pc magazineVerizon Wireless operates the fastest mobile network in the nation, according to PC Magazine’s latest rankings. It was the third consecutive year Verizon Wireless won top honors. T-Mobile ran a close second.

Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have effectively staked out lead positions in the premium and value-based segments of the U.S. smartphone market, PC Magazine points out. ¨Far-superior¨ mobile network reliability outside major cities gave Verizon the deciding edge.

In determining the fastest mobile network, PC Magazine evaluated mobile network performance and quality in 30 major U.S. cities and rural areas in producing its seventh annual rankings. The evaluation was based on extensive drive testing and included the networks of all four major U.S. wireless carriers.

Fastest Mobile Network Factors
Verizon Wireless and AT&T have swapped PC Magazine’s top honors every year since 2010. Significantly, T-Mobile and Sprint have managed to revitalize their mobile networks in recent years. T-Mobile has earned a first- or second-place ranking in most cities since last year.

Sprint’s mobile network grades improved markedly in 2016 as it rolled out its new LTE Plus network platform. LTE Plus makes use of two merged 20MHz channels to boost download speed substantially, PC Magazine points out.

Sprint took first place in three cities and placed second or third in many others although it remained in fourth position nationwide. In addition, Sprint’s cheap service plans make the carrier a viable market contender again, according to PC Magazine.

Turning to Verizon, PC Magazine notes that management added to the company’s wireless spectrum with a $10 billion purchase in 2015 that gave it 40 MHz of LTE’s most commonly used spectrum in 92 of the top 100 U.S. cities. Adding to that, Verizon Wireless is ramping up its use of 2×20 MHz carrier aggregation and 4×4 MIMO this year, both of which should enable the company to boost network speeds without having to invest in new towers or frequency spectrum.

AT&T, in turn, is aiming to be the market leader when it comes to wireless communications, Smart City and the Internet of Things (IoT), PC Magazine notes. These technologies require unique wireless network functionality to support very high reliability, broad coverage and low latency. These are reflected in AT&T’s actions, investments and results over the past year, PC Magazine points out.

Looking Ahead
Looking ahead to 2017, PC Magazine sees two big developments taking place. First off is the FCC’s auction of the largest swath of former wireless frequency spectrum since the auction of 126 MHz in 2008.

AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are all bidding in the auction, as are a group of rural wireless carriers. Sprint isn’t, either because it doesn’t have enough cash, as some analysts assert, or because it is focusing on higher frequency bands, as management says, according to PC Magazine.

T-Mobile has said it will begin to deploy wireless networks in rural areas by the end of 2017. Any frequency it adds in this year’s auction, which runs through June, should improve competition and enhance mobile and wireless network quality and consumer options in rural areas, PC Magazine highlights.

Second, PC Magazine expects 2017 will be the year that the race to deploy 5G technologies begins in earnest. Sprint recently announced it’s demonstrating a 2 Gbps 5G network at a soccer field. Verizon Wireless and AT&T are both looking to roll out their initial 5G network applications within two years.