Abstract image representing the idea of speed

PCMag’s 2021 Fastest Mobile Networks Report

PCMag recently released this year’s edition of its Fastest Mobile Networks report. T-Mobile won big. The network’s great speeds with mid-band 5G played a significant role.

My reservations about PCMag’s methodology in previous years still hold true this year. Most importantly, PCMag’s focus on speeds is misplaced. To get a good cellular experience, people need consistent coverage and decent speeds. Once a phone user has decent speeds, further speed increases have hugely diminishing returns. Whether you’re browsing Reddit, streaming video, or using a messaging app, 25Mbps speeds will be good enough. Moving from 25Mbps to 250Mbps won’t have a tangible effect on a user’s experience.

So yeah, T-Mobile won. But it doesn’t mean much. Availability and consistency trump average speeds.

On a less critical note, PCMag’s city-by-city results are interesting. And you can see availability metrics even if PCMag doesn’t give those much weight in its final scores.

2 thoughts to “PCMag’s 2021 Fastest Mobile Networks Report”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. It is about location and availability. Don’t forget that devices make a difference too. There are differences in radio quality as well as modems. Some phones support higher (theoretical) speeds and can take advantage of carrier aggregation utilizing more than one tower or band.

    1. Yup, I believe PCMag used a version of the Galaxy S21. It has about the best radio features you could ask for across the major carriers. I think it was an appropriate choice for PCMag’s purposes, but normal consumers that don’t have phones with tech on the bleeding edge of things may not get the same experience as PCMag testers.

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