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

T-Mobile and AT&T are two of the biggest wireless carriers in the United States, consistently battling for market share and striving to offer the best network coverage, data speeds, plan pricing, and customer service. As you evaluate your mobile provider options for 2023, a T-Mobile vs. AT&T comparison can help reveal the key differences between these mobile giants.

Overview of T-Mobile and AT&T

Founded in 1994 and originally known as VoiceStream Wireless, T-Mobile US is now one of America‘s largest wireless carriers. As of Q3 2022, T-Mobile boasts around 111 million total customers. The "Un-carrier" prides itself on value, simplicity, and innovations like no-contract plans.

AT&T Mobility traces its roots back to the 1980s and the early days of cell phones. Today, the carrier counts some 77.7 million phone subscribers in the US. AT&T promotes its network reliability and touts a range of phones, perks, and connected devices beyond cell service.

T-Mobile and AT&T have battled over subscribers for years now. As of mid-2022, Verizon still claims the most wireless customers at 141 million but AT&T and T-Mobile are not far behind in the race for 5G era dominance.

Mobile Network Coverage

When choosing a wireless provider, most shoppers‘ first priority is coverage. You want reliable service at home and work plus connectivity when traveling. By overall US population coverage, AT&T Mobile wins:

  • AT&T 4G LTE coverage: Over 68% nationwide
  • T-Mobile 4G LTE coverage: Around 62% nationwide

However, that gap narrows significantly when you look at next-gen 5G:

  • T-Mobile 5G coverage: Over 68% nationwide
  • AT&T 5G coverage: Around 56% nationwide

Why does 5G coverage matter in 2023? While 4G LTE networks are robust and support all modern apps and tasks, 5G brings next-level performance. Carriers continue building out 5G to tap into speed boosts up to 10-100x faster than 4G LTE in some cases.

To summarize the T-Mobile vs AT&T coverage matchup:

  • AT&T wins on overall US population and geographic coverage to date
  • T-Mobile leads in 5G network availability with its wide mid-band 5G blanket

Now let‘s examine how these coverage footprints translate into real-world wireless performance.

Data Speeds

Extensive independent testing reveals key data performance differences in the T-Mobile versus AT&T wireless plans showdown:

4G LTE Network Speeds

  • T-Mobile: 116 Mbps average download | 12 Mbps upload
  • AT&T: 55 Mbps average download | 7 Mbps upload

With its 4G LTE network, T-Mobile clearly bests AT&T in both download and upload speeds based on analysis from Opensignal and Ookla Speedtest Intelligence??.

5G Network Speeds

Testing also shows T-Mobile with a decisive 5G network speed advantage:

  • T-Mobile: 187 Mbps avg. download | 15 Mbps upload
  • AT&T: 72 Mbps avg. download | 8 Mbps upload

So while AT&T Mobile wins on overall US population coverage today, T-Mobile excels when it comes to 4G LTE and 5G network speeds almost across the board. T-Mobile‘s 5G network is over 2.5x faster than AT&T now based on nationwide user speed tests.

Plan Pricing

In terms of rate plans and pricing, both AT&T and T-Mobile position themselves as premium carriers with higher monthly bills on unlimited plans compared to value brands like Mint Mobile and Visible.

However, T-Mobile utilizes its fast speeds and extra plan perks to compete head-to-head with AT&T…often undercutting AT&T in the process.

Let‘s break down the T-Mobile vs AT&T pricing situation by individual and family plan across unlimited data tiers:

Entry Unlimited Plans

  • T-Mobile Essentials: $60/month per line
  • AT&T Unlimited Starter: $65/month per line

Winner: T-Mobile by $5/month

Mid-Tier Unlimited Plans

  • T-Mobile Magenta: $70/month per line
  • AT&T Unlimited Extra: $75/month per line

Winner: T-Mobile by $5/month

Premium Unlimited Plans

  • T-Mobile Magenta MAX: $85/month per line
  • AT&T Unlimited Elite: $85/month per line

Winner: Tie

You see T-Mobile undercutting AT&T by $5/month across the popular entry (Essentials vs Starter) and extended/mid-tier unlimited plan levels. The carriers only match at the top-shelf premium tiers with Magenta MAX and Unlimited Elite.

This pattern continues when adding extra lines for family and group plans too…

Family Plan Pricing

  • T-Mobile Essentials (4 lines): $120/month total

  • AT&T Unlimited Starter (4 lines): $140/month total

  • T-Mobile Magenta (4 lines): $140/month total

  • AT&T Extra (4 lines): $160/month total

  • T-Mobile Magenta MAX (4 lines): $170/month total

  • AT&T Unlimited Elite (4 lines): $200/month total

Across entry, mid-tier, and premium unlimited plans, T-Mobile comes in $10-20 less expensive PER MONTH when you add extra lines for family members or groups. If trying to save money is important for your next wireless plan, this gives T-Mobile an edge over AT&T.

Data Perks: Hotspot & 5G Access

Unlimited data means you don‘t pay overage fees, but carriers still place limits through data thresholds and network management practices. Comparing T-Mobile and AT&T here reveals a split decision:

1. Mobile Hotspot Data – For turning your phone into a WiFi hotspot, AT&T provides larger data pools across its unlimited plan lineup:

  • Starter: No hotspot data

  • Extra: 15GB high-speed hotspot per month

  • Elite: 40GB high-speed hotspot per month

  • Essentials: 3GB high-speed hotspot

  • Magenta: 5GB high-speed

  • Magenta MAX: 40GB high-speed

Winner: AT&T

2. 5G Access – All AT&T unlimited subscribers get 5G access on compatible devices at no added cost. On T-Mobile, only Magenta and Magenta MAX plans include 5G network access by default. To tap into T-Mobile‘s fast mid-band 5G requires upgrading to a Magenta-level plan or higher.

Winner: AT&T

So AT&T provides better hotspot data while unlocking next-gen 5G connectivity for all customers, even those on entry unlimited plans. T-Mobile reserves its best 5G for mid-tier plans and up.

Video & Streaming Perks

Both major wireless providers now bundle entertainment perks with premium rate plans as added incentives against budget carriers.

T-Mobile includes:

  • Netflix Basic (1 screen SD streaming) or Netflix Standard (2 screen HD streaming) subscriptions with Magenta and Magenta MAX family plans
  • Basic Paramount+ (ad-supported Essential tier) also included on Magenta tiers
  • One year of Apple TV+ (original video streaming service)

By comparison, AT&T Unlimited Elite customers unlock:

  • HBO Max subscription (ads included)
  • VR gaming bundle: 1-year subscription for 120+ game collection plus Oculus Go VR headset to play

Overall, most users find more practical value in T-Mobile‘s Netflix and Apple TV+ streaming perks. HBO Max appeals to subscribers craving prestige HBO series but niche VR gaming bundle unlikely to motivate upgrades from Extra to Elite unlimited plans.

Winner: T-Mobile

Customer Service Reputations

According to ACSI customer satisfaction rankings, T-Mobile consistently earns praise for service quality exceeding AT&T and other major wireless providers. However, carriers sometimes struggle balancing larger subscriber bases and rising customer expectations.

Common T-Mobile and AT&T customer service complaints include:

  • Long phone support hold times
  • Confusing automated phone trees to reach representatives
  • Inconsistent in-store support across locations
  • Billing errors and overcharges

To their credit, T-Mobile and AT&T continue upgrading support tools and expanding "team of expert" retail stores focused wholly on customer service. But occasional frustrations dealing with big wireless corporations remain. Third-party prepaid brands like Consumer Cellular rate higher for call quality and one-on-one support.

For most buyers though, T-Mobile presents a satisfaction edge over AT&T…but with room for improvement industry-wide.

Bottom Line: T-Mobile vs. AT&T

Stacking up T-Mobile versus AT&T in early 2023 reveals the UnCarrier with advantages in plan pricing, 5G availability, data speeds, and extras like Netflix bundled into wireless service. Rival AT&T counters with more robust overall network coverage, especially outside major metro areas.

Here is a high-level overview of key category wins uncovered in this T-Mobile vs. AT&T comparison:

  • Plan Pricing: T-Mobile
  • 5G Network Coverage & Speed: T-Mobile
  • 4G LTE Speeds: T-Mobile
  • Hotspot Data & 5G Access: AT&T
  • Streaming Perks: T-Mobile
  • Customer Satisfaction: T-Mobile
  • Nationwide Coverage: AT&T

In the end, T-Mobile is tougher to top for value-focused shoppers wanting reliable service with extra streaming entertainment bundled in. But subscribers in rural locations may prefer AT&T‘s slightly broader, legacy nationwide network reach. Evaluate these key wireless carrier factors against your specific needs to decide if fast-growing T-Mobile or coverage-focused AT&T make for the better fit.

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