The tricky thing about network signals is getting them to work just right everywhere. Whether that’s a regular neighborhood or a crowded stadium/mall/airport, coverage is a tricky business.
For the latter cases, carriers need to go the extra mile toward getting things to work well for everyone who wants to use the network, but in the case of airports, things can get tricky — mobile networks are radio signals, which are also used by planes (and that’s the reason why airplane mode exists on your phone). As some restrictions loosened this year, it turns out, 5G speeds on airports seem to have gotten significantly faster, at least for users of some carriers.
Following concerns from the aviation industry, AT&T and Verizon delayed their 5G roll-outs until July 2023, implementing measures to prevent interference with altimeter equipment. Since then, the numbers are in, and a report by OpenSignal found that users on AT&T and Verizon experienced significant boosts in 5G download speeds around U.S. airports, though still trailing behind T-Mobile.
The study compared data collection periods before and after the easing of mitigation measures, revealing a 79.6% and 62.1% increase in average 5G download speeds for AT&T and Verizon users, respectively. Both carriers can surpass the 100 Mbps mark around airport areas now — as measures have been mitigated, the carriers have moved toward rolling out infrastructure and signal in these airports, and those efforts are officially paying off.
It should be noted here that while things have improved for users of the other two major carriers, T-Mobile still maintained its lead in 5G download speeds. T-Mobile consistently led in download speed, 5G availability, and consistent quality across 20 major airports, showcasing its dominance in mobile network experiences. The company got lucky (or chose smart) with their particular flavor of 5G, which wasn’t impacted by the C-Band delay that AT&T and Verizon were.
The gap is diminishing, however. If you have another carrier, it sounds like things might not suck going forward.