We've all rightly mocked AT&T for its ridiculous "5GE" branding, but the network improvements under that poorly named umbrella are having a real impact. According to PCMag's new mobile network tests, AT&T has surpassed Verizon to become the fastest network in the US. This is the first time AT&T has won in six years, which was way back in the early days of LTE.
PCMag does this rundown of mobile networks every year, and the testing is intense. There's a whole section on methodology if you want to read it, but suffice it to say, the testing is extremely rigorous and consistent. PCMag gives final scores that take into account multiple metrics on a scale of 1-100. AT&T gets a 97, Verizon is 94, and T-Mobile is 91. Sprint, which is begging the government to approve the T-Mobile buyout, is trailing with a score of 82.
AT&T's national average speed has ticked upward from just over 40Mbps in 2018 to almost 70Mbps this year. All carriers saw an increase, but AT&T's is the most significant. Sprint does have fast speeds in some places, but its reliability, ping, and coverage drag it down. T-Mobile has the highest maximum speeds by a substantial margin, but it's not widespread enough to beat AT&T or Verizon, both of which have higher averages and reliability.
AT&T's win doesn't necessarily mean it's the best for you. Luckily, you can get a better idea of who's fastest where you live with PCMag's city-level rankings. There are a few dozen cities surfaced in the data, and there are more general rural/suburban rankings. You might not want to make a move right now, though. Next year, PCMag expects to add 5G testing to its report.