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Fresh batch of 4G LTE and 5G speed tests reveals the fastest (and slowest) major US cities

The latest comprehensive report examining the state of the US wireless industry is out, but instead of comparing Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T’s download speeds and/or network availability to find out which of the nation’s major carriers comes out on top, RootMetrics is pitting a grand total of 125 cities against one another this time around to determine where you can get the best service.

The results of these new speed tests, conducted during the second half of last year, are vastly different from what the same mobile analytics firm discovered when assessing the three aforementioned wireless service providers and adding up their 4G LTE and 5G numbers to establish the H1 2020 aggregate median download figures for the 10 biggest US cities (by population).

Bigger can sometimes mean better

After ranking 12th out of 125 markets for the January – June 2020 timeframe, which was itself a pretty decent result, New York City has impressively taken the lead at the end of the year, eclipsing not only every other heavily populated metropolitan area in America but also much smaller cities like Lansing, Michigan and Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The bad news is the actual 4G LTE and 5G speed score in NYC and the Tri-State Area has only slightly increased between H1 and H2 2020, which means its spectacular climb from number 12 to number one in the nationwide rankings was largely achieved at the expense of other places with shrinking download figures. 

Philadelphia, for instance, dropped from a remarkable 50.1 Mbps aggregate median download speed to a… slightly less astonishing 44.6 Mbps, falling from second to third place among the fastest US cities, narrowly behind Seattle, Washington, which actually shaved a couple of megabits per second off its 47.4 average at the end of H1 2020 as well. 

Mobile download speeds dropped even more drastically in cities like Cincinnati, Ohio, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Phoenix, Arizona, all of which managed to outperform NYC and Washington, D.C. in H1 but not H2 2020. 46.3 Mbps is the top aggregate median download speed of a single city for the year’s second half, down from 50.4 Mbps during the first six months of 2020.

While the most populated US city just so happens to be the fastest overall market this time around, a few of the nation’s other major metropolitan areas are still ranked very poorly in terms of their average speeds. We’re talking primarily about Miami and Houston, although Los Angeles and Dallas are not doing well either.

At the other end of the spectrum, Concord, California and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania join Lansing and Fayetteville as some of the small town standouts of H2 2020, with combined 4G LTE and 5G download averages of anywhere between 42.5 and 44 Mbps.

Verizon is mainly responsible for the highest speeds

This new RootMetrics report may not include a lot of carrier-specific details, but one thing that definitely stands out is Verizon‘s mention as the fastest mobile network operator across no less than eight of America’s ten most populated markets.


That leaves two regional crowns for AT&T (in Washington, D.C. and Houston, Texas, in case you’re wondering) and no title for T-Mobile, which is also highlighted as the slowest of the three big wireless service providers in at least seven of these ten key markets.
In other words, Verizon might be responsible for a lot of the good and the bad of the US wireless industry at the moment, despite T-Mobile‘s efforts of driving the market forward with its rapid mid-band 5G expansion.

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