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Verizon Wireless is the fastest wireless network in the U.S. by a small margin, according to the annual survey conducted by PC Magazine. But while Verizon may have been the fastest overall, the results weren’t exactly clear-cut. In fact, they varied wildly across different regions and cities.
Case in point: T-Mobile was the faster carrier in the northeast and northwest regions of the country. And for the south-central U.S. — Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana — AT&T came out as the top dog. But beyond which network was the fastest, PC Mag’s annual survey seemed to indicate something else about the telecom industry: competition is increasingly fierce, and all of the “big four” companies are vastly improving their own individual networks. Like similar national surveys, PC Mag’s testers drove around the U.S. to measure wireless network quality. In the 36 cities and rural areas that they tested in, the publication found that all of the networks in each region were seeing improvements.
This year’s survey “was the tightest contest ever.”
In fact, this year’s survey “was the tightest contest ever,” the magazine concluded. “T-Mobile has largely closed its coverage gap with Verizon within metro areas, making it an excellent lower-cost choice. And AT&T sprinted ahead this year, especially in the Southeast and Midwest. Sprint seems to have hit a speed bump, mostly in terms of consistency, but it’s also much more competitive than it was two years ago,” PC Mag added. When it came to national average download speeds, AT&T hit the highest at 32.6 megabits per second, followed closely by Verizon at 31.1 Mbps — though Verizon still ranked higher due to maximum speeds and network reliability. T-Mobile came in third with 29.3 Mbps, while Sprint lagged behind at 20.5.
PC Mag’s annual survey also measured network performance by phone and found that Samsung’s Galaxy S8 was the clear winner in average download and upload speeds — with higher performance on all major networks besides Sprint. Those results aren’t groundbreaking, however, as the iPhone 7 is a slightly older device with aging modems, especially when compared to the S8 lineup, which is outfitted with Qualcomm’s latest and greatest modem chip. Apple will undoubtedly seek to close that gap with the release of this year’s flagship iPhone.