Mobile Takes 5/6 OpenSignal's Network Awards For Jan. 2018

Ivan Schwartz
January 23, 2018

For this report, OpenSignal analyzed 5.9 billion measurements collected from 237,213 mobile devices between October 1 and December 30 of 2017.

All the numbers in OpenSignal's tests originate from users of OpenSignal's (terribly named) "4G WiFi Maps & Speed Test. Find Signal & Data Now" app.

First, the results show that while AT&T and Verizon were severely impacted by launching unlimited data plans past year, with both of the biggest carriers in the United States seeing drops in overall download speeds as their 4G LTE networks were stressed by more data consumption. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) continues to trail its three competitors but has quadrupled its average speed to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) and raised its availability score by nine points. The top image for 4G availability is a percentage of how "often users can access a 4G network", and shows T-Mobile users doing so 93.14% of the time, with Verizon right behind at 92.72% of the time (Sprint: 85.66%; AT&T: 87.03%).

The company received five of the six awards OpenSignal handed out, including 3G and 4G download speeds, 4G availability, 3G latency, and overall download speeds.

AT&T was the only network to win a category with the best 4G latency award.

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AT&T, which also saw a dip in speeds during the first half of 2017 when it introduced new unlimited data options, posted an average 4G speed of 13.3 Mbps.

In more non-carrier specific results, the report notes that LTE is becoming much more widespread in recent years, with two companies (Verizon and T-Mobile) able to report over 90% availability now, when a year ago no company could.

Another interesting battle can be found in the regional performance chart that OpenSignal included in this report. While Verizon was dealing with the effects of the unlimited data deluge, T-Mobile was making plenty of network upgrades of its own.

When OpenSignal published monitoring results last August, both AT&T and Verizon showed steadily declining 4G network speed that was attributed to the reintroduction of unlimited data plans. T-Mobile may have emerged as the dominant operator in our metrics, but it would be a mistake to dismiss Verizon.

The report also noted that last-place Sprint made significant gains in both LTE speed and availability in the latest analysis. T-Mobile 4G speeds have been shooting upwards steadily for the previous year, and in the 4th quarter it hit a new 4G download high of 19.4 Mbps, establishing it as the clear leader in 4G speed for the second report in a row. AT&T won in that metric beating out T-Mobile, which held that spot previously. The router will be available free of charge for existing AT&T customers. Its availability score rose almost 9 percentage points over the last twelve months, compared to 6 percentage points for T-Mobile and 5 percentage points for both Verizon and AT&T. A year ago, no USA operator had a 4G availability score above 90%. Sprint was by far the most improved operator in LTE reach in 2017.

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