Verizon and AT&T’s recent 5G rollout could put them in a better position to compete with T-Mobile, which has been rolling out similar technology for years, according to data from Opensignal† The company’s analysis found that when Verizon turned on its C-band equipment in January, average 5G speeds jumped — and where carriers have rolled out their new technology, they’re all achieving similar speeds.
Looking at the average 5G download speeds for each carrier, there’s been a marked increase in Verizon’s numbers after the carrier put its C-band equipment online in January. The increased speeds available to customers in the rollout area boosted the average by about 15 megabits per second, according to Opensignal. Despite AT&T also rolling out the C-band, AT&T didn’t see the same bump — likely because the launch covered only “eight metro areas” according to the airline (though it promises to expand in 2022).
T-Mobile is clearly leading the way. That’s because Opensignal’s average speeds are good for both those with fast midband and those without. In January, Verizon said more than 100 million people would have access to its C-band service. T-Mobile said mid-band covered over 210 million at that timewhich obviously helps the average numbers significantly – there are fewer people without mid-band coverage, which lowers average speeds.
When Opensignal narrowed its scope to just mid-band 5G download speeds, the speed differences between carriers became much smaller. T-Mobile is still at the top, with its more mature network averaging 225.5 Mbps, but Verizon’s C-band isn’t far off at 211.8 Mbps. AT&T is a little further behind, averaging around 160 Mbps, even on the C-band. Average upload speeds from AT&T and T-Mobile are in the 18 Mbps range, with Verizon leading the way with an average of nearly 21 Mbps. That’s significant improvements over what the average AT&T or Verizon customer got for their C-band rollout†
While T-Mobile’s 5G rollout was based on mid-band 5G, its competitors spent billions to get rights to the C-band spectrum so they could do their own wide rollout. In January, they actually started broadcasting mid-band signals to consumers (after several delays due to an argument over the possibility that C-band signals could interfere with vital equipment on airplanes).
All this means that T-Mobile probably cannot rest on its laurels. Verizon and, to a lesser extent, AT&T have shown that their C-band acquisitions allow them to compete at speed where they have the equipment deployed. Verizon is planning to expand C-band availability to at least 75 million more people by the end of this year, while T-Mobile only plans adding about 50 million more† Sooner or later, Verizon may catch up and the carriers will have to race again to differentiate themselves that they can brag about.