Making a connecting flight at airports around the country is one thing, but what about connecting to the internet? The speeds at which travelers are able to use their various devices are the focus of a new study by Seattle-based Speedtest by Ookla.
Speedtest looked at 20 U.S. airports with the most passenger boardings and examined data for the last three months of 2016 for the four largest carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — as well the airport-sponsored Wi-Fi at each location.
Detroit Metropolitan (DTW) is running away from the pack in the cellular speed race. San Francisco (SFO), Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP), Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Orlando (MCO) all come in faster than Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).
The slowest spot in the country is New York’s LaGuardia (LGA), which President-elect Donald Trump and others have taken shots at over the years, equating it to a third-world airport. The average download speed at LaGuardia is 7.25 Mbps, compared to Detroit’s 45.79 Mbps.
Speedtest pointed out that while some airports greatly outdistance others in download speeds, upload speeds are pretty consistent no matter where you land.
Relying on Wi-Fi creates an even larger gap between the best and the worst across the country. Denver (DEN) and Philadelphia (PHL) are ahead of Sea-Tac and way down at the bottom with a lousy 2.71 Mbps average download speed is Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson (ATL).
Whether you choose Wi-Fi over cellular should depend on which airport you’re sitting in. Speedtest said Wi-Fi wins the race in seven airports, with Denver reporting Wi-Fi service that is three times faster than cellular. Cellular was the way to go at 10 airports, with San Francisco and Orlando seeing download speeds seven times faster than Wi-Fi.
Verizon customers get the fastest service at nine out of 20 airports, including Sea-Tac, while AT&T leads at eight and Sprint and T-Mobile both take one.
Speedtest does point out that carriers are constantly improving service, and it tracked download speeds between Q3 and Q4 last year to determine which of the four improved download speed the most at which airport. Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile demonstrated the biggest improvements at seven airports.