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Technology

Verizon Lags AT&T in Early Rankings of 5G Service, Report Says

  • Scorecard gives glimpse at how networks match up in 45 cities
  • AT&T is fastest, while T-Mobile offers the best availability

Verizon Communications Inc., the nation’s No. 1 wireless carrier and the first to offer next-generation 5G service, trailed AT&T Inc. in a performance report on the major players released by IHS Market Ltd.’s RootMetrics.

The study released Thursday measured speed, availability and reliability of 5G service in 45 cities this year. AT&T Inc. earned the top score for speed, with the fastest connections in the most cities, and tied with Verizon for reliability. T-Mobile US Inc. was the most widely available, according to the report, and was generally comparable with Verizon in speed.

“When considering that critical combination of availability plus performance, you’re currently more likely to find fast 5G speeds plus broad availability with AT&T than with T-Mobile or Verizon,” the report said.

T-Mobile was the only carrier to have service available in all 45 markets. Analysts have said the company is at least a year ahead of rivals on certain aspects of its 5G network expansion.

Verizon has time to catch up. Nationwide 5G networks are still in early-stage expansions and few consumers have phones that work with the new technology. In addition, the study was limited to a small portion of the U.S. cities, and differences were narrow.

Still, the results are a surprise. Unlike AT&T, which has been trimming debt and selling assets, or T-Mobile, which has been digesting Sprint Corp., Verizon has spent the past two years making 5G development its top priority.

The company underscored that commitment earlier this year, spending nearly $53 billion at a federal auction of midband airwaves to catch up with its peers. Those airwave licenses won’t be an immediate help, since most won’t be available for service on Verizon’s network until next year.

The report also said that 5G performance in the U.S. lags behind what’s available in the U.K. and South Korea. However, the authors held out optimism for near-term improvements.

“As we saw with T-Mobile in the first half of 2021, midband spectrum can certainly help contribute to faster 5G speeds,” the report said. “As the carriers add more midband to the repertoires, we could see faster speeds sooner rather than later.”