Among the four national wireless carriers, Verizon has already increased its mobile broadband speed the most, just as the 5G era begins. RootMetrics compared mobile broadband speeds between the first half of 2014 and the second half of last year. Verizon mobile broadband speed increases initially were driven by LTE but more recently have gained a boost from 5G.
Verizon’s rolling average median download speed across 125 markets generally outstripped other carriers in measures taken twice yearly during the time frame. AT&T and T-Mobile became serious challengers in 2017, with all carriers showing considerable mobile broadband speed gains, the comparisons show.
The comparison was made between the dates – which cover the six years between the widespread rollout of 4G LTE and the similar expansion of 5G — in an effort to illustrate how real-world mobile broadband experience experiences of consumers are evolving.
“All four carriers have shown strong speed improvements on 4G LTE dating back to 2014, and we expect that trend to endure and possibly become even more pronounced as 5G continues to take hold,” said Doug King, Director of Business Development, RootMetrics in a press release about the Verizon speed increases and speed increases seen by all major wireless carriers. “Those faster speeds allow end users to enjoy seamless video streaming, quick file downloads, and smooth mobile gaming, among other things. That’s especially good news for consumers in these chaotic times as people are spending more and more time at home.”
Mobile Broadband Speed Increases
IHS Markit’s RootMetrics said that LTE mobile broadband speed is growing over time. The fastest speed recorded during the first half of 2014 was Verizon’s 31.8 Mbps in Flint, MI. That is less than half the fastest recorded speed in the second half of last year, which was AT&T’s 66.6 Mbps logged in Baltimore.
Other highlights from the report:
- While the carriers launched 4G LTE at different times from 2010 through 2013, results showed that 4G LTE coverage reached a point of near ubiquity in approximately 2017. RootMetrics says that “it’s no coincidence” that speeds increased at a faster pace at about the same time and that they have shown continuous, incremental gains ever since.
- Verizon launched its 4G LTE service earlier than the competition and delivered speeds of 20 Mbps or better across the 125 markets tested dating back to the 2015 timeframe. AT&T and T-Mobile reached speeds of 20 Mbps and beyond in about 2017. Sprint launched 4G LTE in 2012 and hasn’t caught up with the others, although Sprint speeds have increased greatly in the past few years. Moving forward, Sprint will be part of T-Mobile, as the two companies have now merged.
- 4G LTE technology and carrier aggregation clearly played significant roles in the speed increases. It’s also clear that new technologies take time to mature. It was a few years after 4G LTE deployments before all four carriers began consistently registering median download speeds of 20 Mbps or faster. It may take a few more years before 5G provides ultra-fast speeds on a wide-scale basis.
- Faster speeds open up new possibilities for what one can accomplish on a smartphone or other connected device. At the 4G LTE speeds of today, for example, end users can enjoy instant-start, buffer-free video streaming that wouldn’t have been possible five or six years ago. 5G eventually could provide a quantum leap to speeds and latency and ultimately lead to real-time virtual reality, zero-lag multiplayer mobile gaming, driverless cars and remote surgery.
Not only is 5G mobile broadband speed greater on average compared to LTE, but the pace of deployment is faster as well. Last month, 5G Americans released research from Omdia that said there were 17.7 million 5G connections worldwide as of the fourth quarter of last year. That is a 329% increase over the third quarter and 5 million more subscribers than projected.