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T-Mobile Streaming Test: Advertised Speeds vs. Actual User Experience
Streaming on T-Mobile isn’t as good as it should be
T-Mobile is making huge waves in the wireless world with its recent acquisition of Sprint, and now we want to see just how powerful T-Mobile has become. One would think that with the power of Sprint and T-Mobile combined, T-Mobile’s network should provide super reliable streaming basically anywhere you go. Let’s find out if that’s true.
What are we looking for?
We’ll be looking at latency to determine the quality of streaming on T-Mobile’s network. Latency refers to how far behind your live stream is compared to actual live TV. The lower your latency, the better the streaming connection.
For example, if you were watching a live sporting event, and your latency left you 30 seconds behind real time, you just might get the ending spoiled in an ESPN notification on your phone. Yes, this has happened to me. Never again!
Take a look at how T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T look while streaming at the same time, at the same place.
The lower the latency, the sooner you see the pitch hit the catcher’s mitt.
Streaming latency usually typically falls between 25-60 seconds. Just like golf, we want as low numbers as possible in that spectrum for latency.
Of course, a number of things can influence your streaming connection (your phone, where you are, your provider, etc.). To test streaming quality on T-Mobile’s network, we’ll look at latency while streaming live TV on the YouTube TV app in three different locations—at home in the suburbs, a crowded grocery store, and in the wilderness. You can find the latency reading on YouTube TV while using its appropriately named “Stats for Nerds” view. Check out the screenshot below to see what we’re talking about.
What’s the streaming quality on AT&T’s network?
- Suburban speed test result: 33.30 second latency
- City supermarket speed test result: N/A
- Wilderness speed test result: 32.70 second latency
What are T-Mobile’s advertised speeds?
On its 4G network, T-Mobile claims typical download speeds will fall between 9–47 Mbps, with typical latency falling between 30–50 ms. We sampled thousands of wireless users and found T-Mobile to have the highest download speed average overall at 32.73 Mbps. Considering T-Mobile beats out Verizon and AT&T for average download speeds (check out the graph below), one would assume that would translate to having the smoothest streaming connection as well.
Average Download Speeds for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon
We’ve signed up for a T-Mobile unlimited plan, and now it’s time to see how the streaming holds up in real-life scenarios.
T-Mobile streaming quality test
To test T-Mobile’s streaming quality, we streamed live TV in three different locations on a T-Mobile wireless connection. Here’s the latency we experienced streaming at home in the suburbs, a crowded grocery store, and deep in the wilderness.
33.33 second latency
32.70 second latency
Let’s take a closer look at each AT&T speed test.
Streaming test from the suburbs
- Latency: 33.33 seconds
T-Mobile maintained a 33.33 second latency while streaming a live baseball game in the suburbs. From what we’ve seen from AT&T (30.33 seconds) and Verizon (28.73 seconds), T-Mobile had the worst latency for our at-home test. Our livestream was so far behind live TV that I was able to refresh Twitter on my computer and get updates about the game I was watching before I even saw the pitch.
It’s surprising to see T-Mobile falling so far behind AT&T and Verizon when it comes to streaming latency—let’s see if the trend keeps up in the wilderness and supermarket.
Speed test from the supermarket
- Latency: N/A
The results for the streaming test in crowded areas for T-Mobile have, so far, been inconclusive. I went to two completely different crowded locations and got the same response from both—the Slow Connection Snail. What’s weird is that AT&T and Verizon both were able to stream live TV in these locations, so this isn’t a good look for T-Mobile. It seems like T-Mobile just doesn’t have a reliable wireless streaming connection in my neck of the woods.
The tricky thing about wireless is that your connection will change depending upon where you are, and even the time of day. Though, from our personal hands-on experience, T-Mobile is not a reliable carrier for wireless streaming in congested areas.
Speed test from a hike in the wilderness
- Latency: 32.70 seconds
I was really tired after hiking up a large hill and it was hard to find shade to get a better visual, so this is the best I could get. Sue me!
T-Mobile had a super impressive showing when it came to streaming in the wilderness. While T-Mobile kept a 32.70 streaming latency, AT&T barely kept a 53.86 streaming latency, and that was after several spins of the old buffering wheel to get the steam actually going. In other words, T-Mobile absolutely blew AT&T out of the water when it comes to streaming in the wilderness.
In my experience, the stream started after a few seconds of loading and maintained a smooth stream throughout the time that I watched. Who could have seen this one coming? T-Mobile somehow has a better streaming connection in the wilderness than it did in the suburbs. Wild times, folks.
T-Mobile streaming test takeaways
Despite having the best average download speeds among the three major wireless carriers, T-Mobile did not particularly impress in our hands-on streaming tests. The suburb-streaming test produced the worst latency overall, and the market-streaming test didn’t produce any results at all. Both of these tests strongly suggest that T-Mobile is not your best bet for streaming at home or in crowded areas. Our testing showed that Verizon beat T-Mobile for streaming quality in every category.
28.73 second latency
33.33 second latency
30.33 second latency
30.57 second latency
29.9 second latency
32.70 second latency
53.86 second latency
However, T-Mobile did have a better showing when it came to streaming the wilderness. T-Mobile had a lower latency rate a few miles into a hike than it did at my kitchen table. You may not be able to stream consistently at home or in the grocery store, but at least you can probably pull up some Supermarket Sweep in your tent at night while camping.
T-Mobile data plans
There’s plenty of reason for optimism with T-Mobile, especially since it acquired Sprint and will likely improve its streaming quality because of it. If you think you’ll have a better connection in your neck of the woods with T-Mobile, here are the plans you can currently choose from.
Has your experience with streaming on T-Mobile been completely different than ours? Have you been able to stream reliably while at a crowded store, or even at a concert (back when we had those)? Let us know if your T-Mobile streaming connection has been typically smooth, or if you frequently experience buffering wheels or lag way behind live TV.