To the delight of publishers, platforms and their ad partners, average domestic mobile download speeds increased by 19% over the past year.
That’s according to new estimates from Ookla, which attributes the significant gains to improvements in technology and usage of available network spectrum.
The boost benefited all four major mobile carriers, but they are certainly not equal, the broadband testing firm found.
This past year, T-Mobile led its rivals in terms of both overall speeds and acceptable speeds at a national level, while providing the fastest service in 40% of the largest cities from coast to coast.
Verizon Wireless had the fastest service in many of the cities assessed by Ookla. It came in first on acceptable speeds in the top 100 cellular market areas (CMAs).
Yet, analysts at Ookla suspect Verizon’s use of “deprioritization” on its Unlimited plans may be hurting its overall performance.
With data de-prioritization, carriers don’t limit customer’s data -- as they do in the case of so-called “throttling.” Rather, they reserve the right to deprioritize heavy users’ data requests below those of other users.
Over the past 12 months, AT&T fell near the bottom of the pack in terms of consistency of acceptable speeds, which experiencing a spike in low end speeds during the second quarter of 2017.
Despite showing big gains in the first half of 2017, Sprint earned the title of “slowest carrier,” and continued to struggle with consistently providing acceptable speeds.
Looking ahead, Ookla expects mobile data consumption to continue to grow over the next year. It believes carriers will need to find creative ways to increase the spectral efficiency of their networks.
“In order to deliver more bits per second per hertz, mobile network operators will have to continue densifying their networks by adding more cell sites, enable key features, such as 4-Layer MIMO and higher order modulation, and accelerate the use of greenfield licensed and unlicensed bands,” the company suggests in its report.
As for mobile consumers, Ookla believes they will be looking for unique features, from T-Mobile’s or Sprint’s free international roaming or the large long-term evolution (LTE) footprints of Verizon Wireless and AT&T.
Ookla also knocks each of the four top carriers for limiting what they market as “unlimited data plans.”
In other words, straightforward policies -- including unlimited data plans -- that offer accessibility and speed are also key to winning consumer trust.