T-Mobile US is still providing the best 5G experience in the country, but C-band investments are helping Verizon and AT&T to boost their own offerings.

T-Mobile picks up RootMetrics’ best 5G experience award for the second half of 2022, its third such accolade in a row, thanks to “an unmatched combination of 5G availability and speed,” the mobile network testing company announced this week, when it presented its latest US State of the Mobile Union report.

This, despite the fact that the telco is trailing its two big rivals on 5G data reliability. On that score, Verizon comes out on top, and it’s pretty happy to shout about it.

“Verizon is ranked most reliable 5G network for the fourth consecutive testing period,” the telco said, in response to the report.

It also hinted that it expects to improve its broader 5G performance in future editions of the RootMetrics study.

“The results of this national test capture a moment in time of an ever-changing network continuously evolving in this fast-paced environment,” it said.

“Since testing for this report began, Verizon has been deploying a full 100 MHz of C-band spectrum in many markets and continues deploying mmWave in the areas with the densest population (now covering 40,000 cell sites),” the telco said. It also noted that it has started moving traffic onto its 5G core, connected around half of its cellsites with its own fibre backhaul, begun the upgrade of its fibre IP core network to allow quadruple the data to pass through, and deployed VRAN on 10,000-plus cellsites.

In a separate announcement, Verizon revealed that its engineers have achieved 5G upload speeds in excess of 1 Gbps. The telco says it used 20 MHz of LTE spectrum and 400 MHz of mmWave spectrum in the 28 GHz band and – using commercially available devices and a live network test environment – to generate upload speeds that topped out at 1.26 Gbps.

The telco reminded us that in previous trials it has demonstrated some pretty big download speeds with various combinations of spectrum, including hitting 4.3 Gbps by aggregating C-band with mmWave; that particular milestone was getting on for two years ago, incidentally.

“As more C-band spectrum becomes available and deployed, customers will continue to see increases in both download and upload speeds,” it said.

RootMetrics specifically addressed the C-band issue in its report, noting that it has seen improvements from Verizon and AT&T since they started using those pricey airwaves, and essentially backed up Verizon’s comment. “We expect those improvements to continue as both carriers continue rolling out C-Band spectrum,” it said.

Verizon’s C-band deployment led to 5G speed improvements in 86 cities, out of 109 deployed in the second half of last year, while AT&T saw speed gains in 70 markets, it said.

But while that is clearly good news for Verizon and AT&T, and bodes well for the future, for now 5G in the US is still all about T-Mobile. The operator improved its 5G availability in the second half of last year and claimed the top spot in 110 markets, compared with just 36 for AT&T and four for Verizon.

Its median 5G download speeds increased in 105 out of 125 markets compared with 1H, while it clocked up the fastest 5th percentile, median, and 95th percentile 5G download speeds in 68 markets, which according to RootMetrics puts it “far ahead of the competition.” Indeed, Verizon claimed the fastest speeds across all three metrics in just five markets, and AT&T none at all.

“It’s worth noting that with both AT&T and Verizon continuing their C-Band rollouts, we could see increased competition in the 5G speed category going forward,” RootMetrics said.

You might well argue that if AT&T and Verizon want to be competitive in 5G, they will have to do a bit better than ‘could.’

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