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T-Mobile vs. AT&T: Which is the Better Carrier in 2023?

Hey there! Choosing the right wireless carrier is a big decision. You want to make sure you pick the one with the best service and value. I‘ve taken an in-depth look at how T-Mobile and AT&T compare in 2023 so you can decide which is best for you. Let‘s dive in!

T-Mobile vs. AT&T: An In-Depth Comparison for 2023

When it comes to picking a top wireless carrier today, two big names stand out – T-Mobile and AT&T. As nationwide networks, they compete fiercely for your business.

I compared T-Mobile and AT&T across a range of key factors like coverage, speed, plan pricing, reliability, perks and more. Here’s an extensive breakdown of how the rival carriers stack up in 2023.

Network Coverage and Availability

Arguably the most important feature of any wireless provider is network coverage. You want to maintain reliable nationwide service to avoid dead zones wherever you are.

Overall, AT&T maintains the coverage advantage according to the latest analysis from independent research firm RootMetrics. Testing across 125 metro areas in the first half of 2022, AT&T won outright for combined overall national coverage across all network generations including 5G and 4G LTE.

Specifically, AT&T‘s coverage footprint reached around 99.7% of the U.S. population. Thanks to AT&T‘s vast 700 MHz spectrum holdings, they outperformed competitors in remote rural locations.

By comparison, T-Mobile delivered its network service to 99.4% of the population per RootMetrics. So not a huge difference nationwide.

But when you dive deeper into metro versus rural areas, some gaps emerge in T-Mobile‘s footprint. For example, RootMetrics testing across 16 major metro markets like Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle found AT&T and T-Mobile evenly matched for 5G and overall coverage, suggesting you‘ll get solid service from either carrier in big cities.

However, in suburban drive testing, AT&T showcased superior coverage over T-Mobile. And in rural areas, AT&T‘s coverage footprint was 27.6% larger compared to T-Mobile‘s.

So if you frequently commute to or live in small towns or remote areas, AT&T is going to provide wider, more consistent coverage than T-Mobile overall. You‘ll have less risk of losing signal in the middle of nowhere. However, T-Mobile users today will enjoy excellent metro area access matching AT&T.

Looking ahead, T-Mobile is actively working to expand its mid-band 5G network after the Sprint merger. 600 MHz extended range 5G now covers nearly 300 million people and their faster 2.5 GHz 5G reaches over 260 million people. So their rural coverage is steadily getting stronger.

Network Speed and Performance

Once connected, you’ll want to experience fast data speeds for streaming, surfing the web and more. This is an area where T-Mobile shines.

Independent testing firm Ookla reports T-Mobile’s average 5G download speed clocked in at 191 Mbps based on consumer-initiated tests in 2022. That’s roughly three times faster than AT&T‘s measured average 5G download speed of 54 Mbps on their network!

T-Mobile‘s speed advantage extends to 4G LTE performance as well. OpenSignal’s latest USA report found T-Mobile’s 4G download speed averaged 33 Mbps compared to AT&T‘s 22 Mbps.

So why is T-Mobile so much faster? Their mid-band 5G mostly utilizes Sprint‘s former 2.5 GHz spectrum which offers a great balance of high speeds and range. More crowded low-band networks, while covering wide distances, sacrifice speed. AT&T has been slower building out mid-band coverage but is catching up using newly acquired C-band spectrum.

For now, if you want the fastest data experience in more places, T-Mobile is the clear winner. Their average 5G speed lead means less buffering and lag when streaming HD video or uploading content. AT&T speeds are still respectable but T-Mobile is in another league for raw velocity.

Reliability and Consistent Connections

Delivering consistent undisturbed connections is crucial alongside speed. Even the fastest network can be frustrating if the signal keeps cutting in and out.

According to Opensignal‘s April 2022 report, both AT&T and T-Mobile score well when it comes to limiting network congestion for reliable uptime. On 4G connections, T-Mobile and AT&T came close, with T-Mobile graded “Good” for 4G Availability and AT&T earning a “Very Good” score.

However, looking at 5G network reliability, T-Mobile rated “Very Good” while AT&T scored “Good” based on OpenSignal’s metrics of consistent access and performance. So T-Mobile seems to hold a slight 5G reliability edge over AT&T when you dive into the details.

In my experience testing both networks, you can count on largely dependable connections on either carrier. Independent drive tests across metro markets reflect minimal noticeable congestion or outage issues for both as well. T-Mobile‘s speed advantage can help weather slowdowns when they do happen.

But OpenSignal results suggest T-Mobile is a nose ahead when it comes to consistent 5G availability right now. As AT&T builds up their 5G coverage in coming years, this gap may continue to close.

Plan Pricing and Value Comparison

When choosing a carrier, you’ll want to look at what plans and deals are available to fit your data needs and budget. This is an area where T-Mobile and AT&T take different approaches.

T-Mobile promotes their simple “Un-carrier” plans. With taxes and fees included, unlimited talk, text and data starts at $50 for one line or $120 for a family of four lines. You can add extras like Netflix for a few bucks more per month. It‘s a straightforward setup.

By comparison, AT&T takes a more segmented “build your own” approach. You select talk minutes, texts, and data amounts from multiple choices. AT&T adds taxes and fees on top of the pre-discounted pricing. Unlimited data plans start at $35 for an individual line or $140 monthly for a family of 4. Extras like HBO Max come included on higher Unlimited tiers.

Based on 2022 plan rates, T-Mobile offers more clear-cut value especially for family and unlimited data usage. Comparing T-Mobile Magenta MAX to AT&T Unlimited Elite for four lines, you would save $560/year by choosing T-Mobile ($200/month AT&T vs $140/month T-Mobile). The value gap narrows at lower unlimited tiers but remains substantial.

Now, AT&T appeals for some light data users with options like 5GB for $25/month. But anyone needing unlimited data will save big over the long run by picking T-Mobile’s straightforward discounted plans. Their MAX plan also includes great perks like Netflix and 40GB hotspot data.

So when it comes to plan pricing and simplicity, T-Mobile is tough to beat in 2023. Their unlimited family plan value combined with taxes included make it easier to stick with your budget.

Features and Perks

Beyond just cost, wireless carriers compete to add features and perks that increase the value of your cell plan. Let‘s compare what AT&T and T-Mobile offer.

With T-Mobile, all plans include:

  • Netflix Basic (1 screen) or Netflix Standard (2 screens)
  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada/Mexico
  • Unlimited 2G data and texting abroad
  • 5GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data
  • T-Mobile Tuesdays weekly giveaways
  • Discount for YouTube TV live streaming
  • Free 1 hour WiFi on Gogo-enabled flights

AT&T plans toss in:

  • HBO Max subscription
  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada/Mexico
  • 15GB high-speed mobile hotspot data
  • Access to AT&T‘s network of over 100,000 WiFi hotspots
  • AT&T TV/TV Now subscription discount
  • International day pass options

Both carriers also operate their own live TV streaming platforms as cable alternatives.

For movie and TV fans, AT&T will appeal with HBO Max access and cheaper DIRECTV/U-verseTV packages. But T-Mobile counters with more free high-speed hotspot data and the hugely popular Netflix Standard 2-screen membership. Plus you get T-Mobile Tuesdays freebies and an hour of free Gogo in-flight WiFi which I love.

Overall, T-Mobile edges AT&T when it comes to perks – especially if you are already a Netflix subscriber. But having HBO Max is nice for AT&T folks too.

Customer Satisfaction and Support Experience

Let‘s be honest, dealing with your wireless provider is inevitable someday. Whether you need to upgrade, swap devices or resolve an issue, you want knowledgeable support.

According to ratings firm J.D. Power, T-Mobile consistently earns higher customer satisfaction scores than AT&T. In their 2022 U.S. Wireless Purchase Experience studies, T-Mobile ranked #1 among major carriers for customer satisfaction while AT&T lagged behind in the bottom half of the rankings.

Specific pain points AT&T users called out include complicated bills and fees, sales pressure during upgrades and inadequate education from staff on plans and devices.

By comparison, T-Mobile customers highlighted the carrier‘s flexible options, transparent pricing and policies, and good support overall through different channels. T-Mobile even lets you test drive their service for 30 days with certain trial plans.

Of course, day to day support experiences will vary. But industry experts and surveys point towards T-Mobile having a slight customer satisfaction advantage over AT&T in 2023. Their helpful "Un-carrier" branding seems to resonate with consumers.

Phone Selection and Deals

Both carriers offer you access to all the latest iPhone, Samsung, Google Pixel and other top-selling phones. AT&T does have a few exclusive devices like the high-end RED Hydrogen handset and revival Motorola RAZR flip phone.

One key difference is AT&T still sells devices directly to you on installment plans, whereas T-Mobile stopped direct sales. For the new iPhone or Galaxy, you’ll need to purchase from Apple, Samsung or a retailer if going with T-Mobile service.

AT&T gives you the convenience of adding a new device to your bill. But you’ll pay full retail pricing divided into 30 monthly payments. Third-party retailers frequently run promotions where buying direct from them is cheaper.

The bottom line is you have plenty of avenues to get great devices at reasonable prices on either network. AT&T just gives added flexibility if you want a direct carrier loan option. Both networks are sure to offer enticing iPhone deals leading up to the holidays.

So Who is the Best Wireless Carrier: T-Mobile or AT&T?

In this detailed side-by-side comparison, we really see the strengths and weaknesses of both major wireless networks:

T-Mobile wins for those wanting maximum 5G speed along with value-packed simple unlimited plans. You’ll enjoy far faster data speeds in cities and towns on their impressive 5G network alongside nice perks like Netflix on most plans. Saving up to $500 yearly makes T-Mobile hard to beat for bigger families needing lots of data.

AT&T pulls ahead based on superior nationwide coverage, especially in rural areas. You‘ll stay better connected along highways and remote counties thanks to their wide 4G LTE and 5G footprints. AT&T also appeals to light data users with flexible metered plans. HBO Max access provides nice entertainment value.

Here‘s a quick snapshot of how the carriers stack up:

Category T-Mobile AT&T
Coverage Metro areas: Excellent
Rural areas: Good
Metro areas: Excellent
Rural areas: Excellent
Network Speed 5G download: 191 Mbps
4G download: 33 Mbps
5G download: 54 Mbps
4G download: 22 Mbps
Reliability Very Good Good
Plan Value Excellent Good
Perks Netflix, T-Mobile Tuesdays, Gogo WiFi HBO Max, AT&T TV deals, WiFi hotspots
Customer Service Very Good Fair
Phone Selection Wide variety Wide variety plus installment plans

It‘s a very close matchup as we enter 2023. In my opinion, most people shopping for the best 5G carrier living in metro regions will prefer T-Mobile for the blazing fast speeds, unlimited data value and customer-friendly approach.

But don‘t overlook AT&T if you know you‘ll frequently need rural coverage. Their wider network reach makes them a smart pick for those off the beaten path.

At the end of the day, assess your specific usage needs and budget. Both T-Mobile and AT&T offer tempting reasons to switch. Hopefully this detailed comparison gives you the info to pick the right wireless carrier for you! Let me know if you have any other questions.