Verizon vs T-Mobile vs AT&T: the three US carriers are ranked in the biggest and fastest 5G cities

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Even though we’re midway through September now, the top mobile analytics firms in the US are not yet done evaluating the nation’s wireless network performance in general and 5G user experience in particular for the year’s first six months.

Hot on the heels of Opensignal’s fascinating and somewhat unusual classification of the best and worst US states and cities in 5G speeds, availability, video streaming, and gaming, RootMetrics is today releasing a similarly uncommon report focused on Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T’s key 5G indicators registered across a handful of individual markets during H1 2021.
For once, the (main) intention is not to rank the big three US wireless service providers, but rather to determine the fastest 5G cities in America from a list of 105. Technically, there should be 125 names on said list (specifically, the 125 largest metropolitan areas stateside), but because not all carriers currently offer 5G connectivity in 20 of those cities, RootMetrics had to shorten the list to ensure a fair, “apples-to-apples” comparison was possible.

Philly, NYC, and Boise rule the charts

The first important conclusion of this very focused research paper is one that’s been rigorously documented and repeatedly confirmed before. Namely, that bigger doesn’t always mean faster (or better in general) when it comes to cities and 5G networks.

Then again, there is obviously an exception to every rule, and in this particular case, the exception is called Philadelphia, which is both a top five US city by population and a… top one (out of the aforementioned 105) city as far as aggregate 5G median download speeds are concerned.

With 72.3 Mbps, Philly is followed by Washington, DC, Rochester, NY, Albany, NY, and New York City, NY in a compact group of four strong performers with average 5G speed scores of between 63 and 65.2 Mbps. Of course, Washington and the “Big Apple” could also be considered exceptions, delivering very good speed results while ranking high on the list of the nation’s most populous cities as well.

Both DC and NYC are ranked well ahead of Philadelphia in 5G availability, mind you, which can be an equally major aspect to consider when choosing a new carrier or mobile device. Of the five biggest cities in the US by population, however, Chicago reigns supreme in aggregate 5G availability, while Boise, Idaho and Kansas City, Missouri are two of the places where you can expect to strike the best balance between 5G speeds and coverage nowadays.

Apart from Boise and the aforementioned Rochester and Albany, the latest RootMetrics report also highlights Greenville, South Carolina as a “small town with big-time speeds”, and alas, low 5G availability scores.

What are T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T’s best cities?

While that’s obviously not a question with one simple answer, RootMetrics analysts have identified Kansas City, MO, Hampton Roads, VA, and Shreveport, LA as the very best places to live for speed addicts on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon respectively.

Magenta’s incredible 195.8 Mbps feat in Hampton Roads undoubtedly deserves special praise, as does the same “Un-carrier’s” towering 97.4 percent 5G availability figure in Chicago. Somewhat surprisingly, AT&T trumps T-Mobile when it comes to high-speed wireless service availability in both New York City and Los Angeles, which just so happen to be America’s two most populous places.
Even more impressively, Ma Bell somehow manages to take home the speed prize in L.A. as well while also dominating that chart in Chicago and Miami. T-Mo’s most remarkable achievement might be pulling the double win in Philadelphia, whereas Verizon disappoints with only one of ten possible victories across the nation’s largest cities by population.

Said 5G speed win is registered in NYC, and unfortunately for Big Red’s hardcore fans, the carrier doesn’t perform exceptionally well in the three blazing fast 5G cities that are not Philadelphia or New York. In contrast, AT&T achieves another double victory in Washington, DC, eclipsing its arch-rivals in terms of both average 5G speeds and availability.

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