The tech site conducted its carrier mobile network speed test by visiting 30 cities and 25 states and "running 60,000 speed tests to determine the fastest mobile network nationwide. Using Samsung Galaxy S10 phones, we ran tests every two minutes and summarized the results across six different categories," PCMag says.
Additionally, the site used Ookla software, placed it on three sets of four Samsung Galaxy S10 phones, and then drove these phone sets through the East, West, and Central parts of the US. The mobile network test saw software tests on the Galaxy S10 models every two minutes, with 459 different servers and 60,000 test runs executed in the process.
AT&T won not only nationwide overall, but also in the Northeast, North Central US, Northwest, and Southwest regions of the US. Big Red carrier Verizon's 4G performance bested its rivals in South Central US though it tied in the region with AT&T by winning three cities (AT&T won the other three cities). T-Mobile won only the Southeast region, taking Florida decisively. Sprint took Georgia, though Verizon won the city of Atlanta. AT&T owned the Carolinas (North and South), so there's that.
PCMag has been testing out mobile networks with the big US carriers for some ten years now, with Verizon and AT&T usually trading off. But for the last five years, AT&T had become rather quiet in the smartphone space, with the carrier flat-lining in smartphone sales since 2015 but skyrocketing in the growth of its wireless business with internet-connected smart cars.
Additionally, AT&T has helped itself by owning lots of LTE spectrum, which has been boosted by improvements in smartphone modems that are now able to better combine spectrum to produce fast internet connections.
Last but not least, AT&T has improved its 4G network, even though it isn't true 5G. 5G is only available for over 14 million Americans, though there are over 420 million Americans in the US currently. In other words, 5G is definitely futuristic at the moment; most Americans will only know 5G for the next few years until networks are fully built to bring 5G to all areas, even rural ones.
AT&T said back at the beginning of 2018 that it planned to bring 5G mobile hotspots on devices called "pucks" to its customers first, rather than 5G-enabled phones, and that it would start deploying its 5G network by the end of the year. The tech giant debuted its 5G mobile hotspot puck with Charter last summer in Los Angeles, with FCC permission of course.
That year, AT&T confirmed Dallas (TX), Atlanta (GA), and Waco (TX), with Charlotte (NC), Raleigh (NC), and Oklahoma City (OK) also named as first 5G cities. At the end of August, AT&T added Indianapolis, Indiana to its 5G project. The first 5G mobile hotspot device for AT&T was called the Netgear Nighthawk, and AT&T used it to complete its first 5G trial run in October 2018.
It is as close as customers can be to 5G at this point, since few 5G-enabled phones are on the market and few networks have been deployed. AT&T began to roll out improvements to its existing 4G LTE network as "5G Evolution," receiving criticism because the network improvements don't constitute true 5G upgrades, with 99 additional cities announced in addition to the first cities above.
Later in the year, AT&T announced it would launch true 5G in a few weeks, with the "5G Evolution" label being used to refer to 4G upgrades and little else. Earlier this year, AT&T saw its 5G network yield 1.5Gbps download speeds. As of April, AT&T's 5G network reached a clocked speed of over 2Gbps in Atlanta.