Verizon the Fastest, But Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile Hang Tough

**Editor’s Note: Which is America’s top wireless network? Click here to see what we discovered from a 2014 report.**

Channel partners and other businesses considering a mobile carrier – or switching to a new one – might not go wrong with any of the big four if they want access to a speedy network.

That’s according to PC World’s latest nationwide study of mobile speeds. The battle among Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile proved to be the most competitive of the tech publication’s tests to date.

Verizon Wireless was the winner overall, with the fastest speeds and best coverage across 30 test cities and six suburban/rural regions. Big Red took home the crown in about half of the cities and rural areas tested. But it wasn’t a dominant victory. Its rivals posted solid scores in some parts of the country. In cities that Verizon didn’t win, AT&T and T-Mobile almost equally split the honors for fastest network. AT&T was particularly strong in the Southeast and in Texas, while T-Mobile gets kudos for its strength in the West.

Sprint, which has struggled in recent years due to an LTE network build-out that has lagged behind its three top competitors, also showed some life in PC World’s study. Sprint took home the crown in Denver and garners the most improved award, doubling or tripling its speeds in most test cities when compared to last year.

“To some extent, everyone’s a winner, because heightened competition is the big story of our sixth annual Fastest Mobile Networks testing,” PC World wrote. “For the past six years, Verizon and AT&T have traded off winning the national title, largely because of far superior high-speed coverage when compared with Sprint and T-Mobile. But T-Mobile emerged as a force to be reckoned with last year, and now, for the first time, Sprint is competitive. The results show that the big four carriers didn’t need to merge to succeed. They’re doing just fine.”

“While operator networks are becoming more alike, differences do remain – and they remain important,” noted Rich Karpinski, principal analyst with 451 Research. “Even more than network realities are perceptions, and there, Verizon’s continued strength will pay dividends even as rivals nip at its heels with deep discounts. The good news for U.S. users is that regardless of operator, they should be getting solid 4G performance almost wherever they go.”

Now that the technology playing field is leveling out, expect the price wars to heat up even more. There also will be an extra onus on marketing teams to attract new customers and keep existing ones with well-thought-out messaging.

Follow senior online managing editor Craig Galbraith on Twitter.

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