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Wireless carriers are busting each other’s balls, and we are winning

How big are your wireless network’s balls? How many do they have?

These are two of the pressing questions wireless networks hope to answer in their latest commercials. According to the new ads, there is a strong correlation between the speed of 4G LTE networks and the number and size of their balls. According to its new balls-out commercial, Verizon has bigger balls than AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. And a lot more of them.

Verizon’s balls:

Is there a ball pit of truth to this, or is Verizon nuts? T-Mobile and Sprint have paired up to disagree. Both networks claim that they are not the sad sacks that Verizon claims they are.

T-Mobile’s response:

Sprint’s response:

Though we thought it had blue balls, its lack of response indicates that AT&T has no balls. Or, none that it’s willing to show.

… OK, OK. I’ll stop.

You guys have balls, we get it

As fun as the macho ball-talk ad campaigns are — and as much as I want to stuff the rest of this article with ball jokes — the reality is: Balls don’t matter.

T-Mobile does a good job explaining why in yet another YouTube video, where it picks apart Verizon’s claims, which are based on early 2015 data that’s somewhat suspect. But even if you believe that Verizon has won armloads of “awards” (balls) from a RootMetrics study, you may want to read Motley Fool writer Daniel B. Cline’s dissection of the data behind Verizon’s colorful balls.

Every major carrier’s service has improved drastically in the last two years.

“Mobile network ratings are not football games,” explains Cline. “One company winning means it rates better, but it does not mean that the other or others have lost. The real story in the first half of 2015 report is that Verizon’s once large lead over its three rivals has largely gone away. In fact, compared to the first half of 2014 report, the last place finisher — T-Mobile — now has a better score than Verizon did just a year ago. In 12 months the entire industry has improved.”

In other words, even if Verizon is best, all four networks are awesome.

Everyone deserves a bunch of balls

Every major carrier’s service has improved drastically in the last two years, and that’s likely because T-Mobile’s ballsy marketing campaign continues to shake up the industry. It’s stolen millions of customers from other networks in the U.S. by telling people that it is an “un-carrier,” which is shorthand for “not a dick.”

Related: Bragging rights: 2.3 million people joined T-Mobile’s network in the last three months

Because of this renaissance of competition, we’re winning. Being different has paid off for T-Mobile, and long-stagnant market leaders Verizon and AT&T have felt the monetary sting of actual competition for the first time in a decade.

T-Mobile Binge On
Nick Mokey/Digital Trends

In an effort to improve their images and balance sheets, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon have begun performing miracles. They’ve ended confusing two-year contracts, stopped locking in families with early termination fees, repeatedly cut prices, improved their plans, invested heavily in improving LTE coverage, and have generally screwed over fewer of their customers.

But we have a long way to go. Coverage could improve a lot; prices are still high; phones are too expensive; data remains too limited for a lot of users; international coverage is a nightmare; and overages exist. Nevertheless, the tide has turned, and we can probably thank the crazy, cursing, ball-busting T-Mobile CEO John Legere for that. In January 2013, I thought Legere sounded nuts when he announced that T-Mobile would no longer rip customers off. Two years later, I’ve personally switched from Verizon to T-Mobile, and many others have, too. The service isn’t always perfect, but I’ve yet to feel swindled or screwed by T-Mobile. In fact, my bill has dropped significantly since switching.

Verizon customers have started seeing some relief as well. When I left the big red carrier, it was demanding $120 per month for a single line of service (with a couple GB of data). Today, that price is $65 for 3GB data — a huge improvement! Keeping the ball rolling, T-Mobile now offers 6GB of data for the same price.

Thanks to competition, we’re slowly approaching what it cost to have cell phone service before the smartphone revolution. Let’s hope the trend continues.

Related: T-Mobile’s drinking game invites you to take a sip each time Verizon says ‘millennial’

Verizon is probably the best and most reliable carrier out there. It launched LTE before any other carrier and invested in covering rural areas quicker. T-Mobile and Sprint have played catch up for several years, but they’re now fantastic options in most parts of the country … and their service is cheaper.

It isn’t about who’s fastest

Back to our balls: It doesn’t matter who has the fastest LTE coverage. You aren’t going to notice a huge difference between LTE speeds of 7Mb/s and 20Mb/s, and if you do, you’re having a serious first-world moment. Apologies for your slightly pixelated full HD video stream of Narcos.

It doesn’t matter who has the fastest LTE coverage.

The real problem with networks is when LTE data coverage drops entirely and you’re left on the road or out somewhere, disconnected. You can’t check maps, send messages, or look things up, and it sucks. Verizon has always had a lead in reliability, but it’s 2016 now, and the game is changing. Chances are, T-Mobile and Sprint coverage isn’t so bad in your area. T-Mobile more than doubled its LTE coverage footprint in 2015 alone, and Sprint is working just as hard, adding fast “LTE Plus” service to many areas and LTE service that covers 270 million people.

It took a lot of balls for Verizon to make this ad campaign, but T-Mobile and Sprint’s networks are improving so fast that you probably don’t need balls to switch.

If you’re considering making a switch, check out our full guide to wireless plans.