July 20, 2022
According to a new survey of more than 1,000 mobile customers across the US, Verizon continues to be viewed as having the best 5G network in the country. But its lead is slipping, and T-Mobile appears to be hot on the operator's tail.
The survey, conducted by the financial analysts at Cowen during the second quarter of 2022, found that 41% of respondents said that Verizon has the best 5G network in the US. However, that figure is down notably from the 47% who supported Verizon in a similar survey conducted during the fourth quarter of 2019.
At the same time, fully 30% of respondents in the firm's most recent survey said that T-Mobile has the nation's best 5G network – and that figure is up from just 20% in the firm's survey from the fourth quarter of 2019.
Figure 1: Verizon continues to lead in the Cowen survey. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Cowen. Used with permission.)
Investing in improvements
"While Verizon continues to hold a strong #1 position, T-Mobile is closing this gap as well and momentum is on the uncarrier's side," the Cowen analysts wrote in a recent note to investors.
Verizon, for its part, started heavily marketing its 5G network in nationwide ads in 2019, despite the fact that its speedy millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G network, working in highband spectrum, was only available to a tiny portion of the country. Operator executives have acknowledged that the company's widespread lowband 5G network, available across much of the US, isn't much faster than its 4G network. Verizon is in the process of deploying a 5G network working in midband spectrum, an effort that has significantly boosted its 5G speeds.
T-Mobile, on the other hand, has been working to deploy its own midband 5G network since it completed its merger with Sprint in 2020. T-Mobile covers around 225 million people with its midband 2.5GHz 5G network, while Verizon expects to cover around 175 million people with its midband C-band network by the end of this year.
Testing for wins
Those buildouts are starting to show up in various networking tests. For example, Speedtest provider Ookla reported that T-Mobile had the fastest median 5G download speed in the US at 187 Mbit/s during the second quarter of 2022. The firm said Verizon clocked in second with 114 Mbit/s.
Similarly, RootMetrics reported that T-Mobile "registers by far the fastest speed across the US and continues its upward trend outside of big cities."
Added the firm: "In fact, T-Mobile's US median download speed of 124.5 Mbit/s not only marked a huge improvement from 79.8 Mbit/s in the second half of 2021, but it was also over twice as fast as that of any other carrier."
However, RootMetrics awarded Verizon with four out of its seven "RootScore Awards," which the firm said measure things like overall network performance, reliability, texting and network accessibility.
Network vs price
Not surprisingly, Verizon issued a press release touting RootMetrics' findings, while T-Mobile issued its own release touting Ookla's findings. RootMetrics' findings are derived from drive testing, while Ookla's results come from apps running on customers' phones. Operator executives have spent a lot of time and energy arguing about which testing method is better.
Nonetheless, the analysts at Cowen believe that Verizon is playing catch up to T-Mobile's 5G network. "Perception continues to lag reality, and Verizon hopes to keep it that way as it feverishly tries to close the gap on T-Mobile's network leadership," they wrote.
However, they also noted that 5G network performance doesn't appear to actually generate much interest among T-Mobile's customers. They reported that just 17% of survey respondents with T-Mobile service choose the operator for "network related" reasons. The biggest driver for T-Mobile respondents was price.
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