RootMetrics: Tier 1 carriers provide best wireless service in Chicago - NYC and LA, not so much

New York City may have surpassed Chicago with the tallest building in the U.S. last year, but according to network testing firm RootMetrics, Chicago easily outclasses New York--and every other U.S. metropolitan area--in terms of overall wireless performance.

RootMetrics looked at the top 125 most populous metropolitan markets across the United States, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, and found Chicago had the best overall mobile performance as well as the best in data performance.

The achievement was notable considering that Chicago is the third-largest metropolitan area in the United States, and that only one other city that was in the top 10 metropolitan areas by population--Atlanta--made it into the firm's top 10 in terms of overall performance.

For example, New York and the tri-state area ranked 98 out of 125 in terms of overall performance. Los Angeles came in at 111, Miami was ranked No. 77, Philadelphia was ranked No. 50 and Dallas was No. 38.

In contrast, Oklahoma City was ranked No. 2; Lansing, Mich., was No. 3; Rockford, Ill., came in at No. 4 and Spokane, Wash., was No. 5. The results seem to upend conventional wisdom that carriers place greater network resources--spectrum, cell sites, small cells and other technologies to increase capacity and improve performance--in the nation's largest metropolitan areas where they have the most subscribers.

On the other hand, large metro area like New York and Los Angeles likely have much higher data traffic than a place like Rockford, which was ranked No. 125 in terms of population. Yet Chicago apparently has been getting quite a bit of attention from the carriers--Sprint has made it a focal point and key test market for tis Network Vision and Spark tri-band LTE upgrades, for example.

"Chicago fared better than most other large markets," Julie Dey, vice president of marketing at RootMetrics, told the Chicago Business Journal. "It came in No. 1 in overall and in data performance, but single digits in the other categories with the exception of texts. I think what that means for Chicago folks is positive. There are many great options for mobile carriers, and all of them are pretty good. It's a good thing for consumers."

To get its results, RootMetrics averaged the overall performance--"RootScores"--for the first half of 2014 for each city across the four Tier 1 carriers, Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). RootScores are distilled averages of call, text, and data performance, including speed and reliability, rated on a scale of up to 100. RootMetrics also averaged results from its reliability and speed indices across the four networks. The company then gave greater weight to Verizon and AT&T's performance since they have more subscribers than Sprint and T-Mobile.

For more:
- see this RootMetrics post
- see this NBC News article
- see this Chicago Business Journal article
- see this Kansas City Star article (sub. req.)

Related Articles:
RootMetrics: T-Mobile leapfrogs Sprint for No. 3 spot in overall network performance
How much LTE spectrum do Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have - and where?
Verizon to launch VoLTE in Q4, but delays first LTE-only phones to 2016
T-Mobile's Carter promises 20x20 MHz LTE 'in all of our major metropolitan areas' - at some point
Sprint confirms most of its LTE devices will be able to access 4x2 MIMO technology
T-Mobile passes Sprint with 230M LTE POPs, while Verizon dominates with 306M LTE POPs