What you need to know
- T-Mobile has extended its lead as the fastest provider with a median download speed of 62.35Mbps compared to AT&T's 47.42Mbps and Verizon's 39.91Mbps.
- T-Mobile also took the crown in 5G performance with the fastest median download speed on 5G and the best 5G availability.
- Verizon had the best fixed broadband speeds with a Speed Score of 178.38 followed closely by Cox and Xfinity.
Ookla released its Q3 U.S. Market Report on October 18, 2021, detailing the fastest and most consistent providers based on data from its popular Speedtest app. With results in the United States, Ooklas data shows consistent improvements in download speeds from mobile providers and download and upload improvements for fixed providers.
In the mobile report, T-Mobile is the fastest provider overall with a very strong 62.35Mbps median download speed. AT&T takes second place with a 47.42Mbps result with Verizon trailing behind with 39.91Mbps. Latency was about the same for each carrier with 33ms measured for T-Mobile and Verizon with 34ms for AT&T. T-Mobile also had the greatest consistency score with 84.4% of its results over 5Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. AT&T was second with 79.8% and Verizon came in third with 78.2%. Consistency results were slightly lower for each carrier compared to Q2.
Isolating the 5G results, T-Mobile's lead becomes even more decisive. T-Mobile's median download speed on 5G was 135.17Mbps compared to Verizon and AT&T at 78.94Mbps and 72.46Mbps. While AT&T and Verizon's results in Q2 were nearly identical, T-Mobile improved from 99.84Mbps. Consistency on 5G (25Mbps or higher download and 3Mbps upload) for all carriers was about the same with Verizon leading the pack with 78.8%. T-Mobile and AT&T are close behind with 78.4% and 73.8%.
It's worth remembering that T-Mobile has a huge lead in 5G coverage with Ookla's report showing 64.4% availability. AT&T came in second with 44.8% and Verizon was in third with just 34.3% availability. These results are for 5G-capable devices only but not all carriers include 5G connectivity with every plan.
The phone with the fastest median download speed is the iPhone 13 Pro Max taking over the top spot from the Galaxy S21 Ultra, one of the best Android phones you can buy. The only Android phone to break the top five for this report is the impressive Galaxy Z Fold3 5G with its Snapdragon 888 chipset. Overall, the latency was very similar between the different models.
This progress has also been a great illustration of the benefits of 5G. T-Mobile's dominance in the mobile category likely has a lot to do with the continued expansion of its mid-band Ultra Capacity 5G network which is much faster than the low-band coverage spectrum used by T-Mobile and the other carriers ahead of C-band deployment in late 2021 and 2022.
When it comes to fixed internet providers, Verizon takes the speed lead with ease. Verizon leads the competition with a Speed Score of 178.38. Cox and Xfinity aren't too far behind with 168.56 and 161.87 respectively. Ookla's Speed Score is a combination of 90% download speeds and 10% upload speeds. Fiber connection with symmetrical download and upload speeds benefit from this more than cable. Verizon also had the best latency with an average of 8ms although all of the top 6 providers had latency times under 20ms.
Xfinity had the greatest consistency at 89.8%. Spectrum and Xfinity are not far behind with 89.6% and 88.8% respectively. Cox takes a dip with 83.7% but maintains a healthy lead over AT&T and CenturyLink. Consistency scores are the percentage of tests over 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.
While Google Fiber is no longer the fiber miracle many were hoping it would become, it's still the fastest provider in the fastest three cities on the list of the 100 most populous cities in the country. Google Fiber was the fastest provider in seven cities. Still, cable companies lead the pack overall with Spectrum fastest in an impressive 19 cities, Cox in 16 cities, and Xfinity in 13 cities. AT&T and Verizon were the fastest in 12 and eight cities respectively with largely fiber-based offerings.
While no report is going to be able to provide a complete picture for everyone, it's a great way to measure the progress providers are making. Average download speeds for both mobile and fixed have increased each month in 2021. If you're not getting the full speed you pay for with your home internet, it may be worth checking out a fast Wi-Fi 6 router with improved performance. Most providers offer a Wi-Fi 6 gateway as well so if you prefer to rent, you could also make sure you're on the latest tech with your provider.
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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.