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5G Factor Video Research Note: T-Mobile Out Runs and Guns the Competition
by Shelly Kramer and Ron Westfall | August 22, 2022

For this vignette of a recent episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast, Part of the 5G Factor series, analysts Ron Westfall and Shelly Kramer assessed T-Mobile acing the recent round speed tests by largely performing better than its major competitors when it comes to speed (upload and download), and overall network tests.

Their conversation considered:

  • According to Opensignal’s testing data, T-Mobile has logged in at about 171 Mbps, and that increased from 150 Mbps during the September to December testing period. A considerable increase, which dramatically extends its lead over both Verizon and AT&T although both improved with Verizon going from 56.2 Mbps to 72.8 Mbps, AT&T going from 49.1 Mbps to 53.6 Mbps, however T-Mobile essentially killed it.
  • T-Mobile’s download speeds land at 61.7 Mbps, AT&T at 34.4 Mbps, and Verizon at 29.8 Mbps; producing significant variance. T-Mobile also shines at keeping customers connected to 5G networks with Opensignal’s tests showing that T-Mobile keeps users connected 40% of the time on their phones over the 5G network, while AT&T finally beats Verizon here coming in at 18.7% compared to Verizon’s 10.6%.
  • The tests validate that T-Mobile’s strategic move to acquire and amass mid-band spectrum is paying off handsomely, as both Verizon and AT&T have been slower to turn on C-band which as a result is really paying off for T-Mobile in the early 5G sweepstakes.
  • With the speed tests, T-Mobile helps differentiate its 5G ultra capacity package, which is available to 225 million users today, but by the end of the year it is expecting to extend the offering to 260 million users, and by the end of next year, that will be up to 300 million users.
  • T-Mobile is also advancing its 5G standalone capabilities and that these speed advantages will start translating to more interesting use cases that can advance monetization objectives, including enhanced hybrid work collaboration capabilities, AR/VR, and mobile gaming.

Ron and Shelly believe the speed tests overall are a feather in T-Mobile’s cap aiding the operator to potentially capture more emerging 5G mindshare especially because 5G will be coming on board with more capabilities over the next couple years. They foresee it can really matter more when users, whether consumer or an enterprise says, “Wow, okay. I see the difference now,” versus today where it’s kind of mystifying if they know they are on a 5G network in many cases.

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Transcript:

Shelly Kramer: We are going to talk a little bit about T-Mobile. And T-Mobile is basically kind of blowing away the competition when it comes to 5G speed tests. It’s interesting, as I was looking, as I was kind of putting my thoughts together for this segment, I saw a headline that got my attention and reads like this, “T-Mobile versus Verizon versus AT&T, so many new 5G and overall network experience tests, one big winner.” That headline was from PhoneArena.

And basically, as you might imagine, what this is really is T-Mobile’s move to acquire mid-band spectrum is paying off in spades, and both Verizon and AT&T have been slower to turn on C-band and this is really paying off for T-Mobile. So I wanted to touch real quickly on some of the results from the speed tests. Let’s see. So T-Mobile has moved… Now, I’ll put all of this in our show notes too, so you’ll be able to see the graphs and everything from the report, but what’s interesting with regard to T-Mobile… And this information, by the way, is from Opensignal, we’ll touch on another report that’s just come out this week too.

But according to Opensignal’s testing data, T-Mobile has logged in at about 171 Mbps, and that has increased from 150 during the September to December testing period. So that’s a pretty considerable increase, dramatically extending its lead over both Verizon and AT&T. They both have improved going from, let’s see, Verizon went from 56.2 to 72.8, AT&T went from 49.1 to 53.6, but essentially T-Mobile’s just killing it.

So I’ll also note in some of these categories, Verizon actually wins in both the 5G Gaming Experience category and the 5G Voice App category, but when it comes to 5G download speeds, which is what a lot of people care about; 5G download speeds, upload speeds, 5G availability, 5G reach, T-Mobile takes it all in terms of winning in these tests. And one of the things I mentioned, download speed and how important that is, and we’re all sitting here from time to time with our mobile devices waiting, trying to download things, but T-Mobile’s, basically their download speed experience comes in double that of its rivals. And that’s pretty impressive.

So T-Mobile’s landing at 61.7, AT&T is 34.4, Verizon is 29.8; that’s pretty significant. And most impressive of all and where T-Mobile really shines, I think is keeping customers connected to 5G networks. Opensignal’s tests show that T-Mobile keeps users connected 40% of the time on their phones, AT&T finally beats Verizon here coming in at 18.7, compared to Verizon’s 10.6. So those are some pretty big disparity between numbers, I think. And so I thought that was awesome.

All that data was from the Opensignal report. And I’ll just super quickly go over to… Ookla® released its Q2 2022 Speed Test report, which also, of course, shows T-Mobile dominating. These testing, they’re not going to come out with markedly different results, right? But what I thought was interesting here, and again, 5G performance T-Mobile dominated, but one thing I think that’s interesting is that… I wanted to touch just a minute on how customers use networks and Ookla®’s data showed that most AT&T, Verizon customers are still spending most of their time on 4G networks, even if they have a 5G capable device.

Ron and I were just talking about this before we started this show. Only 28% of Verizon’s customers with 5G phones spent more than half of their time on 5G networks. AT&T customers were more likely to use 5G with 49% of them spending most of their time on faster networks. And T-Mobile subscribers with 5G phones were accessing 5G about half of the time. To me, what that all boils down to is that we… Of course, Ron and I, and everyone working in this space understands how important 5G is and how significantly 5G is going to change, it is changing and will continue to change the world as we know it.

That said, on the consumer front, I think many of us still are using 4G networks; don’t know if we’re using 4G networks or 5G networks; don’t know if the phone that we have is a 5G phone; don’t care. Ron, wouldn’t you say that’s probably the case based on our observations?

Ron Westfall: Oh yes. I think you are hitting the nail on the head there, Shelly. And in fact, even the most advanced, sophisticated users can sometimes be mystified as to what network they’re on, and it definitely depends on the device they’re using and how much information it readily shares, et cetera. But it is fascinating, I think, that in terms of whether you’re on a 5G network or a 4G network, it’s attesting to the on-the-ground reality that many of the initial 5G deployments are using what is called a non-standalone implementation. And that is, basically it’s the blending of 5G and 4G networks in order to at least deliver some early 5G capabilities.

And what I think is important though, about, okay, if that’s the case, why is it a big deal that T-Mobile is registering these speed tests advantages what does it really mean? Well, first of all, it helps capture early mind-share, so it’s always important. Get out in front of this and to prove that your network is ahead and it’s really ready for when 5G really becomes turbo boosted, and that is when 5G standalone implementations become more readily available to all users across the US, let alone in other countries.

And I think one important fact that came out of the test is that T-Mobile today their 5G ultra capacity package is available to 225 million users today, but by the end of the year, they’re expecting that to also extend to 260 million users. And by the end of next year, that will be up to 300 million Users. And so that’s underlying the fact that T-Mobile is advancing its 5G standalone capabilities and that these speed advantages will start translating to more interesting use cases that can definitely interest monetization objectives or advanced monetization objectives, everything from enhanced collaboration capabilities, AR/VR, you hit on the gaming, which certainly I think elevates gaming for any user on any network in the US, at least.

And so, this is definitely important today and I think it’s a feather in T-Mobile’s cap that they’re capturing this early mind-share because 5G will definitely be coming on board with more capabilities over the next couple years, at least. And that’s when it’s going to really matter even more when you users, whether consumer or certainly an enterprise says, “Wow, okay. I see the difference now,” versus today where it’s kind of mystifying in many cases.

Shelly Kramer: Well, and what I think is interesting here is that what consumers really care about is network availability. “Is it there? Is it going to work when I need it,” right? “Connectivity, do I have it? And I want to have it at all times, and speed.” And they want to be able to communicate when they want; they want consistent speed, they want performance from all their devices on the network. And, “I don’t want to be impacted by the fact that I’m trying to use a device and somebody else on my network is trying to do something else,” or whatever.

But I think that where this is really significant is that when you see headlines like this, when we have conversations in the analyst community and say T-Mobile is really dominating in speed test after speed test after speed test. And by the way, T-Mobile is not really only dominating as it relates to speed, there are many other variables here where T-Mobile is also… Let’s see, in the Overall Mobile Experience category, T-Mobile dominates, reclaiming, by the way, games experience, and voice experience from Verizon in this different category, same testing body. Okay?

And they’re winning everything except service availability, which AT&T gets, and 4G experience coverage, which Verizon gets. But if you’re a consumer and you’re thinking about getting a new phone, upgrading a phone whenever, and you’re consistently hearing that T-Mobile is killing it when it comes to the things that matter the most to you, I don’t know, you think that’s maybe going to sway your decision about what service provider you want?

Ron Westfall: Oh, sure.

Shelly Kramer: I’m thinking it might.

Ron Westfall: At the very least, yeah. Yeah, it’s about value and it’s value is tied to experience and naturally, security factors into all this. And I don’t know if it’s even going to be about tie breakers. It’s just like, they want the best value, and so I don’t even see coin toss scenarios until AT&T and Verizon quite simply up their game in these types of tests. And so there’s still runway. I mean, the competitive mix is still evolving. And I’m also, as an editorial note, looking forward to seeing DISH in these tests.

So that will give even more thought or options for customers out there. And certainly the consumer size is always going to get a lot of attention, but it’s also, as we know, enterprises and businesses will need this for anything ranging from enhanced collaboration, work-from-home, assurances, et cetera, say at an emerging sassy-type architecture and so forth. So all these things are coming together and I think-

Shelly Kramer: Everything plays its own little role.

Ron Westfall: Exactly.

Shelly Kramer: But no, this is great. Kudos to T-Mobile for all the work they’ve done on this front and for these great results. And I mean, as always, we continue to watch this space and look forward to what competitors are doing, whether it’s Verizon, AT&T, DISH or anyone else, so it’ll be interesting to watch for sure.

About the Authors

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”

Ron is an experienced research expert and analyst, with over 20 years of experience in the digital and IT transformation markets. He is a recognized authority at tracking the evolution of and identifying the key disruptive trends within the service enablement ecosystem, including software and services, infrastructure, 5G/IoT, AI/analytics, security, cloud computing, revenue management, and regulatory issues. Read Full Bio.