T-Mobile still leads with 5G as US carriers improve overall speeds in latest report

T-Mobile startup screen
(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • T-Mobile continued to lead in overall speed and 5G speed with Verizon coming in second in both categories. AT&T's speeds improved overall but remained the same for 5G.
  • T-Mobile leads in 5G availability with 65% compared to 49.4% on AT&T and 28.2% on Verizon.
  • The Galaxy S22 Ultra was the fastest overall device helping to take the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to the top of the chipset leaderboard.

Every carrier is laser-focused on 5G, and they want customers to know with just about every carrier advertisement reminding us about the newest generation of cellular connectivity. But is this investment paying off in any kind of meaningful way? According to Ookla's Q1 2022 report, the three major carriers each improved in median download speed, with T-Mobile maintaining its commanding lead.

While overall mobile data speeds have plateaued over the past three months leading to a one-place drop to 23rd on the worldwide leaderboard. Even so, each carrier saw some improvement since the Q4 2021 report, with T-Mobile taking the top spot with 117.83Mbps compared to its Q4 result of 90.65Mbps. This was the biggest increase, followed by Verizon's jump from 44.67Mbps to 62.62Mbps allowing the carrier to take second place. AT&T still improved 56.10Mbps, up from 49.25Mbps.

The increases in speed from T-Mobile and Verizon are tied to mid-band 5G as Verizon launched its C-band 5G in January, and T-Mobile continued to build on its mid-band spectrum. This was also supported by an earlier report from Opensignal. AT&T's mid-band launch was much smaller, with the carrier relying more on spectrum purchased in a more recent auction.

When looking at isolated 5G, results show the power of T-Mobile's 5G footprint with a median speed of 191.12Mbps. An increase over Q4 2021's 187.12Mbps. Verizon stayed in second place but saw massive gains from 78.52Mbps to 107.25Mbps. This is thanks to C-bands massive bandwidth advantage over the shared spectrum 5G Verizon was using before. AT&T remained within 1Mbps of its previous score at 68.43Mbps. It's probable that AT&T will improve over 2022 as it deploys more mid-band 5G.

Speed test on mid-band 5G with Ultra Mobile

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Ookla notes that not all plans include access to 5G. This is more common on Verizon and AT&T as both carriers still offer plans without 5G access. T-Mobile flipped the switch for everyone at once, with even popular prepaid carriers on T-Mobile offering full access to 5G. If you've got a relatively new 5G-capable phone like the Samsung Galaxy S22 on Verizon or AT&T's networks, it may be worth checking to see if you have one of the best cell phone plans with 5G enabled.

This is supported by Ookla's 5G availability results. T-Mobile saw a modest increase in 5G availability from 61.4% to 65%, while AT&T stayed about the same, rising from 48% to 49.4%. Verizon curiously dropped from 36.4% to 28.2%.

Verizon clawed back some favor with a 5G consistency score increase from 77.3% to 79%. T-Mobile, on the other hand, dropped from 81.5% to 79.9%, allowing Verizon to fully close the gap. AT&T remained unremarkable, with a slight drop from 69.6% to 66.8%.

Black Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra with S Pen out of the holster

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Last but not least, Ookla has recorded device information for the top scorers, and unsurprisingly, the powerful Galaxy S22 Ultra and its Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 topped the leaderboard with a median download speed of 116.33Mbps. This phone was followed by the Z Fold 3 at 100.83Mbps in front of the two iPhone 13 Pro models. This has pushed the Pixel 6 series out of the top 5 though Google's Tensor chip remains in a comfortable fourth place.

Samuel Contreras

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.