The mobile carrier industry in the United States has gone through massive changes in the last decade. With the rise of 5G and the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, the competitive landscape looks very different today compared to just a few years ago. Two of the biggest national carriers, T-Mobile and Verizon, now battle for subscribers with different strategies. Verizon touts its network strength and reliability while T-Mobile offers cheaper plans and broader 5G coverage.
So which one is better in 2023? Let‘s compare T-Mobile and Verizon on the metrics that matter most to help you decide which carrier is right for you.
T-Mobile vs. Verizon: At a Glance
Before we dive into the details, here is a high-level overview of how T-Mobile and Verizon stack up:
- Network technology: T-Mobile has broader 5G coverage while Verizon has more robust 5G in the areas it covers. For 4G LTE, Verizon has a slight edge.
- Plan pricing: T-Mobile plans are cheaper across the board for unlimited data. Verizon does offer some basic plans for light users at attractive prices.
- Plan features: Both offer unlimited talk/text and a wide range of data amounts. T-Mobile includes taxes and fees while Verizon does not.
- Phone selection: Verizon and T-Mobile have access to mostly the same devices from top brands. T-Mobile may get some exclusive deals.
- Customer service: Verizon frequently tops surveys for customer satisfaction and network quality. T-Mobile also receives strong marks.
Keep reading for more details on how the two carriers compare in today‘s market. We‘ll also recap the history behind each brand and highlight some key facts about the mobile industry. By the end, you should have a good sense of whether T-Mobile or Verizon is the smarter choice where it really counts – your wallet, coverage needs, and customer experience.
T-Mobile vs. Verizon: Side-By-Side Comparison
To start our deep dive, here is a high-level side-by-side look at Verizon and T-Mobile on specs including network coverage, subscribers, revenue, and more:
|Year Introduced||1994 (as VoiceStream Wireless PCS); 2001 (as T-Mobile)||1983 (as Bell Atlantic Corporation); 2000 (as Verizon)|
|Key Markets||United States, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland||United States; worldwide|
|Revenue||$80 billion (2021, US only)||$133 billion (2021, worldwide)|
|Number of Subscribers||109 million||143 million|
|Notable Subsidiaries||Metro PCS, Sprint Corporation||TracFone Wireless; Yahoo|
|Cheapest Plan||Unlimited Talk & Text Only ($20/month)||Basic Phone Plan ($30/month)|
|Unlimited Plan||Essentials ($60/month)||Welcome Unlimited Plan ($65/month)|
|Data Cap||50 GB||50 GB; Unlimited with some plans|
|4G LTE Coverage||59% of US||70% of US|
|5G Coverage||53% of US||13% of US|
While these high-level stats provide a snapshot, you‘ll want to dig into the details to truly understand how T-Mobile and Verizon differ. We‘ll cover the most important contrasts next.
T-Mobile vs. Verizon: Key Differences
The side-by-side overview demonstrates that T-Mobile and Verizon take different approaches to key metrics like pricing, coverage, and data. Let‘s explore the major differences in-depth across three key areas.
One of the top factors for consumers choosing a wireless carrier is the monthly cost. T-Mobile positions itself as a value leader with cheaper plan rates than Verizon at virtually every tier.
For example, T-Mobile‘s base Unlimited Talk & Text Only plan runs just $20/month. To get talk and text with Verizon, you‘ll pay $30/month. The gap persists as you look at unlimited data pricing. T-Mobile‘s Essentials unlimited plan is $60/month while a comparable unlimited plan on Verizon costs $65/month.
Across the board, Verizon‘s published rates are $5-10 more per month compared to T-Mobile for plans with similar features. That adds up over the course of your contract.
However, Verizon does offer more flexibility for light data users. They have a tiered data plan where you pay $35/month for 5GB of shareable data. That can be a cost-effective option if you don‘t need unlimited data. T-Mobile only publishes rates for unlimited plans.
The pricing advantage for T-Mobile comes with a caveat as well. Their advertised rates include taxes and fees so the monthly cost is fixed. Verizon does not factor those fees into their rates so your actual bill may be higher than the published price.
Still, all evidence suggests T-Mobile maintains a pricing edge over Verizon especially for unlimited data plans. You‘ll have to pay more each month to access Verizon‘s network.
Coverage and Networks
When comparing carriers, network reach and performance should be near the top of your list. After all, a cheap plan doesn‘t do much good if you can‘t get solid coverage.
Verizon is the long-time leader in 4G LTE coverage. They claim over 70% nationwide 4G LTE coverage compared to just 59% for T-Mobile. In rural areas away from major cities, you are more likely to get a 4G LTE signal from Verizon than T-Mobile.
But for 5G, the next generation network technology, T-Mobile has an edge. Their 5G signal reaches about 53% of the country due to the rapid expansion driven by the Sprint merger. Verizon 5G covers less than 15% of the US despite having a faster peak network speed where available.
It‘s also worth examining the technology behind the 5G networks. Verizon uses millimeter wave spectrum which provides blazing fast speeds upwards of 1 Gbps but struggles with building penetration and has limited range.
T-Mobile relies more on mid-band sub-6 GHz spectrum for 5G which offers a good balance of speed and coverage. Mid-band isn‘t as fast as millimeter wave but gives better results day-to-day. Where Verizon wins on peak speeds, T-Mobile generally offers the more useful 5G network for most people.
Another key difference is that 5G access comes standard on all T-Mobile plans for no added charge. To access 5G on Verizon, you need one of the premium unlimited plans which starts at $80/month for a single line.
For today‘s coverage, Verizon is ahead on 4G LTE but behind in terms of 5G availability. As 5G expands over the next few years, coverage should become less of a difference between the two carriers. But Verizon still maintains an advantage for rural users that rely exclusively on 4G for now.
Data Caps and Throttling
Unlimited plans from wireless carriers still come with some limits on how much full-speed data you can use before speeds get reduced, also known as throttling or deprioritization thresholds.
Both T-Mobile and Verizon set their data cap at 50GB for most plans. If you hit that threshold in a month, your data could get throttled during periods of network congestion for the remainder of the cycle. The cap then resets at the start of your new bill period.
One key difference is that Verizon offers premium unlimited plans without any throttling no matter how much data you use. T-Mobile does not publish any unlimited plans without data throttling.
Verizon also uses dynamic throttling limits that may adjust depending on network traffic in your area. T-Mobile enforces the 50GB threshold uniformly nationwide.
In practice, mobile networks have gotten robust enough at this point that you‘re unlikely to notice major slowdowns from throttling under normal use cases. But power users should know that Verizon offers a way to get unlimited full-speed data while T-Mobile does not.
5 Must-Know Mobile Carrier Facts for 2023
Before choosing between T-Mobile and Verizon, it helps to understand how far the wireless industry has come over the past few decades. Here are 5 key facts about mobile carriers to provide useful context:
Early cell phones cost a fortune. When mobile networks first launched in 1983, handsets cost nearly $4,000! Compare that to today‘s premium phones that sell for $1,000 at most. Plus you needed to pay astronomical per-minute rates for calls instead of today‘s unlimited plans.
New phones keep getting more advanced. Apple‘s latest A16 Bionic chip inside the iPhone 14 Pro has the power of a supercomputer from just a few years ago. The hardware inside smartphones continues to give us capabilities that simply didn‘t exist for mobile devices 10 years ago.
Nokia ruled the early days. The top-selling mobile phone of all time is the Nokia 1100 with over 250 million units sold after its launch in 2003. It remains popular in developing nations thanks to its reliability, simplicity, and low cost.
Apple changed the game with the iPhone. While not the first smartphone, the original iPhone in 2007 revolutionalized the category. The iPhone 6 remains the top-selling smartphone in history after selling over 220 million units between 2014-2018.
Some overseas networks dwarf US carriers. AT&T is America‘s largest wireless carrier with 210 million subscribers. That‘s nothing compared to China Mobile and their 974 million subscribers across China!
Let‘s take a quick look at the history behind Verizon and T-Mobile next before wrapping up with pros, cons, and which is better.
The History of T-Mobile
T-Mobile‘s roots trace back to Germany where Deutsche Telekom began building out a cellular network for that country in the 1980s. The Deutsche Bundespost Telekom brand emerged through the 1990s.
In 2001, the separate holding company T-Mobile International was created to house all of Deutsche Telekom‘s mobile operations outside Germany. This included VoiceStream Wireless in the United States acquired in 2001. The T-Mobile brand then unified across the international sphere.
By 2002, T-Mobile delivered wireless service to 22 million subscribers across four continents. They continued growth in the US specifically by acquiring other regional carriers and forging partnerships with the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Dell.
Major moves in the 2010s, like eliminating contracts and overage fees, helped T-Mobile disrupt the industry. But the massive Sprint merger completed in 2020 represented their biggest competitive threat to Verizon and AT&T.
By acquiring Sprint, T-Mobile added over 50 million new subscribers and additional wireless spectrum for expanding their network. The company emerged larger than ever and ready to challenge the status quo.
Today, T-Mobile US continues pushing the value angle with cheaper pricing compared to Verizon and AT&T. Their network enhancements over the past decade also now rival the top players in performance. T-Mobile still trails slightly in rural coverage but not by much in populated areas.
With around 100 million total subscribers after the Sprint deal, T-Mobile sits securely as America‘s second largest wireless carrier ahead of AT&T. They now aim to use 5G deployments to keep disrupting the industry.
How Verizon Competes
Verizon‘s origin stems from the historic breakup of the Bell System monopoly in the early 1980s. The company we know as Verizon today emerged as a force in the new era of telecom competition.
After the Bell breakup, Bell Atlantic served the Northeast region starting in 1984. A merger with NYNEX in the 1990s created a larger company under the Bell Atlantic name.
In 2000, the Bell Atlantic brand disappeared upon merging with GTE and forming Verizon Communications. This instantly made them the largest phone provider in the country at the time.
Upstart mobile phone service represented just a small portion of Verizon‘s business in the early 2000s. Most wireless customers came from the separate Verizon Wireless joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone started in 1999.
By the mid-2000s, Verizon began prioritizing wireless and poured investment into new spectrum and technology. They acquired full ownership of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone in 2014 for an enormous $130 billion to take control of their mobile future.
Now firmly established as a leader in wireless, Verizon has set their sights on building the top 5G network to keep subscribers loyal. Their marketing emphasizes network quality and performance metrics.
With around 120 million total connections, Verizon holds a slight lead over AT&T for second place among US wireless carriers. They continue leveraging their scale and early investments in 5G to maintain premium status in coverage and speed.
T-Mobile vs. Verizon: Pros and Cons
Now that you understand the history and key differences between the two brands, let‘s summarize the main pros and cons of choosing Verizon or T-Mobile as your mobile carrier.
Pros of T-Mobile:
- Offers the nation’s largest 5G network
- More affordable plans on the whole
- Taxes and fees included in their plans
- Some perks for subscribers like free Netflix
Cons of T-Mobile:
- No plans without data throttling
- Limited rural 4G LTE coverage
- 5G network not as robust as Verizon
- Heavily capped mobile hotspot data
Pros of Verizon:
- Best 4G LTE rural coverage
- Most reliable overall network reputation
- Some unlimited plans without throttling
- Leads in 5G performance and availability
Cons of Verizon:
- Plans cost more for unlimited data
- International roaming not included
- Early upgrade perks aren‘t as flexible
- Device lock-in (hard to unlock and bring to other carriers)
Both carriers have good arguments in their favor. T-Mobile wins on costs while Verizon offers excellent network reach and capabilities. Use these pros and cons to narrow down which is more appealing for your needs.
T-Mobile vs. Verizon: Which Is Better in 2023?
We‘ve covered a lot of ground comparing T-Mobile and Verizon. Let‘s wrap up with a final verdict on which carrier comes out ahead in 2023 for most consumers.
The better choice depends heavily on what you value most from your wireless provider.
For mobile users focused on getting the lowest monthly rates, especially for unlimited data, T-Mobile is the winner. They offer savings of $5-10 per month on average compared to equivalent Verizon plans. T-Mobile also includes taxes and fees to limit surprises.
If your top priority is rural coverage and network reliability, Verizon is the way to go. Their 4G LTE footprint is unrivaled and 5G service delivers faster peak speeds than T-Mobile where available today. You‘ll pay a premium but benefit from Verizon‘s network strength.
Heavy travelers may also lean Verizon for the best international roaming access. For perks like streaming services or cheaper family plans, T-Mobile has an edge.
In most cases, the coverage and cost ratio makes T-Mobile the best bet for a majority of users in 2023. Their network has gotten significantly better in recent years while still maintaining a pricing advantage over Verizon. Unless you need regular rural access or travel globally often, you are likely to get better overall value with T-Mobile.
At the end of the day, assess your specific usage needs and budget to decide if Verizon is worth the extra cost. For many people, T-Mobile hits the sweet spot with much cheaper service and nearly comparable coverage. Don‘t assume you need to pay up for Verizon just because of their reputation – the gap has narrowed considerably.
Hopefully this detailed breakdown gives you clarity for picking the right wireless carrier. Both T-Mobile and Verizon offer excellent service – it just comes down to aligning with your priorities as a mobile user.