In real-world, mid-year testing of the speed and reliability of mobile networks across the nation, RootMetrics found that Verizon Wireless dominated in nearly all aspects, with AT&T following close behind. Sprint and T-Mobile generally remained a step behind, though RootMetrics sees the latter as a rising contender in metro areas. Furthermore, according to RootMetrics, both T-Mobile and Sprint “have each made improvements and could be poised for a stronger second half of 2014.”
The results are part of RootMetrics’ mid-year, independent third-party testing of actual mobile network performance across data, call and text usage. The study spanned the 125 largest metro areas and all 50 U.S. states. Testing involved driving the equivalent of 84 times from New York to L.A. and testing while driving, at stationary outdoor locations, and at more than 6,400 indoor locations using mobile handsets commonly available at retail outlets. A total of over 5.6 milliion data points were collected.
Mobile Network Performance
Verizon dominated in RootMetric’s mid-year National RootScore Report, taking top honors in overall network performance, reliability and speed. Verizon also finished first in the call and data categories; text being the only category it did not take first.
The gap was small between Verizon and AT&T, however, though Verizon widened its advantage in the Network Speed Index during 2014’s first half. “Perhaps in part due to its rollout of AWS spectrum as part of its XLTE offering, Verizon appears to be getting faster and offered customers the best speeds at the national level,” RootMetrics commented.
Verizon and AT&T were the top two networks in every category at the national level, with Sprint and T-Mobile following and beginning to close the gap. T-Mobile showed substantial improvement as compared to a year ago, outperforming Sprint in RootMetrics’ Network Speed Index and surpassing Sprint to take third place in four of six categories. Sprint’s performance is likely to improve given the rollout of its tri-band Spark platform, however, RootMetrics notes.
Zooming in on mobile network performance at the state level, RootMetrics found that Verizon was again the clear leader, either winning or tying for first in at least 44 states in all categories barring text. As RootMetrics highlights, Verizon “won or tied for first overall performance in an outstanding 48 of the 50 states.” Second-place AT&T won or tied for first in 11.
Verizon also dominated RootMetrics’ Speed Index, winning or tying for first in 45 states. AT&T won or tied for first eight times. Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile managed to take a first in a state Speed Index.
Sprint ranked third in overall mobile network performance at the state level, winning or tying for first 15 times, with T-Mobile managing to win a first in one.
Finally, zooming further in to the metro level, RootMetrics saw significant changes since its test during 2013’s second half. Verizon again was the clear leader at the metro level, taking first place in overall network performance, reliability and speed, and outperforming AT&T in a number of categories that it did not beat AT&T on last year. Verizon won four times as many awards as AT&T in RootMetrics’ metro-level data category and five times as many as T-Mobile.
At the metro level, Verizon also won more than AT&T and T-Mobile combined in RootMetrics’ Speed Index. AT&T stood ahead of the pack in the metro text category, and trailed Verizon only slightly in the 1H 2014 call tally, which is a tally of outright wins and first-place ties.
AT&T also improved in terms of network reliability at the metro level, pulling even with Verizon. Sprint and T-Mobile, meanwhile, “weren’t even close.”
T-Mobile’s focus on upgrading its metro-area mobile networks is paying off, however, the results show. “T-Mobile increased its wins and first-place ties substantially to a total of 169, its highest metro tally yet so far,” RootMetrics noted. T-Mobile also outperformed AT&T in RootMetrics’ metro Speed Index tally, winning 32 times as compared to AT&T’s 22.