RootMetrics 5G Report: AT&T Takes Top Honors

Here’s how the top wireless giants AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon fared when tested on their 5G availability, reliability, speeds, and everyday performance during the first half of 2021.

5G For The Win

5G users in the United States are seeing more areas of access and faster speeds. That’s according to IHS Markit, which just published its RootMetrics U.S. 5G report for the first half of 2021.

The twice-annual RootMetrics 5G report breaks down the three biggest carriers in the country – AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon – and the performance of their respective 5G networks. Specifically, the report looks at each carrier from a category-level and showing which carrier or carriers won for Fastest 5G, Most Reliable 5G, and Highest 5G availability.

The company this year also introduced a brand-new category: The Best 5G Experience, which offers a holistic way of looking at the end-user’s overall 5G experience by taking broad 5G availability, fast speeds and reliability into consideration.

CRN dug into the recent report to evaluate how the top three wireless carriers in the country are currently performing in the 5G department. Here’s the details you need to know about the current mobile performance of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, and which provider is leading in 5G experience.

The Survey

RootMetrics reports are conducted with users in mind, which means real-world testing to get the most accurate results, according to HIS Markit.

For the RootMetrics U.S. 5G report for 1H 2021, the company used the latest Samsung 5G-enabled smartphones to measure both 5G and 4G LTE performance for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Tests were conducted during the day and night while walking and driving. Tests were done in places in which consumers often use their smartphones, and data, calls, and texting were evaluated. All testing for the most recent report took place between January 15, 2021 to June 5, 2021, according to the company.


Carrier giant AT&T had a great showing on the 5G front during the first half of 2021. Most notably, the Dallas-based carrier won the day in the brand-new category: Best Everyday 5G Experience. This category was determined by evaluating how often each carrier delivered on a combination of broad, everyday 5G availability, as well as strong performance for everyday 5G download speeds and data reliability.

AT&T also took the top spot for fastest everyday 5G download speeds when compared to the competition. The report recorded the fastest 5G download speeds in 20 cities for AT&T, compared to 16 for Verizon and 13 for T-Mobile, which put AT&T over the top in the category.


Meanwhile, the wireless carrier from the Northwest took the crown in 5G availability and its speeds are improving, according to the report. In fact, T-Mobile registered the most widespread 5G availability for all of the carriers by a comfortable margin compared to the competition, the report found.

T-Mobile had the highest availability in 81 different markets, which was nearly twice that of AT&T and almost nine times higher than Verizon’s 5G availability stats.

The report said that for T-Mobile to edge out AT&T in the sought-after Everyday 5G Experience category, the carrier would still have to improve its speed and reliability, though it showed to have increased its 5G speeds since the second half of 2020.


Service provider behemoth Verizon during the first half of 2021 nabbed the top spots for 5G reliability — the measure of the carrier’s ability to get connected and stay connected to the 5G network. At the same time, the carrier’s 5G availability and speeds are also on an upward trajectory when compared to the second half of 2020. This could help propel Verizon to vie for the 5G Experience crown, the report said.

The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier demonstrated very strong Everyday 5G Reliability during May and June testing. Verizon’s 5G speeds came in a close second behind AT&T and were faster than T-Mobile’s 5G speeds. The report also noted that Verizon is on a mission to roll out more 5G in more cities than it did on the back half of 2020.

Investments In 5G

The three major carriers spent the first half of 2021 investing heavily in their 5G strategies. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon each spent billions during the FCC’s C-Band auction in February, with Verizon dropping the most dollars — $45.4 billion — AT&T spending $23.4 billion and T-Mobile totaling $9.3 billion. The investments indicate that each carrier’s 5G networks could become much faster in the second half of the year, the report found.

Right now, AT&T is using low-band spectrum for its nationwide 5G network, as well as mmWave spectrum in parts of 38 cities. T-Mobile, on the other hand, is pulling off 5G by employing low-band, mid-band via its acquisition of Sprint, and mmWave 5G in a strategy the carrier calls a “layer cake” 5G approach. Verizon, for its part, began rolling out 5G initially by deploying mmWave spectrum. In October 2020, the carrier began using DSS technology to launch its low-band nationwide 5G service, which greatly expanded its footprint, the report found.