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In new report, AT&T tops Verizon with the most accolades for nationwide mobile performance

But in most US metro regions, Verizon remained the carrier to beat in the second half of 2021, according to RootMetrics' State of the Mobile Union report.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Mobile connectivity is more important than ever, as people use their mobile devices for a growing list of personal and professional reasons. The three major wireless carriers in the US have responded with eye-popping investments in their networks and services. While AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are all making improvements across a range of metrics used to measure performance, AT&T earns the most accolades for national performance in a new report. 

According to the State of the Mobile Union report, AT&T and Verizon tied for delivering the best the overall performance across the US in the second half of 2021. Across a range of metrics measured -- like call and text performance -- AT&T won more national awards than Verizon for the first time. 

To produce the State of the Mobile Union report, the mobile testing firm RootMetrics conducted more than 3 million tests in the second half of 2021 to see how the three carriers performed across the entire US, all 50 states and 125 of the country's most populated metropolitan markets. 

AT&T edged out Verizon with the most awards for performance at the state level as well as the national level. However, when it comes to the nation's biggest metro areas, Verizon is still the carrier to beat. Meanwhile, T-Mobile delivered impressive speeds, thanks to the integration of more mid-band spectrum into its 5G network.

Also: Best 5G phone: The year's best flagships go head to head


RootMetrics used Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G smartphones to measure 4G LTE and 5G performance to assess each carrier's performance. Tests were conducted during the day and night while walking and driving. The tests focused on the activities for which consumers typically use their smartphones, including data, call and text usage. The carriers' RootScore was tallied by measuring performance across all the different spaces consumers use their smartphones. 

The second half of 2021 marked the first time AT&T won or shared the most United States RootScore Awards of any carrier. The carrier improved its rankings from second place to first in the categories of overall performance, reliability, and call performance since 1H 2021. AT&T also held on to its awards for speed, data, and text performance. While AT&T's aggregate median download speed in US testing wasn't as fast as that of the other carriers, AT&T recorded particularly strong 5th percentile speed results (a key measure of speed consistency).

AT&T also showed significant improvement at the state level from the first half of 2021. 

Verizon, for its part, performed well in every category at the national level, earning top scores for text performance and accessibility (which measures how quickly you can access the network). Verizon delivered the second-fastest median download speed across the US at 40.8Mbps, marking an improvement of nearly 20% since 1H 2021. 


Verizon had by far the most RootScore Awards of any network in metro areas while recording fast speeds and strong reliability. Since the first half of 2021, the carrier nearly tripled the number of cities in which it registered median download speeds above 50Mbps, from 13 to 34. Looking across multiple intervals together, Verizon delivered median download speeds above 40Mbps in 45 more metros than it did in 1H 2021. And just as importantly, Verizon was one of two carriers that didn't deliver a median download speed below 20Mbps in a single market, an improvement from seven last time. The carrier's fast speeds helped Verizon take home the most Speed RootScore Awards of any carrier at 81.

Meanwhile, after launching a nationwide 5G service in October of 2020, Verizon is now offering 5G in 122 of the 125 cities tested. Verizon delivered faster 5G median download speeds in most cities since 1H 2021, and the carrier's 5G reliability results were excellent. Results should improve after Verizon invested a whopping $45 billion at the C-Band auction in 2021 -- more than AT&T and T-Mobile combined.

While Verizon's metro speeds were excellent, T-Mobile was the only carrier to deliver a median download speed above 100 Mbps. The carrier hit that mark in 47 markets, up from zero in 1H 2021. What's more, T-Mobile surpassed 200Mbps in 13 of those cities and topped 300 Mbps in two. When looking at intervals, T-Mobile's 93 markets with median download speeds above 50 Mbps was more than those of AT&T (24) and Verizon (34) combined. T-Mobile also improved at the lower end, not recording any median download speeds below 20Mbps, an improvement from 23 last time. 

T-Mobile has also continued to improve its results outside of major metropolitan markets over the past year. As T-Mobile integrates more mid-band spectrum it acquired from Sprint into its 5G network, the carrier's speeds keep getting faster in general. In fact, T-Mobile's US median download speed of 79.8Mbps improved by 163% since 1H 2021 (30.3 Mbps) and was much faster than that of any other carrier.

Editor's Note: This story and the headline were edited to more accurately reflect the results of the State of the Mobile Union report. An earlier version suggested that AT&T delivered the best overall performance nationally. In fact, AT&T and Verizon tied for best overall performance, while AT&T won the most RootScore awards at the national and state level.

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