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Who’s the Fastest?

It’s always interesting to see broadband speed comparisons between different parts of the world, the country, and technologies. There is no more interesting report for a broadband nerd than the speed test results reported by Ookla. The company compiles the results of speed tests from all around the world and the country and provides some interesting results.

Any analysis of speed tests comes with some big caveats. There are plenty of individual cases where a speed test result is slow due to issues at the user end. My house is a great example. My wife gets 3 – 4 times faster broadband in her office located with the incoming broadband modem than does my office upstairs at the far end of a long house. The difference in our speed tests results is related to our WiFi network and not to our ISP.

But ISP data speeds are also variable. I look at speed test results regularly, and I see a variance of several magnitudes during a day or a week. My ISP is Charter, and there are obviously things happening in the City which cause the Charter network to slow down at times. Because of the wide range of speeds I see at my house, it’s impossible for anybody to use a single number to define my broadband speed. I’m sure Charter would define my broadband speed to be the fastest speed we can get, but there are times when we see only a fraction of that number.

With that warning, the Ookla speed test results are still interesting because these same factors affect all ISPs – meaning that a comparison between ISPs should be fairly instructive.

In looking at the median download speeds of the major landline ISPs, Verizon is the fastest at 184 Mbps, followed closely by Comcast at 179 Mbps and Cox at 174 Mbps. The other major ISPs tracked by Ookla are Charter at 166 Mbps, AT&T at 141 Mbps, and CenturyLink at 41 Mbps. It’s obvious that the AT&T and CenturyLink speeds are held lower because of DSL. Note that median means that half of customers are faster than these speeds and half are slower. These numbers are not average speeds.

One of the more interesting things reported by Ookla is a consistency score. Ookla defines consistency as the percentage of traffic that provides a consistent quality of service, and where a customer connection produces expected minimum levels of both upload and download speeds. Comcast, Charter, and Verizon all have roughly identical consistency rates of 89% to 90%. Cox is at 84%, AT&T at 80%, and CenturyLink at 57%.

Ookla also ranked states by the median download speeds. Topping the list at 195 Mbps is New Jersey, with New York next at 179 Mbps. The next fastest states are Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, and Massachusetts – all states that have significant Verizon FiOS. The two states with the lowest median broadband speeds are Wyoming at 70 Mbps and Montana at 74 Mbps, followed by New Mexico, Alaska, Vermont, Idaho, and Arkansas. There are a dozen major U.S. cities with median broadband speeds over 200 Mbps. Topping the list is Jersey City, NJ (216 Mbps) and Raleigh, NC (214 Mbps).

Median upload speeds tell a different story. The leaders are four states with Verizon FiOS: Maryland (38 Mbps), New Jersey (36 Mbps), Rhode Island (34 Mbps), and Virginia (32 Mbps). But next is North Dakota at 32 Mbps and Iowa at 27 Mbps. For download speeds, those two states come in 39th and 42nd. The states with the worst median upload speeds are Arizona (10 Mbps), Montana (11 Mbps), Wyoming (11 Mbps), and Maine (12 Mbps).

Ookla also ranks broadband speeds by country. The fastest are Singapore (198 Mbps), Chile (197 Mbps), Thailand (188 Mbps), and Denmark (170 Mbps). The U.S. has moved up this chart over the last few years, and is now eighth at 151 Mbps.

The report also looks at cellular speeds. The median download speeds for March 2022 are T-Mobile (118 Mbps), Verizon (63 Mbps), and AT&T (56 Mbps).  Ookla also reports 5G speeds (meaning using the new frequency bands for each company) as T-Mobile (191 Mbps), Verizon (107 Mbps), and AT&T (68 Mbps). Ookla says that T-Mobile 5G is available for 65% of connections, AT&T for 49% of connections, and Verizon for 28% of connections.

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