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Mobile

This carrier still boasts the fastest network in the nation

T-Mobile came out a winner in the latest results from a wireless testing firm.

James Martin/CNET

You're streaming a stroll through Central Park on Facebook Live. You walk to Belvedere Castle and the feed freezes. You're in a dreaded deadzone.

It's at this moment when you wonder who actually has the best wireless coverage.

OpenSignal, a wireless coverage mapping firm, is attempting to answer that question. In a test of network quality, T-Mobile came out on top.

T-Mobile beat out Verizon, Sprint and AT&T in the categories of fastest downloads speeds on 3G and 4G networks, the shortest 3G latency, or the response time between your phone and the network, and in overall performance, according to OpenSignal's report.

Sprint walked away with shortest latency for 4G and Verizon won for best availability for 4G. AT&T didn't cinch a win in any of the categories.

OpenSignal Report

T-Mobile took home four top prizes in OpenSignal's network quality report.

OpenSignal

These kinds of tests -- others, like one from RootMetrics, crown Verizon the overall winner and Speedtest by Ookla found Verizon and T-Mobile in a dead heat for download speed -- are critical because they may sway consumers when they're choosing between carriers. You've undoubtedly seen countless ads touting "the most reliable" or "fastest" networks. The results also help T-Mobile's attempt to chip away at the perception that Verizon has a superior wireless network.

T-Mobile proudly broadcasted the report. "T-Mobile is KILLIN' IT, and our customers are LOVING IT!," CEO John Legere wrote on his blog.

Verizon didn't address the study specifically, only touting its network. "Verizon customers get the largest, highest quality 4GLTE network available, with at least a million square miles more coverage than the cut-rate networks," said a spokesman.

Sprint reiterated its point that the difference in performance isn't as significant as before. "It's 2016 and all networks are great with a gap between carriers that is now smaller than ever," said a spokeswoman.

AT&T declined to comment.

In the latest test, T-Mobile passed AT&T to take second in 4G availability. On average, a T-Mobile customer would have service 83.2 percent of the time. That's below 85.9 percent for Verizon customers, but ahead of AT&T's 80.4 percent. Sprint lagged behind at 69.9 percent.

The wider availability of T-Mobile's 4G network is a result of investment in its network and acquisition of low-band spectrum, which can travel wider distances, according to OpenSignal analyst Kevin Fitchard. T-Mobile in 2014 purchased that spectrum from Verizon, which employs similar airwaves in its network (AT&T does as well).

"(T-Mobile is) gaining a lot of ground, dispelling old notions that you don't sign up for T-Mobile if you want good availability," Fitchard said.

Updated at 6:50 am PT: To include comment from the carriers.