connectivity is Verizon and that's a mobile accessory for the Moto Z3 handset only. So the race to the top on the 5G front is still very much in its early stages.