What you need to know

  • AT&T ranked as the fastest mobile network in PCMag's annual test.
  • AT&T's 5G Evolution push that upgraded its 4G networks is what helped it outpace other carriers this year.
  • This is the first time in five years AT&T came out on top.

PCMag has just released its results for the fastest mobile network, and this year AT&T takes the top spot. For the past 10 years, the award has gone back and forth between AT&T and Verizon, but this is the first time in five years that AT&T come out on top. AT&T won in 15 out of the 30 cities, as well as tying or winning in every rural region that was tested.

Even though AT&T won, it was a tight race between AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, which all earned scores in the 90s out of 100. In fact, the difference between first and third place is only six points. Sprint brought up the rear, being the only carrier to not crack the 90s with a score of 82.

Even though the past 10 years has belonged to Verizon and AT&T, T-Mobile has never been far behind. While T-Mobile has exceeded at providing faster speeds, the one area it has always fallen behind was coverage. T-Mobile has since improved its coverage over the past few years, but not quite enough to help it beat out AT&T or Verizon.

The main reason for AT&T winning this year comes from its 5G Evolution strategy. Something it has gotten a lot of flack over, and rightfully so, because 5Ge has nothing to do with 5G networks.

Instead, 5Ge is an upgrade to existing 4G LTE networks, including better carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO antenna usage, and 256 QAM encoding. Whatever AT&T wants to call it, it certainly helped push the network to the top this year.

Most other carriers also make use of these same techniques to offer faster speeds, AT&T just did a better job this year at upgrading its network giving it the edge.

This year, PCMag drove through 30 cities and 25 states running 60,000 speed tests in order to determine the winner. They used the Samsung Galaxy S10 in the tests because it makes use of all the latest network technologies and is available on all four carriers.

In fact, if you aren't seeing faster network speeds, one of the reasons could be your phone. For the best experience, check for phones that support gigabit LTE, which includes devices like the Galaxy S8 or higher, LG G7 or higher, the OnePlus 7 Pro, or the Google Pixel 3.

5G was not a part of PCMag's testing this year because it's still too early in its lifecycle. By the end of 2020, only 14 million out of the 400 million wireless customers are expected to have access to 5G.

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