In the pitched battle over 5G in the USA,with the fastest peak download speeds we've seen anywhere – 1.8 gigabytes of data per second. This is insanely fast. While ordinary buyers can not really use (it's for business customers just for now), the fact that AT & T's network has passed in Chicago and more than tripled in Dallas points out how hungry carriers are expected to gain early 5G victories.
The carrier that can claim the fastest download speeds, the broader coverage area and the more consistent service gets more than just bragging rights. Carriers expect to attract customers with the strength of their 5G reputations.
It's still early on with our 5G tests in the US and around the world, but comparing our Speedtest.net results and real world downloads already reveals an important lesson. Speed is not everything. The consistency of these speeds and coverage coverage are as important as highs and fast downloads.
The stakes are real.in a decade. This is the new network technology that will replace the existing 4G LTE networks, promising download speeds of 2x to 10x and a faster 100x day. With 5G, you can download hours of video in seconds, launch crystal clear, lag-free video calls and play heavy games on real-time graphics.
While most of us do notuntil the networks start being launched seriously, , and the .
However, the reality of 5G's ability to make its download speeds exponentially faster is undeniably clear and happening now.
And now, here's how the Verizon 5G, AT & T and Sprint tests compare.
AT & T smashes Verizon's top speeds
Test after test, AT & T's 5G network outperformed Verizon's fastest network speeds – 1.8Gbps on AT & T and 1.3Gbps on Verizon. This is especially impressive, knowing that AT & T has decided to "limit" its speeds from 5G to 2Gbps, suggesting they could be even larger.
Sprint reached a peak of 484 Mbps (megabits per second). That's 3.7 times slower than AT & T's highest score, but still nothing to sneer at. For reference, 4G LTE speeds can reduce the speed of 100Mbps, and fast Internet speeds at home can hover in the 400Mbps range.
Tests 5G: Maximum speeds
Maximum download speed (Speedtest.net)
Galaxy S10 5G
May 16, 2019
Galaxy S10 5G
June 22, 2019
May 30, 2019
We field-tested the speeds of Verizon, Sprint and AT & T using the Speedtest.net benchmarking application in different locations. We also downloaded apps, movies, and TV shows to see how fast the network and phones dealt with real-world action (see below).
But here is an important difference in the tests. While Verizon let journalists lose in Chicago to test their 5G nodes embedded in existing light poles, our tests with AT & T are best thought of as a really impressive (and really mean) demonstration.
AT & T allows us to use the Galaxy S10 5G on its 5G Plus network (the name of its fastest telephone network) in a section of the Warner Bros. production batch. – basically a small neighborhood that has its own square – with us being built on rooftops.
AT & T had the advantage of tightly controlling its network in a smaller area and showed this. Over 12 speed tests, eight have risen more than 1.4 Gbps – again, this exceeds Verizon's top speed. Verizon's speeds in our test consistently reached 400Mbps to over 1Gbps, and we surpassed the 1Gbps barrier four times over a 4-hour test period in downtown Chicago. The 4G speeds were also faster, where we tested 5G.
Sprint has covered a comparatively larger area in Dallas with speeds rarely reaching 400 Mbps (this is still much faster than your current phone).
This is an imperfect comparison in many ways. Verizon and Sprint use different spectrum (radio frequencies). Verizon and this AT & T test use millimeter wave (mmWave), which produces extremely fast speeds for a specific area. Sprint, however, uses midrange frequencies, which cover a comparatively larger area, but are a bit slower, hence the 400Mbps peaks. AT & T will also have this mid-band spectrum for most of its future network, and will give more densely populated areas and businesses a faster capture of 5G Plus.
5G network footprint: Sprint wins today
Although AT & T technically has more cities lit at 5G than Sprint and certainly Verizon, theis not yet available to the general public (only for corporate users). This makes Sprint the winner in turning a larger 5G network that more people can use today.
However, Verizon is the largest US population coverage network, with AT & T just behind, while Sprint is currently in fourth place. Still, Sprint's strong start with 5G makes it a bargaining chip.
If the DOJ approves the merger, the newly strengthened T-Mobile will be in a stronger position to take over Verizon and AT & T., also.)
Sprint stats (5G network)
- Network type: 2.5 GHz "sub-6" wireless spectrum
- 5G cities today: Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Kansas City
- 5G Phones: ,
- More 5G cities announced: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington
- Total area: 2,180 square miles; 11.5 million people
Verizon (Ultra Wideband) Statistics
Statistics of AT & T (5G Plus)
- Network type: AT & T 5G Plus will work with mmWave technology, but the carrier will also use the "sub-6"
- Cities 5G: including LA, Austin and Dallas (started with hotspots)
- Phone 5G: Galaxy S10 5G (only business, consumer by 2020)
- More cities announced 5G: AT & T has plans for at least 30 cities
See for yourself:
Real-world tests are more impressive than you might think
Peak speeds are one thing, but what really matters is how quickly your programs and movies can be downloaded. We downloaded some of the same apps and shows in Chicago, Dallas and LA to try to compare.
Of course, it's not apple-based, because of test restrictions that put us in different cities, on different networks that use different phones at different times (and, in a case, a different show-oops station).
5G real-world download speeds
Galaxy S10 5G (Verizon)
Galaxy S10 5G (AT & T)
LG V50 (Sprint)
Galaxy S10 Plus in 4G (Verizon)
LG G8 in 4G (Sprint)
Cellular PUBG (1.86 GB)
1 minute, 23 seconds
3 minutes, 31 seconds
~ 3 minutes
73MB (3% of file) after 3.5 minutes
Wine country movie (143 minutes)
N / A
3 minutes, 45 seconds (Sprint said later that there were problems at this location)
Little progress after 2 minutes
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 1 (8 episodes)
N / A
N / A
N / A
The first episode was not downloaded after 4 minutes
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 2 (10 episodes)
~ 5 minutes
N / A
N / A
1 episode in 4 minutes
N / A
* Sprint later said there were problems at this location
The clearest here is that the 5G will be faster than its 4G counterpart in ways you can already see.
Sprint wins again
Sprint does not have the fastest speeds by a mile, but where the carrier really made headway was in the coverage of the city. Our test in Dallas took us in a bus and car driving around the city, while download speeds pass between 5G and 4G. We were able to test on the move, and there was a larger area of the city and outskirts of Dallas equipped with coverage.
Meanwhile, in Chicago (we had no chance to test in Minneapolis), 5G areas acted more as access points. They work best when you are inside a line of sight and at 100 to 300 feet away. The coverage areas are smaller and the signal is more meticulous, easily obstructed by trees, cars, raindrops – you choose. Same story with AT & T, which was completely contained in a lot of film.
The spec of the mmWave that Verizon and AT & T use also can not penetrate indoors or through glass, so you can not get benefit if you're driving in a car or inside your workplace … yet. Remember, 5G is still painfully in the early days.
This greater coverage area was shown in our Dallas tests, but again, this was a city with its very particular geography, and Sprint spent its time building its network.
What does all this mean?
AT & T shows us the greatest potential for burning downloads on the verge of our imagination. Verizon has the edge when it comes to consistently fast 5G speeds when you can actually hang onto the network. And Sprint has shown us how the slower but broader 5G coverage can still benefit you with faster downloads than 4G.
That said, we have dozens, if not hundreds, of tests, since we can test the same phone on the same network in the same city and around the world. Keep in mind that we expect a big chasm between these peak speeds and the results we will see when people start dripping mass 5G networks. This will be the real test of network speed, congestion and convenience.
After all the talk, it's refreshing to see the 5G networks come alive. But they still have a long way to go.
Lynn La and Patrick Holland contributed to this story.
Originally published on May 31.
Updates, 1 June, 2 June, 3 June, 4 June: Add more details; June 25th: Adds analysis in light of AT & T test results.
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