Speed Test

5G performance in the United States is improving due to the expansion of available mid-band spectrum, according to research posted by Ookla.

Ookla also found that T-Mobile reached a median 5G download speed of 287.14 Mbps in March, leading Verizon (224.67 Mbps) and AT&T (145.36 Mbps). T-Mobile’s vast mid-band spectrum holdings may have played a role in the company’s performance lead.

The carrier is deploying the 2.5 GHz spectrum that it won at auction 108 in 2022 and, according to Ookla, the impact is being particularly felt in rural areas.

Verizon and AT&T are also adding to the overall improvement in 5G performance, the report said. Both carriers won spectrum at auction 107 in February 2021, benefitting from the early departure from the spectrum by satellite providers. In addition, AT&T gained 3.45 GHz licenses at auction 110 in January 2022.

Another key takeaway in Ookla’s report: There is “a clear correlation” between the release of mid-band spectrum, 5G performance and consumer sentiment favoring 5G networks. This trend was felt by the three national wireless providers during the past half-year.

The researchers found that wide disparities remain in 5G performance between states and between urban and rural locations, but mid-band spectrum deployments are starting to change that to some extent.

Ookla’s data showed that recent spectrum deployments by both T-Mobile and Verizon had an impact on rural 5G performance. AT&T only had a minor increase in median 5G download speeds in rural locations, but T-Mobile and Verizon both had “significant increases in performance through mid-band spectrum deployments.”

The Midwestern states of Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota and Minnesota were among the top five performing states nationally and achieved median 5G download speeds above 225 Mbps during the second quarter of last year. The states with the highest shares of rural populations — including Vermont, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia — had median download speeds below 100 Mbps. 

Finally, the report found that 5G upload and latency performance need more attention, as the metrics showed little to no improvement. All three nationwide providers had relatively unchanged median upload speeds in the two-year period that was analyzed by Ookla.

In 5G latency performance, T-Mobile exhibited a reduction from 55 ms in Q1 2022 to 46 ms in Q1 2024. AT&T and Verizon, however, showed increased latency.

In early 2022, Ookla said that mid-band spectrum would boost 5G speeds and coverage and that T-Mobile could lose its speed lead as AT&T and Verizon deployed the spectrum. That transition has not as of yet occurred.

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