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Verizon vs T-Mobile vs AT&T: H2 2021 smackdown yields new 5G speed champion

Yes, statistics nerds and lovers of number crunching in general, it's time to take a look at yet another comprehensive report analyzing and comparing the user experience offered by the top three mobile network operators stateside.

But wait, didn't we just get a similar report last week from this exact same analytics firm? What could have possibly changed in such a narrow window of time? The answer to that question is obviously "nothing"... except that a specific subset of data collected across the country during the second half of 2021 is examined this time around.

The goal is to find out which of the nation's major carriers currently delivers the best 5G availability, 5G speeds, and 5G reliability rather than evaluating the overall network performance of Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, and with 4G LTE connectivity out of the equation, the new champion's name is unlikely to come as a big surprise.

T-Mobile 2 - Verizon 1

That sounds like a pretty evenly contested battle for 5G gold, but Magenta's advantage over Big Red in the 5G availability and 5G speed sections of the latest RootMetrics report is far too massive to call this victory anything other than resounding and highly convincing.

Of the 125 heavily populated US cities scrutinized in the final six months of last year, T-Mo managed to score the highest 5G availability test results in no less than 83 while "settling" for 48 individual 5G speed trophies. If the latter number doesn't feel quite as impressive as the former, you should try contrasting it with Verizon's 3 wins and AT&T's big fat 0 in the W column of that particular category, with the rest of the top prizes going unawarded for various reasons.

Granted, the H2 2021 5G reliability contest wasn't exactly close either, as Verizon narrowly edged out... the combined win tallies of silver medalist AT&T and bronze holder T-Mobile. But although the carriers' ability to both find and maintain a 5G signal is definitely important, something tells us most "regular" smartphone users are way more interested in the other two network experience indicators

The 5G speed category almost inevitably tends to attract the highest amount of attention, and while we've certainly grown used to seeing T-Mobile win such awards over the last year or so, RootMetrics actually ranked both AT&T and Verizon ahead of the "Un-carrier" in its H1 2021 5G report

T-Mo has come a long way these past six months thanks to its completely unrivaled mid-band 5G expansions and upgrades, delivering 5G median download speeds of more than 50 Mbps in 67 of the 125 markets tested for the purpose of this study, including 3 where said number exceeded 300 Mbps (!!!).

What about AT&T?

There's really no way to put a very positive spin on these test scores for the 5G champion of 2021's first six months and the overall 4G LTE/5G user experience winner of H2, but for what it's worth, there's definitely some promise on the horizon.

That goes for AT&Tand Verizon, both of which are expected to greatly benefit from recent (and future) C-Band deployments as far as 5G speeds are concerned. In terms of 5G availability and reliability, Ma Bell actually showed solid improvement between the first and second half of last year in a bunch of big cities, which can be said about Verizon as well.

Due to its much higher C-Band spectrum spending, Big Red is clearly in a better position than its "traditional" arch-rival to challenge T-Mobile's 5G speed crown, and combined with a 5G reliability trophy that's probably not going anywhere, we may get a new overall 5G champion relatively soon.

At the end of the day, however, it might be more important to highlight that all three US wireless service providers are continuing to step up their 5G games, which obviously benefits the industry as a whole and consumers across the nation.

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