T-Mobile Speed Test: Actual Speeds vs. Advertised Speeds

Congested areas are not T-Mobile’s friend
Tyler Abbott
Staff Writer, Mobile & Wireless
Read More
Published on September 16, 2020
4 min read

T-Mobile’s calling card has been its super-fast data speeds, and we’re going to find out if the data speeds are all they're chalked up to be. In theory, you should be able to open a web browser page or refresh Twitter more quickly on T-Mobile than you could with other carriers—let’s find out if that’s true.

We’re especially curious to find if anything has changed since the Sprint and T-Mobile merger from a data-speeds standpoint. Historically speaking, Sprint wasn’t the fastest gun in the west when it came to data speeds, but who knows, maybe T-Mobile’s data speeds will have improved with the merger.

The following T-Mobile speed test took place in three different geographic locations in the state of Utah.

Why do data speeds matter?
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Data speeds affect how quickly you can do things on the internet on your phone’s 4G connection. The more data speed you have, the more quickly you can Google things, refresh Instagram, and stream YouTube.

How fast is T-Mobile’s data?

  • Suburban speed test result: 54.3 Mbps download speed
  • City supermarket speed test result: 25.6 Mbps download speed
  • Wilderness speed test result: 33.4 Mbps download speed

What are T-Mobile’s advertised speeds?

Per T-Mobile, you can expect your download speeds to land somewhere in the range between 9–47 Mbps. That’s a pretty wide range considering 9 Mbps and 47 Mbps will basically feel as different as going 20 mph on the freeway versus 100 mph. We sampled over 150,000 wireless users in 2020 to get some averages for each major wireless provider. T-Mobile users averaged a 32.73 Mbps average, the second best among the major networks in 2020.

An infographic ranking wireless networks by speed: #1 T-Mobile, #2 Verizon, #3 AT&T, Sprint unranked because it was acquired by T-Mobile in 2020

Time to see if T-Mobile’s data speeds actually do pull ahead of AT&T and Verizon. If so, T-Mobile should probably find a new calling card.

T-Mobile wireless speed test

We performed a T-Mobile data speeds test in three different locations—a crowded supermarket in the city, a house in the suburbs, and a couple miles into a hike in a remote location. These were the results we got running our speed tests at the different locations.

T-Mobile Speed Test Results
Location
Download Speed
Upload Speed

Suburbs

54.3 Mbps

19.3 Mbps

Supermarket

25.6 Mbps

12.0 Mbps

Wilderness

33.4 Mbps

26.6 Mbps

Now let’s zoom in on each individual test and see how things looked.

Speed test from home in the suburbs

  • Download speed: 54.3 Mbps
  • Upload speed: 19.3 Mbps
T-Mobile Surburb Speed Test

Maybe it’s the recent Sprint merger, but it looks like T-Mobile is exceeding expectations compared to advertised speeds. Our speed test produced consistent results in the 54 Mbps range for T-Mobile, which blows OpenSignal’s 25.8 Mbps average out of the water. To put that number in context, this is how long it took to open YouTube and start playing a video.

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Speed test at the supermarket

  • Download speed: 25.6 Mbps
  • Upload speed: 12.0 Mbps

It’s normal to expect data speeds to dip in more congested areas, but let’s find out how much T-Mobile is affected in a crowded supermarket. Few areas are more crowded than my local Trader Joe’s on a weekday afternoon.

T-Mobile Trader Joe's (Noon)

Yikes! T-Mobile’s data speeds dropped by more than 50% while galavanting around Trader Joe’s. In other words, it can take twice as long to pull things up on the internet in a congested network with T-Mobile. Compare the YouTube test we performed at Trader Joe’s versus the one we performed at home.

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It’s only the difference of a second or two, but that buffering wheel completes three whole revolutions before starting the stream, whereas the at-home test took a single wheel spin before starting. Lower data speeds add up the longer you stream, and you’ll likely reach a point where your video plays faster than your phone can download the data. In other words, you’ll reach a point where a video will stop playing, and you’ll need to wait for buffering.

Why does this matter?
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Slower data speeds in congested areas can be especially annoying when you quickly need to look something up to settle an argument, or you need to look up a location on your GPS app while at a crowded stop light, and it takes forever.

Speed test from a hike

  • Download speed: 33.4 Mbps
  • Upload speed: 26.6 Mbps

The supermarket test wasn’t a great look for T-Mobile’s data speeds, but now let’s test it while hiking in the wilderness. You never know if you might need to use your GPS app deep in the woods, or call a Lyft to pick you up when you get lost.

T-Mobile’s data speeds took a significant hit when going off the grid. It’s not quite as bad as it looked in a crowded supermarket, but it’s still a huge dip compared to the data speeds you can expect at home. Granted, 33.4 Mbps is still plenty of download speed to call a Lyft or check your GPS, but it can take longer than it would compared to other wireless services.

Shoutout to T-Mobile’s upload speeds
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Though T-Mobile’s download speeds have been very up and down, T-Mobile’s upload speeds have consistently been impressive. The more upload speed you have, the more quickly you can post your own Instagram stories and TikToks.

Despite the lower data speeds, T-Mobile still performs quite well in the streaming department. Our YouTube test took a second or two longer to load than T-Mobile did at home, but it still pulled up a video surprisingly quickly.

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T-Mobile speed test takeaways

Honestly, we were hoping for better from T-Mobile’s download data speeds, but for the record, we were pleasantly surprised with its upload speeds and wireless streaming quality. But our tests showed that T-Mobile’s network is really affected by congested areas like supermarkets, and going off the grid. To T-Mobile’s credit, its data speeds never reached a rock-bottom point where you couldn’t perform basic internet tasks.

T-Mobile cell phone plans

For those of you interested in T-Mobile’s plans, especially since the Sprint and T-Mobile merger finally finished, take a look at the unlimited options.

What are your data speeds like with T-Mobile?
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We’re trying to gather as much info as possible as what T-Mobile speeds feel like all around the country, so please let us know your experience in the comments below!

Tyler Abbott
Written by
Tyler Abbott
Tyler has been obsessed with watching sports as efficiently as possible since the creation of the DVR. He is always on the lookout for the best tech in TV and wireless so he can watch all the sports and still have enough time to hang out with his baby. He has written about streaming, wireless, and TV for over three years. He hopes the Lakers will eventually get better.

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  • Bill Crouthers

    Not only does the WiFi fail, but their customer service is the worst I’ve ever experienced in my 65 years… I saw the ad, looked at what it was all about, loved the fact that all you need is a 120V receptacle, no cable no dish, no fiber… WHAT COULD BE BETTER!!!!! So I call in October 2020 and the guy tells me $50 flat for 50 mbps… I laugh and say you mean $55, I had $50 flat T-Mobile cell service, that turned out to be $55, he said “no, $50 period” they cover the fees in that… He says first month free to try it, so I say great send it… January 6th 2021 I finally get the unit… 2 months to send it… The next day I get a bill for $55 for the first month starting January 3rd, 3 days prior to when I got the stupid thing… So I get on the phone and spend 3 hours getting nowhere, mostly on hold with the worst music equipment on earth trying to play what could be called music… after 3 hours I’m told to go to a local store, so I do, and the girl there says “We only do phones, no internet” but, she goes ahead and makes some calls… 2 hours later, it’s closing time, she got nowhere, AND spent 2 hours NOT selling phones… So I go home figuring I’d call my Attorney in the morning, but, I went ahead and dialed one more time… In 10 minutes the guy made the bill disappear and said “go ahead and try it, free for a month”… So I try it, move it try it, move it try it move it… I really, really, really want this to work, but all I could get was 10mbps, WAY TO LITTLE for my needs… I live on the coast of Orange County, CA no reason for poor service, the equipment simply sucks… So I get online and do the return thing, sweet and simple drop off at a local UPS, around the corner… Tonight I get home after a long day, grab my mail and find a bill for $25 past due and $11 new charges… I get on the phone, get put on hold for 1 1/2 hours with that same music equipment, just to be told she needed to transfer me again… Tomorrow, I officially document this stuff and send it to my attorney…They owe me for my time… No judge could deny it, and if more of us did it, they would be forced to stop the jacking…