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Open Signal: Verizon and T-Mobile are in a virtual tie for the best network in the U.S.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere
T-Mobile CEO John Legere (Image credit: Android Central)

Open Signal has released their State of Mobile Networks: USA report and they say Verizon has now tied T-Mobile for the fastest carrier in the United States, and the results are so close between the two that they are virtually tied for the "best."

Using data collected from 169,683 users, 4,599,231,167 data points were used to measure network speeds on both 4G and 3G, network availability and latency. The data is collected by users installing the Open Signal app (opens in new tab) from Google Play or the App Store and going about their daily routine.

In their analysis of the collected data, they say that Verizon has improved their 4G network speeds to pull even with T-Mobile who has traditionally done well in this category. They also mention that the average overall network speeds in the U.S. have risen slightly, and over 81% of U.S. residents have access to LTE networks.

Availability of high-speed data services shows that all four carriers have improved, but T-Mobile (86.6%) is now within two percentage points of Verizon (88.2%) when it comes to finding an LTE signal. The company with the most improvement here is Sprint, who jumped from covering 69.9% in August to 76.8% in February 2017.

Verizon or T-Mobile performed the best in every category tested, and the final results show that any measurable advantage T-Mobile or Verizon previously held in nationwide network testing has shrunk to the point of being insignificant. You still need to pick the carrier service that works bets for you, but overall either Red or Magenta should have you covered.

The best part is that they now need to fight even harder for our dollars.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

130 Comments
  • But what about the whole "T-Mobile sucks at building penetration bit".
  • 700 MHz.
  • Yep. In Philly, T-Mobile went from having crap signal inside grocery stores to having full bars in the middle of the hospital where I work overnight.
  • I'm from Philly and have seen the same improvement, I switched from Verizon 2 years ago and haven't looked back.
  • Well it's improved quite a bit
  • They do. But 3 band carrier aggregation is their solution and the s7, iPhone 7, note5 and other phones will the advantage of that. Their on a different kind of level
  • T-Mobile still sucks around here, esp indoors. So I really give no credence to that so-called study. It simply doesn't hold water.
  • "Around here", huh... that's helpful.
  • I live in rural Pa, T mobile Stinks bigger city's its ok but not everybody lives in or near a big city so yea the survey does not hold up for me and many others like me.
  • My kids have had to use my Tmobile hot spot a couple of times recently inside large medical buildings because thier AT&T IPhone 7+ had no signal at all. Tmobile put that $4 billion they received from the failed AT&T merger bid to very good use.
  • When I first got T-Mobile about 3 years ago, it wouldn't penetrate my office building and many stores, such as Barnes & Noble, the grocery store, etc. For maybe the last year or so, I've had no problems except in the largest of warehouse-type stores such as Home Depot, but even then, the problem is minimal. When these carriers make improvements, they can't fix all problems in all locations. It's gradual and rolls in to different areas at different times. The logic behind that? I don't know. But I've noticed very significant positive changes in my T-Mobile coverage. I hike and mountain bike a lot so am in very rural and inaccessible areas, and the signal has improved significantly. Verizon is still better, but T-Mobile is gaining quickly.
  • The reason it's rolled out in segments is because you can't build networks overnight! Usually they start with the top 20 markets , then 100 markets , &, go from there. It's not just internal system issues, when building a network if involves actually building whether updating physical towers to building physical towers. Other factors for service improvements are as in anything, the bottom line. Think about how vastly improved service is from 10 years ago. None of it happened overnight it takes $$$, people, &, lastly, $$$ to make networks stronger.
  • It still does in Phoenix
  • Tied?
    I'm slightly amazed.
  • Same.
  • This is mainly for speed, not coverage.
  • Wasn't T-Mo winning everything the last time? Good for verizon but not really surprising. 
  • Last report had T-Mobile barely faster, but far behind in coverage. Of course T-Mobile always "wins" anything 3G
  • Jerry, Which carrier do you use as your daily driver and which would you recommend in the areas you work and play the most?
  • I use Fi most of the time. All 3 carriers Fi uses are pretty good here, and Google's Wi-Fi assistant works in the grocery store, Target and all 3 bars I visit :P
  • Fi is good! I take it that you're not a Verizon subscriber?
  • Interesting how AT&T is not given any awards when their network is better and larger than T-Mobile's hmmm
  • Better? No. I thought that was obvious BY THE TOTAL NUMBER OF AWARDS AT&T HAS.
  • More coverage and a complete overlay of HSPA+ on their grid. Priorities I guess.
  • Not a chance. AT&T reliability is garbage and so is HSPA+
  • AT&T has a denser rural network and 850 MHz HSPA+ and 700 MHz LTE that is usually wider than TMO's. The only reason TMO was rated higher for LTE availability is because most of their customers live in urban areas and LTE has more availability in those areas for every carrier.
  • With your statement, you pretty much just said they're evenly matched in urban areas. You said they have great rural coverage. Then you said T-Mo scores higher because their user base is mostly urban. Then you said all carriers have a big urban user base. Which means that, in urban settings, T-Mo still outperforms AT&T. My dad has AT&T in suburban area, he hates it. No coverage anywhere, slow speeds where he does have coverage. SF Bay Area
  • actually no, I think you came to the incorrect conclusion. If T has greater (denser) rural network, their overall rating suffers compared to "mostly urban" TMO (who has a greater percentage of their customer base in stronger LTE urban areas). in any case, I don't think the signal and speed capture by Open Signal is very high in rural areas.
  • as in most of Tmobile customers are black?hmmmmmmm
  • You sound like you're trying to justify paying that ridiculous AT&T bill.
  • love att, and as far as price, Verizon is the highest
  • I don't know, I left TMobile for AT&T because of coverage and the bill was almost identical.
  • This is open signal not JD Power. Look to JD power if you're concerned about AT&T not getting any award here.
  • I'd go to T-Mobile if they had more than 200MB of data roaming/billing cycle.
  • They do. You just have to ask for one of the old Simple Choice plans.
  • Can u do that, ask for an older plan?
  • Simple choice plan is still offered by them, just not advertising and trying to push you on One plan. You'll just have to insist on simple choice plan and they'll give in.
  • I'm sorry to burst the bubble but simple choice is not available anymore. It was removed end of January. Only the one plan exists now. If you are a current customer with extensive history a "loyalty" option might excited for you but no simple choice.
  • Unsure if 3 years with tmobile counts as a loyalty status but I just made my buddy joining from att to Tmobile with simple choice a few days ago. I got more perks and he got some as well. I guess YMMV. We were at the local store.
  • Welp, this is disappointing. I want to break away from my T-Mo family plan but not if that means that I must be on One. Forget about that. I have been with T-Mo for 2 years.
  • This confuses me, ha. I've tried TMobile countless times over the years and it's still mediocre where I've been.
  • That's because there's a distinction between number of people covered (dense population centers) and area covered (in other words, OUTSIDE of major metropolitan areas). They could have touched on the difference a little more for some additional clarity.
  • this.
  • yep.these results have nothing to do with the nationwide coverage
  • That's like saying they cover people great in Missouri, but cover KC and STL great where the bulk of the people are while covering the other 90% of the state poorly with barely any coverage off main highways.
  • this is for data speed and reliability, not network coverage
  • Verizon sucks at our house 5 down 2 up.
  • Let's talk about T-Mobile's lack of presence outside of metro areas. I'll wait. Lol.
  • It's MUCH improved over the last two years, but still not within spitting distance of VZW and AT&T for rural markets yet.
  • Live in a rural setting, none of the carriers have coverage haha
  • You are a liar. You won't wait and you didn't laugh out loud.
  • Lol I actually did lol at this comment.
  • He actually did laugh, but it was from a rural area, so it just has gotten to you yet.
  • it a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to see it, does it still make a sound?
  • Yes. Yes, it most certainly did.
  • Or did it?
  • Dun dun dun...
  • There's nothing to talk about because that's simply not the case anymore.
  • Okay, talk.
  • I've traveled monthly through rural areas of South Florida over the last 2 years. When I first started, T-Mobile was unbearable. About a year ago it suddenly became so amazing that I have better coverage than friends with Verizon and ATT. I've been impressed by the recent improvements.
  • Olorin - you'll never convince the knucklehead T-Mobile bashers that have either never used them or haven't used them in the last 2 years that they have turned things around. My business partner has been with Verizon for the last 8 years and he is convinced their coverage is worse now than it was a few years ago. He is seriously thinking about switching to TMo because he "actually" gets to see in "real life" how good T-Mobile is after they invested the $3 billion in cash and $1 billion in spectrum they received in the failed AT&T merger.
  • I used to hate T-Mobile because of my experience over 10 years ago. In fact, I felt about T-Mobile the way most iPhone users feel about Android: the user experience is second class. Now that I've I actually tried TMobile again (and I did test them before buying their services), I now realize things are vastly different. I am sure TMobile is not for everyone (either is Verizon), just like iPhones aren't for everyone (either are Androids). Change isn't for everyone either... for many Verizon is their expensive comfort zone.
  • OK, let's. I'm a former Verizon customer. I still have a Verizon hotspot for work, and my company phone is ATT. My personal phone is T-Mobile. And for my job I travel to Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. I've also recently in the last two years driven to Manitoba, CAN and Clearwater FL. This has been my experiences: In Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Florida, the coverages are all neck and neck. Some places AT&T has a better signal, some places Verizon does, and some places T-Mo has the fastest strongest signal. But truthfully, 99% of the time the signals were virtually the same. Nowy experience in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Florida are limited to the drive to and from Clearwater/Orlando. There was about an hour drive through the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri where none of us had signal. My family (wife and kids) all have T-Mo, again I have an ATT company phone, my folks have Verizon, and my best friend and wife had ATT. We spoke later and all had significant signal drops in the same exact places. My experiences in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma are extensive as I have traveled all over those states. I have no issues with T-Mo in Missouri or Oklahoma, except in the remote rural areas, where again I have limited or no signal from ATT. Kansas I drive regularly from Tulsa to Wichita, Topeka, or KC, and the coverage sucks no matter how you slice it in the southern half of Kansas. As far as up north, when we went to Manitoba about a year and a half ago, I had great T-Mo coverage until we got north of KCMO, then it dropped completely. That was where Verizon shined. I can't remember where I got my T-Mo back, but it was around northern Nebraska or the Dakotas. We came back through Minnesota and had really good coverage from VZW and T-Mo that way. For where I live and travel, the difference between T-Mo, VZW, and ATT is insignificant and I'd say a light advantage goes to T-Mo, and I can't beat the value. My buddy has Sprint and he has no issues with it at all, but I've never used them and can't comment. US Cellular has one distinct advantage here in OK. They bought all the band 12 for the state, so T-Mos building penetration leaves a little to be desired. I've been hoping for a T-Mo/USC merger myself. LOL.
  • Wait a second,I pay a pretty penny for ATT coverage and reading this report I have crappy service? My bill sure doesn't reflect that
  • Switch.
  • Overpriced VZ going down on Tmob pretty soon. LOL
  • Soon to be college student, can confirm I'll be switching to TMo from VZ as soon as my parents stop paying for my bills haha
  • It's a good idea, seriously. Verizon personal plans are for people with bigboy money lol. Look into Google Fi perhaps? The payment/billing system is very intuitive and can be very cheap. Especially for a college student, imho. A word of advice, rely heavily on your school's secure wifi network. Data ain't cheap.
  • Verizon's new single line $55 plan for 5GB data + unlimited talk & text is the best in the business from any of the big 4 networks' plans with postpaid benefits. Switched immediately. Vastly superior network to the others in the Chicago suburbs and the most value for the money, which you never used to be able to say about Verizon. Impressed with them lately.
  • And if you get plan at Walmart, you get 7GB of data!
  • Unless the college student plans on searching for Wifi everywhere they go and also doesn't use more than 5GB of mobile data a month, Project Fi isn't their best option for savings. Fi is great (been on it since April 2015) but it's not for everyone. Constant data monitoring is so early 2000 that I prefer my grandfathered unlimited data plan with T-Mobile
  • I can only speak for my area, but tmo sucks here. Like to the point of uselessness. If it was tmo or nothing, I'd have nothing.
  • For this reason, as a customer, I've always just thought to get the best service available that lets you use your favorite device. For the longest time I was on ATT Straight Talk, and for me personally I got fantastic service (2013-ish). With technology advancing so quickly, and companies seemingly 1-upping eachother (tmo/vzn), having brand loyalty for a network seems useless.
  • I completely agree. My sister and her husband has tmobile and if they r not on WiFi they can't use their phone.
  • Where's that, Guam?
  • Unfortunately most rural areas near me have only 2g or nothing on TMo, despite their maps showing 3g.
  • TMobile has the best network and customer service of all 4 carriers (I have tried them all)!
  • Does T-Mobile throttle their free tablet plan (the 200mb/mo)? I have Verizon on my phone, and use the free tier of T-Mobile on my iPad. It seems the T-Mobile speed and coverage is terrible for me, while my phone on Verizon seems much more reliable. (Galaxy S7 and iPad Air 2 in Orlando, FL).
  • Band 12, has it made a difference? For T mobile phones for reception?
  • Yes. For me in Indiana
  • It does, and of course, it helps a lot if you own a phone that uses that band! At work, before having a phone with Band 12, I bounced between LTE and Edge all the time in the parking lot. Since getting a phone with Band 12, I only get LTE everywhere pretty much. I hardly ever see no service. Bookmark this link, it will change your T-Mo life:
    http://www.spectrumgateway.com/compatible-phones
  • you can pretty much bet that folks in rural areas getting lousy coverage are NOT installing Open Signal.
  • For what it's worth, with Project Fi I get really great coverage almost everywhere I go. I believe my service uses tmobile and sprint networks. With that said, I live in RI. I'd actually like to know how others are finding the service. Care to chime in?
  • Been using Project Fi since Oct in LA and it's better than Verizon or ATT in terms of coverage and a lot cheaper. Project Fi also uses US Cellular.
  • I'm in North Scituate RI and have TMO. I know it's not
    Project Fi, but I have seen a huge improvement in service out in the middle of nowhere where I live and signal penetration. It's amazing how much it's improved in just the last six months. I switched from the death Star in 2015.
  • Lol.
    Damn dude you actually live in the boonies of Rhode Island hahah. It's cool to hear this though. Verizon has been the top dog here for a while.
  • I've been with Fi since April of 2015. I use it mainly when traveling, because there are portions of I95 that T-Mobile's network just doesn't cut it. It's crazy because these same areas are where the number 4 carrier Sprint gets me through.
  • Rootmetrics will always say Verizon is better. And what about rural parts of the country where you can only get a Verizon or att signal and not T-Mobile?
  • I'd say that since you realize that issue (most people don't), then stick to the major carriers for that reason.
    I would find it interesting if a company put all of their effort into getting great coverage for people in rural areas. With that said, I don't know much about networks on a technical level.
  • What about the rural parts of the country where you can only get a T-Mobile or Sprint signal and not Verizon? Nationwide averages here. Average means you'll probably either be better or worse than the result.
  • But one with CDMA network and unable to use with global phones, and no unlimited data. Easy choice there.
  • Feel free to call me dumb, lol. I was under the impression that since Verizon devices (on a cdma network) now require a sim card. Does that mean nothing as far as global phone compatibility? *hides*
  • Verizons calling network still consist of CDMA and their data is 4G LTE network driven. ( that is where the sim card comes into play)
  • Actually, most if not all handsets sold at Verizon are unlocked but tied to the network until they're paid for. That said, many of those do not support T-Mo channel 12 out of the box. Almost all unlocked phones do, but only a few can be used on the Verizon network.
  • I'll stay with Project Fi.
  • Waiting for posts about about how people with their discount though their job get 20% better signal coverage with Verizon....
  • I wish I could get T-Mobile. They don't mess with their phones as much and I like their new one plan. But less than 5 down in Chicago and the Chicago suburbs is unacceptable when I get 100 down on Verizon.
  • This. Loved TMO but kept getting dropped calls and missed texts at my house in the Chicago suburbs even with full bars. Unreliable. Eventually had to switch.
  • Was with friends last night and the att and T-Mobile phones worked better than the Verizon phones both coverage and speeds. For me att has been the best overall coverage but T-Mobile is starting to really be impressive with all the improvements
  • Per OpenSignal's report, "Rather than track geographic coverage, our availability metric measures the proportion of time our users can access a particular network." which is based on data they collected from 169,683 users with their app. Hmm, doesn't sound like a very reliable methodology.
  • not at all. this is absolutely misleading.
  • Yup! Yet so many swallow it hook line and sinker (not just here but where ever this is being reported). :(
  • Switched from VZW to AT&T due to phone selection with GSM and better pricing... Then 3 years ago switched to T-Mobile for even better pricing and believe it it not speed and coverage... It's only got better every year and I've always had coverage everywhere in the last 2 years. I've had only two instances I can remember in that time frame where I've had 3G and it was out in rural areas.
  • If big V ever cancels my unlimited data plan TMO is where I will end up. So keep on going magenta!
  • It's coming broski, according to reddit
  • Tmobile ftw baby
  • For me it simple. Verizon works at my house. The others do not. AT ALL.
  • For me ATT works at my house, other carriers make my phone a fancy paper weight.
  • Why don't I get any signal in most stores? Is it bad T-Mobile coverage or companies building walls with lead lining?
  • Mostly likely its not lead lining unless you are in a hospital area. Its all the Metal and concrete that is in these places like for example most costco stores I have been in have a tuff signal. That's why they have my company come in and enhance the properties coverage. Still even being in a 700 Band 12 area with T-mobile I rarely ever see it and most of the time its 2100 MHz AWS and of course 1900 MHz PC's. Also stores and rural areas here in Portland and SW Washington T-mobile coverage is still weak compared to ATT and Verizon from my findings personally and also customers that need cell enhancements.
  • That could explain it. But what's kinda funny is I work in a hospital and get excellent signal whereas inside JCPenney, totally dead. Absolutely no signal at all. It's usually clothing stores now that I think about it.
  • As someone with an active phone on both networks this shocks me. Tmobile has come a long way and I utilize their unlimited video/music streaming on a prepaid line, saves me money vs paying for Verizons data. I can't get rid of Verizon because Tmobile has too many dead spots, random houses it doesn't work in, and if I leave town and venture off the freeway I've got a 2g signal or nothing at all. I'm in MN but Fargo ND is the closest metropolitan area to me, for those that don't know, we've got low population density in these parts, low incentive to build a lot of towers.
  • Wow. That's awesome.
  • Yeah, the key is filling dead spots, like my house, many neighborhoods around me. Cell phone is worthless if no connection. If they can fill those gaps, I'll switch back from Verizon in a heartbeat.
  • When did t mobile surpass at&t?
  • So what gives I have project fi and T-Mobile is one of the carrier's. Seems like I should have better service!🤔
  • Tmo = zero towers in VT. I will stick with att. Plus att has been good to me over the years.
  • Impressive T-Mobile. Most impressive.
  • I have Metro PCS, which uses T-Mobil towers. On their map Open Signal shows towers which are not visually apparent when you drive to that location. When within one mile of one supposed tower Speedtest will show a download speed of . 05 Mbps. So if there is a tower there, it is delivering those types of DL speeds.
  • The thing about the MVNOs, you dont get the same priority access to the company's towers. So if a tower is congested with TMO customers, the MVNO and pre-paid customers are put to the back of the line, in a sense. Usually the performance difference is negligible and most probably arent even phased by it. Especially when you're the lower rate.
  • The whole study depends on OpenSignal. How evenly dispersed among the carriers are OpenSignal users? I.e. is it accurate? T-Mobile still looses for coverage in rural areas. Hopefully that will keep getting better. Verizon and AT&T need the competition.
  • At first had a good signal in my home area with VZW , but a couple of years that changed. Their signal was not reliable, dropped calls became common,,, also slow internet . So couple years ago went with AT&T
    I now have one of my phones on AT&T for about a year. Just moved my other phone from AT&T to T-Mobile this week.
    So far T-Mobile has out performed both VZW and AT&T in my home area
  • I hear this a lot. Tmo ftw
  • I'm sorry but there just isn't enough data for this to be a valid measurement. Verizon alone has a hundred million customers, so when the sample set is less than .17 of only one of the four carriers that were supposed to be rated, the accuracy and significance of this so-called study are in question. There just isn't enough raw data or information on the variables. It doesn't hold up to any scientific method. Even if this were for something less quantifiable, such as an opinion survey, the sample set would still be too small to get any real data.
    Furthermore, take into account that these numbers come from an app you have to choose to download, and you've eliminated the entire group of people who either wouldn't download the app or don't even know of its existence. Meaning you're only getting numbers from a miniscule subset, not necessarily indicative of the whole.
  • T-Mo is amazing in southeast Missouri. I been with them for 10 years now and the first 8 was horrible. The first half no one had 3G in this area, so it was no big deal, but later everyone BUT Tmo had 3G and years later the same with LTE. But in 2015 we got LTE, had to buy a new Note because my Note 2 was on the old 1700mhz band and the area was on the new 1900mhz. After that I now have amazing blazing speed for 2 for $80/3GB, with unlimited music streaming, Pokémon Go and Netflix, I don't use close to 3GB and if I do it's like the last two days of my billing cycle. T-Mobile is growing and growing FAST. Even Metro PCS is giving the big dogs a run for their money now since everyone finance their phones now. The bright side is that smartphones are getting cheaper.
  • I really wish I could dump Verizon. But being a truck driver that travels all lower 48 and some of Canada I have to go with Verizon if I want coverage out the middle of nowhere.
    Verizon hands down has better Nationwide coverage than T-Mobile. Once you get out of the metropolitan areas with T-Mobile you're screwed.
    And that's where this study sorta is misleading.
  • Can't speak to Verizon coverage, but T-Mobile data coverage is nonexistent in IA, WI, WV, WY, NV, NE, KS, MT. Any GSM T-Mobile phone in these states is talk-text only(maybe some data if within 10 mi of DM, KC or Madison.) As the comment above states "Once you get out of the metropolitan areas with T-Mobile you're screwed."
  • One thing I can't stand about Verizon is their stupid bloatware. On T-Mobile, you can just bring your unlocked phone.
  • T-Mob has way better customer service than ATT and Sprint (never had Verizon but a realtive worked there and they don't use them). For the moment (Feb 2017) magenta clearly has the best price to value. You can check your specific address coverage using this map https://www.t-mobile.com/coverage-map.html - and if your area is weak, call them to complain because they'll probably send out a crew (no joke). My highway data / voice signals in the midwest, SoCal and the PA to MD areas have been mostly solid and noticeably improving over the years. Where T-Mob truly excels is on newer model phones capable of WIdeband LTE. Add to that, excellent VoIP via wi-fi calling (I use their free VoIP optimized ASUS wi-fi routers), optional free personal cellspot signal boosters, free texting on airplanes, and great international coverage... lemme stop, I ain't getting paid for this.
  • I'm a bit late to this article, but I'm just now in the middle of my own trial with T-Mobile and ended up here after searching for "T-Mobile building penetration." I'm in the western suburbs of Philly, about halfway between Philly and Lancaster (a little closer to Philly). I've been on T-Mobile for about a week, and at this point I'm pretty sure that I'm going to end up cancelling before the end of the buyer's remorse period and going back to AT&T, even though it costs twice as much. T-Mobile is just horrible here. Wanted to blame it on my phone not having Band 12, but my husband's phone does and he's having the exact same experience. And heaven help me if I am even standing near a building, let alone being inside of one. Service drops away immediately. The entire eight hours I am at work it's dead, unless I leave the building and walk far enough away. I've been running side by side speed tests with T-Mobile and AT&T phones, and there's just no comparison. I will say though, that the closer I get to Philly the stronger it gets, although AT&T still beats it most of the time. I haven't yet been inside the city with it, so I can't comment on that.