How did carrier networks hold up against crowds at MWC LA?

Networks were unfazed by the volume of traffic from 18,000-plus attendees. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

Interested in knowing how well the major mobile operators performed at MWC in Los Angeles – the largest mobility show in the U.S.?

Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. (GWS) was busy testing their network performance during the show at the LA Convention Center.  Moving among the 18,000 plus attendees, GWS methodically trekked around the convention center halls all week conducting tests using Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10 devices loaded with the GWS OneMeasure app and Rohde & Schwarz’s QualiPoc.  After testing over 8,000 voice and data tasks and walking over 72,000 steps, the results are in.

Throughputs were very consistent each day on the 4G networks.  The networks were unfazed by the volume of traffic from attendees, as the pre-show results on Monday were mirrored on Days 1 and 2 of the show.  In terms of speed, AT&T consistently delivered 76-82 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload each day.  Verizon’s 46-50 Mbps download was not far behind, but Verizon did complete its upload tasks the fastest at 30 Mbps.  T-Mobile and Sprint were consistently lower at 15 Mbps download; whereas, T-Mobile experienced a faster upload at 20 Mbps while Sprint was at 6 Mbps.

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AT&T was in 3CA or 4CA mode 13% of the time while using 50 MHz of its licensed spectrum but they also benefitted from 18% 256QAM and 4x4 MIMO.  Verizon and T-Mobile both relied heavily on LAA when aggregating, with varying results.  T-Mobile at times aggregated 60-80 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum to their licensed 10 MHz, but still landed speeds less than half of Verizon, which was using the same spectrum.  One differentiator was Verizon utilizing 256QAM over twice as much as T-Mobile.  Sprint maxed out at 2CA about 5% of the time for a total of 60 MHz deployed (although shared between downlink and uplink on TD-LTE on its 2500-MHz spectrum).

 

These are the results most people experienced at the show.  But, of course, this year’s show is all about 5G and what it can achieve in the real world.  Operators had 5G signals deployed at the show but their footprints were limited.  In various locations, AT&T’s and Verizon’s mmWave antennas reliably blasted down 1.2 Gbps throughputs, while T-Mobile surpassed 800 Mbps with ease (each using a 100 MHz bandwidth channel).



GWS also tested voice performance and found mostly reliable VoLTE coverage and quality.  The notable weaknesses were a pair of failures on Verizon near the Galaxy Court Café outside West Hall.  Also, Sprint consistently exhibited the weakest uplink audio quality. 

So what does all this mean?  We ran our results through our OneScore ranking algorithm, which weighs and combines all of the various voice and data KPI results; and considers the network performance elements that matter most to consumers.  On a score of 0 to 10 with 10 being the highest, the following were the OneScore rankings for overall network performance:  AT&T (9.91), Verizon (9.84), T-Mobile (9.62), and Sprint (9.19).

 

The marathon network testing of MWC LA 2019 is done! One last remark from GWS CEO, Dr. Paul Carter:  “We’ve tested this event for many years and this is the best performance by far.  This year the networks easily managed the voice and data demands of the large crowds.  Using GWS’s OneScore methodology, AT&T just edged out the others to finish at the top.  5G was present but next year at MWC 2020 with broader deployment and more loading it should make for a much different experience.”

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