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T-Mobile vs AT&T: Which Network Has the Best LTE and 5G Coverage?

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T-Mobile vs AT&T: Which Network Has the Best LTE and 5G Coverage?

Key Points

  • T-Mobile boasts the largest 5G network in the U.S., serving more than 280 million people.
  • AT&T covers more than 99% of the U.S. population with its 4G services.
  • T-Mobile has faster network speeds with a median download speed of 164.76 Mbps and 5G speeds of 220 Mbps.
  • AT&T has a strong network consistency score of 79.2% and offers reliable service.
  • T-Mobile and AT&T both have wide device compatibility, supporting the latest smartphones, older models, tablets, and smart devices.

When choosing the best network for your connectivity needs, the T-Mobile vs AT&T debate is one that many people find themselves entangled in. Representing two of the largest and most recognized cellular providers in the United States, both T-Mobile and AT&T have unique strengths and selling points. 

This article compares the two networks, covering coverage area, network performance, device compatibility, plan costs, and special features.

So, whether you’re a data-hungry user looking for the fastest speeds, someone who travels frequently, or simply seeking the most bang for your buck, this comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision.

AT&T vs T-Mobile: Side-by-Side Comparison

Comparison FactorT-MobileAT&T
Coverage AreaBroad 4G coverage, with the claim of the largest 5G network in the U.S.Extensive 4G coverage across the U.S., with a growing 5G network in metropolitan areas
Network PerformanceLeading performance with median 4G download speeds of 164.76 Mbps and 5G speeds of 220 MbpsStrong performance with median 4G download speeds of 66.16 Mbps and 5G speeds of 86.01 Mbps
Device AvailabilitySupports a variety of smartphones, including the latest models, older phones, and smart devicesCompatibility with a wide range of devices, both new and old, as well as a selection of smart devices
Special FeaturesAccess to T-Mobile Tuesdays, free Netflix on certain plans, and in-flight textingAccess to AT&T TV, and inclusion of extras like HBO Max in premium plans
Plan CostsGenerally more affordable, with the Essential unlimited plan beginning at $60/monthMid-range prices with AT&T’s Unlimited Starter plan begin at $65/month
RecommendationFor high speed, wide 5G coverage, and affordability, choose T-MobileFor extensive device compatibility and robust features, go with AT&T

AT&T vs T-MObile: What’s the Difference?

T-Mobile

T-Mobile is one of the largest and most recognizable telecommunications companies in the United States. Its reputation is built on innovation, competitive pricing, and a commitment to transforming the wireless industry. 

Born from the merger of VoiceStream Wireless and Deutsche Telekom in 2001, T-Mobile has grown to serve millions of customers nationwide with its extensive wireless network coverage. The merger with Sprint in 2020 marked a significant turning point in T-Mobile’s history. It helped T-Mobile drastically expand its 4G LTE coverage and fuel its 5G ambitions. 

As of 2023, T-Mobile boasts the largest 5G network in the U.S., serving more than 280 million people. The company’s 5G approach, often called a “layer cake” strategy, leverages low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrums. This helps T-Mobile to enable a 5G network that provides wide coverage and high-speed connections.

T-Mobile’s commitment to its customers is mirrored in its budget-friendly plan options. Catering to various needs, the company offers plans that appeal to single users, families, and businesses alike. Its focus on the customer experience is also reflected in its efforts to improve network performance, reliability, and service restoration following outages.

AT&T

With a rich history dating back to the invention of the telephone, AT&T is a longstanding titan in the telecommunications industry. The company, originally known as the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, has evolved over the decades.

AT&T has adapted to technological advancements and expanded its services to wireless communication, internet services, and more. As of 2023, AT&T’s wireless network, providing both 4G LTE and 5G services, covers more than 99% of the U.S. population.

The company takes pride in its wide-reaching and reliable network, serving customers in bustling cities, suburban neighborhoods, and rural areas. AT&T’s significant investment in 5G technologies has allowed the company to offer 5G services in many metropolitan areas across the U.S., promising faster speeds and lower latency as the rollout continues.

AT&T’s service offerings are as diverse as its customer base, providing a range of plans to suit varying needs and budgets. From the budget-friendly Unlimited Starter plan to the feature-rich Unlimited Elite plan, AT&T aims to cater to all.

Moreover, the company is recognized for its swift service restoration process post-outages and commitment to customer service. AT&T’s commitment to reliable service makes it a strong contender in the competitive telecommunications landscape.

Coverage Area

Mesh Network vs Extenders
AT&T and T-Mobile offer some of the most robust LTE networks today.

In our first comparison category, let’s delve into the coverage area aspect of the T-Mobile vs AT&T conundrum. Coverage area is a crucial consideration for users, especially those who live in remote regions or frequently travel across the country. So, let’s see how these two titans fare regarding network reach and the promise of 5G connectivity.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s robust LTE network has been a strong contender in the cellular space for years. This extensive coverage didn’t happen by accident. 

T-Mobile has made conscious efforts and substantial investments to ensure its far-reaching network offers a reliable, high-speed data connection. This commitment to expansive and reliable coverage means you can rest assured that you’ll stay connected, whether you’re streaming a movie in your city apartment or checking emails on a road trip.

The dawn of 5G has brought a new dimension to network coverage. T-Mobile hasn’t rested on its laurels but has aggressively pursued the promise of this next-generation technology. 

It proudly claims to have America’s largest 5G network. This is outlined by its availability to more than 280 million people across the U.S. T-Mobile’s ambitious efforts to implement 5G, fueled by the assets obtained from their merger with Sprint, have been successful.

However, it’s worth noting that while the breadth of T-Mobile’s 5G network is impressive, it’s essential to understand that the depth of coverage may vary depending on where you are. In some areas, T-Mobile’s 5G speeds may not significantly outpace their 4G speeds.

If you’re considering switching to T-Mobile, you can be reasonably confident about network coverage. This is true whether you’re sticking with 4G or ready to embrace 5G.

T-Mobile’s 4G network has proven to be robust and reliable. Its 5G network, despite some variability in speed, offers a breadth of coverage that is currently unmatched.

AT&T

AT&T prides itself on delivering a wide-reaching and reliable network that covers more than 99% of the U.S. population with its 4G services. This staggering figure is no small feat, and it’s part of what makes AT&T a mainstay in the cellular service market.

AT&T’s commitment to keeping Americans connected, whether in densely populated urban locales or spread-out rural areas, is commendable. Their LTE services have ensured that high-speed data connections are within reach for almost anyone in the country. 

From social media browsing to video streaming, AT&T’s network stands up to the task of providing reliable coverage across a wide array of locations. AT&T is also investing heavily in the future — in 5G. 

The next evolution in cellular technology, 5G, is set to redefine what mobile connectivity means, with its promise of ultra-fast speeds and minimal latency. AT&T is already making substantial progress in this arena, offering 5G coverage in numerous metropolitan areas across the U.S.

This 5G rollout is poised to expand, with AT&T committed to making its 5G services increasingly available. The promise of faster download and upload speeds and significantly reduced latency times is tantalizing, and AT&T is at the forefront of this technological revolution.

AT&T’s network coverage is certainly one of its strong suits. Its 4G services provide reliable and extensive coverage. Comparatively, its ongoing investment and expansion in 5G are a testament to the company’s forward-thinking approach.

Network Performance

5G
The theoretical peak speed of 5G networks is 20Gbps. 

Next up in our T-Mobile vs AT&T comparison, we look into the heart of any network: its performance. This section will dissect both networks’ download and upload speeds, latency, and reliability. Whether streaming, gaming, or just scrolling through social media, a network’s performance can make all the difference.

T-Mobile

Let’s begin with the crux of the matter: speed. In today’s digital era, speed isn’t just about convenience —it’s about keeping pace with the world. T-Mobile leads the U.S. market in this regard, with a median download speed of 164.76 Mbps and an upload speed of 12.16 Mbps. 

Fast speeds ensure a smooth online experience, whether streaming, presenting, or gaming. However, these metrics extend beyond speed alone. 

Latency, or the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another, is crucial for an uninterrupted digital experience. T-Mobile also impresses here, boasting the lowest multi-server latency in the market at just 54 ms.

T-Mobile also has a strong record with a network consistency score of 86.1%. This score reflects the percentage of users who experience acceptable network performance most of the time — a testament to T-Mobile’s commitment to a reliable, consistent user experience.

Next, there’s the matter of video streaming, a data-intensive activity that’s becoming increasingly central to our digital lives. T-Mobile understands this, as reflected by their top-ranking Video Score of 74.39, which measures the quality and buffer-free experience of video streaming on their network.

Regarding 5G, T-Mobile’s network performance is even more impressive. With a staggering median download speed of 220 Mbps and a 5G Video Score of 78.70, T-Mobile’s 5G users can expect an even better digital experience. 

While T-Mobile’s rural coverage may sometimes fall short compared to urban regions, the company has shown a dedicated effort to improve its footprint in these areas. This ongoing commitment and swift resolution of network issues ensure that T-Mobile’s network performance remains competitive in all regions.

AT&T

Regarding network performance, AT&T has carved a significant niche in the U.S. cellular market. With a track record that combines robust infrastructure, innovative technology, and customer-centric services, AT&T’s network performance has continually evolved to keep pace with the changing digital landscape.

AT&T provides a strong offering with a median download speed of 66.16 Mbps and an upload speed of 7.32 Mbps. Although these figures might appear lower than some competitors, it’s important to note that AT&T’s performance is often lauded for its consistency across different regions.

Speaking of consistency, AT&T’s network shows commendable performance in this aspect. With a consistency score of 79.2%, the carrier demonstrates a solid commitment to providing its customers with reliable service.

Network latency, meaning the time taken for data to travel from one point to another, is critical in determining the overall user experience. AT&T’s multi-server latency stands at 63 ms.

Although not the lowest on the market, this latency ensures a relatively smooth and responsive experience for most users, particularly for web browsing and streaming activities.

Video streaming, one of the most data-intensive and popular activities among users, is another area where AT&T shines. While not the highest, their Video Score of 68.16 still represents a commitment to delivering quality, buffer-free streaming experiences to their customers.

One unique aspect of AT&T’s network performance is its fast service restoration after outages. Quick recovery from service disruptions is critical in a world increasingly dependent on digital connectivity. AT&T’s swift service restoration process post-outages is one of their strong suits, ensuring minimal downtime.

Device Availability

metropolitan area networks
T-Mobile and AT&T offer compatibility across all devices, including phones, laptops, and smartwatches.

Another important aspect in the T-Mobile vs AT&T equation is device compatibility. Your smartphone or tablet’s performance can significantly vary depending on the network it’s connected to.

Here, we compare both networks’ compatibility with various devices, from the latest smartphones to older models, tablets, smartwatches, and other smart devices.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s device compatibility is vast and up-to-date, with the carrier supporting the latest Android and iOS smartphones. Whether you’re an avid Samsung fan waiting for the latest Galaxy model or an Apple enthusiast eagerly anticipating the next iPhone, you can trust T-Mobile to support the device on its network. 

Moreover, T-Mobile supports these devices and often provides early access or special deals on new device launches, making it a top choice for tech enthusiasts. That said, T-Mobile doesn’t just cater to those who always want the latest devices. 

If you have an older mobile phone model, you’ll likely find that T-Mobile’s network still supports it. The carrier continues to provide 2G services (though it is gradually shifting towards a 4G- and 5G-centric approach), ensuring that even those with older, non-LTE devices can still connect.

T-Mobile’s device compatibility extends beyond smartphones. T-Mobile has covered you for those with tablets, whether an iPad, a Samsung Galaxy Tab, or another Android tablet. 

T-Mobile offers data plans for various smartwatches, including Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch models. This ensures you can stay connected even without your phone. As our lives become increasingly interconnected, having a carrier that can support this wide range of devices is an invaluable asset.

AT&T

AT&T prides itself on supporting a wide array of devices on its network. For smartphone users, whether you’re an Android devotee or an iPhone enthusiast, AT&T has you covered. 

The network provides compatibility for all the latest models of popular brands, from Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel to the most recent Apple iPhones. AT&T ensures these devices work smoothly on its network.

It often has exclusive deals and promotions around the launch of new devices, which can benefit those always looking to upgrade.

Tablets, too, are well-accommodated by AT&T. Whether you’re an iPad user, favor Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or utilize other brands, AT&T offers specific data plans catering to tablet users. This means you can work, stream, and browse on your tablet with the comfort of reliable connectivity.

T-Mobile vs AT&T: 5 Must-Know Facts

  1. T-Mobile has the largest 5G coverage, while AT&T excels in 4G services, with extensive 5G advancements in progress.
  2. T-Mobile leads in terms of speed and latency, while AT&T maintains solid reliability, particularly in rural areas.
  3. Both networks support a range of modern devices.
  4. T-Mobile is typically more affordable, especially for families, whereas AT&T offers additional benefits with higher-tier plans.
  5. T-Mobile plans often include Netflix and international features, while AT&T provides HBO Max, comprehensive international coverage, and in-flight connectivity.

T-Mobile vs AT&T: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Deciding between AT&T and T-Mobile is a tale of comparing two strong, customer-focused giants. As we’ve seen, each carrier has unique strengths, and depending on your specific needs and circumstances, one may suit you better.

If coverage, particularly in rural areas, is your primary concern, AT&T might be the way to go. Their 4G network is extensive and reliable, and they are continually working on their 5G rollout. 

In terms of network performance, AT&T delivers consistently good service, particularly in populated areas. While they might not always top the charts in speed, their reliability is a significant advantage for many users.

On the other hand, if you’re all about speed and the latest technology, T-Mobile might be the carrier for you. Their 5G network is currently the largest in the U.S., and their download and upload speeds have consistently outperformed rivals. 

T-Mobile’s plans are often more budget-friendly, especially for families or multiple lines, and benefits like Netflix and international texting could sweeten the deal. However, while their coverage is improving, it may not be as consistent in less populated areas.

In the end, AT&T and T-Mobile offer competitive, high-quality services that stand out in the U.S. market. Your choice will depend on what you value most — coverage, speed, cost, device compatibility, or special features.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better: AT&T or T-Mobile?

Both AT&T and T-Mobile offer high-quality services with unique advantages. If coverage, particularly in rural areas, and device compatibility are your primary concerns, AT&T could be a great choice. T-Mobile could be your carrier if you prioritize speed, a large 5G network, and budget-friendly plans, particularly for multiple lines.

Does T-Mobile have better 5G coverage than AT&T?

As of 2023, T-Mobile claims to have America’s largest 5G network, covering over 280 million people nationwide. AT&T has also made significant strides in 5G coverage, focusing on metropolitan areas, but their coverage isn’t as widespread as T-Mobile’s.

How does AT&T's network performance compare to T-Mobile's?

 Regarding network performance, T-Mobile leads with faster median download and upload speeds for 4G and 5G. However, AT&T also provides consistent and reliable service, particularly in populated areas, and their network performance is commendable, especially in terms of latency.

Which carrier offers better plan costs: AT&T or T-Mobile?

T-Mobile generally offers more budget-friendly plans, especially for families or multiple lines. However, AT&T’s pricing structure offers a range of options, with both budget-friendly and high-end plans, making it competitive in terms of plan costs.

What special features do AT&T and T-Mobile offer with their plans?

AT&T offers unique features like access to HBO Max, unlimited text to over 120 countries, and in-flight texting and Wi-Fi on eligible flights. T-Mobile provides benefits like Netflix, international data and texting, and in-flight texting plus one hour of data on eligible flights.

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