Galaxy S20+ 5G network with SIM cardsSource: Samuel Contreras / Android Central

What you need to know

  • According to RootMetrics' 5G report for the first half of 2021, AT&T has the fastest average 5G speeds.
  • All three carriers saw major improvements since the second half of 2020.
  • T-Mobile has the greatest coverage with 5G in each of the 45 tested markets.

RootMetrics is an independent mobile analytics firm that reports on real-world network experiences. In its 5G report for the first half of 2021, RootMetrics found AT&T to have the fastest 5G download speeds even as it only had 5G available in 44 of the 45 markets tested. This comes down to AT&T delivering median speeds in excess of 50Mbps in more markets than any other carrier at 31, up from seven in 2020. AT&T managed to eliminate test results under 25Mbps and even more in the 25-50Mbps category to achieve these results.

AT&T wasn't the only one to improve its speeds with both T-Mobile and Verizon improving in this category as well. T-Mobile was also the only carrier with a median speed result of over 100Mbps in these markets. The majority of T-Mobile's results were in the 25-50Mbps range. Verizon also turned in most of its results at 25-50Mbps. All of these carriers had improvements but Verizon was the most dramatic increase from just one market in the second half of 2020 to 43 thanks to the launch of its sub-6 nationwide 5G network.

Diving a bit further into the speed results, T-Mobile has the worst speeds in the worst-case scenarios, the 5th percentile results. This means that the lowest 5% of results on T-Mobile were the worst of the bunch with 22 markets under 5Mbps. T-Mobile however had the strongest best-case results in the 95th percentile and even had 27 markets over 200Mbps. Compare that to AT&T and Verizon at just four apiece.

While T-Mobile didn't come out on top for speed, it still has the best 5G availability. T-Mobile had greater than 55% available in 30 markets, more than any other carrier. This isn't surprsing given T-Mobile's rapid 5G coverage expansion. AT&T was is a solid second with 20 markets leading Verizon with just three. Notably, T-Mobile's worst result was 19.2% in Sarasota Florida.

Again, Verizon showed the greatest improvement but is still in third by a significant margin. Still, it's great to see Verizon's network growing at such a quick rate. With all three carriers now offering solid 5G coverage in quite few markets, it's no surprise that the best cell phone plans have started to include 5G as standard.