Amid video investments, AT&T comes last in mobile video quality ratings

OpenSignal ranked the video offerings from the nation's top mobile operators. (OpenSignal)

OpenSignal released its mobile video quality ratings for the U.S. market and found that AT&T came in last place among the nation’s four largest providers. Verizon, meanwhile, scored top marks in OpenSignal’s analysis of U.S. users’ mobile video experience.

Specifically, the measurement firm reported that AT&T’s score was 40.88 in terms of mobile video quality. That was just behind Sprint’s score of 41.10 and T-Mobile’s score of 48.15. Verizon, according to OpenSignal, led the pack with a score of 50.57.

However, in a blog post, OpenSignal’s Ian Fogg noted that all of the nation’s major providers fell into the firm’s “Fair” category. “Fair means that mobile connections weren't able to support high-resolution video without prolonged stalling and long wait times, but were able to handle low-resolution video with few problems,” Fogg noted. “None of the U.S. operators were even close to achieving a perfect score.”

OpenSignal’s new measurements of U.S. operators come roughly a month after the firm released its first mobile video quality assessment. In that report, the company did not rank individual operators but instead countries: OpenSignal found that the United States came in near the bottom of the rankings with an overall score of around 47. (75-100 is Excellent, 65-75 is Very Good, 55-65 is Good, 40-55 is Fair and 0-40 is poor.) Topping the rankings was the Czech Republic with a score of around 68. The United Kingdom scored at 60 and Kazakhstan scored at around 48.

OpenSignal has historically measured the upload, download and latency speeds provided by mobile networks around the world, mainly via apps installed on users’ phones. But this year the company has expanded those efforts into the mobile video space by looking at three main video criteria: the load time before the video begins playing, the stops and stutters in the video playback, and the level of picture resolution. The company collected data on those metrics and assessed its video experience rankings.

As OpenSignal’s Fogg noted, AT&T’s position at the bottom of the pack in the United States is noteworthy considering the company has positioned much of its future on video. AT&T acquired DirecTV for around $67 billion in 2015, and earlier this year the company closed on its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner. AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Watch TV video services stem directly from those acquisitions and are an attempt by the company to bundle video offerings with its mobile services, largely in order to tighten its grip on customers’ wallets. Thus, a poor experience ranking from OpenSignal could affect AT&T’s mobile video efforts.

Verizon, on the other hand, has largely withdrawn from the video services sector. The company famously shuttered its Go90 mobile video service and opted to essentially outsource the video portion of its new 5G Home internet service to the likes of Apple and Google. In place of its video efforts, CEO Hans Vestberg has pledged to double down on Verizon’s 5G network build-out.

Meantime, Sprint continues to offer Hulu service to its mobile customers, while T-Mobile offers Netflix services to its mobile customers.

Finally, although AT&T ranked the lowest on OpenSignal’s tests, the operator actually scored at the top of a recent nationwide drive test of top carriers’ mobile networks. Global Wireless Solutions reported that 98% of videos streamed over AT&T’s network were successfully completed, and that videos tested on AT&T only froze 0.82% of the time—numbers that outstripped those of AT&T’s competitors.