RootMetrics: Verizon tops overall network performance tests, T-Mobile comes in last

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) topped the overall rankings for network performance in a new nationwide test conducted by network testing firm RootMetrics, outpacing rival AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T).

According to RootMetrics, which announced its first "National RootScore Report," Verizon took the overall crown with a score of 89.7 out of 100, compared to AT&T's score of 86.2. The overall score includes reliability and speed assessments across call, data and text testing, and RootMetrics said "a good Overall RootScore means good overall coverage and a good consumer experience."

Sprint (NYSE:S) had an overall score of 68.2 and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) came in fourth with an overall score of 64.3.

RootMetrics said it conducted tests in all 50 states, driving nearly 220,000 miles, visiting 6,300 indoor locations, and collecting more than 4.6 million test samples. The tests were conducted in the second half of 2013.

RootMetrics also broke out a separate Reliability Index and a Speed Index to measure network reliability and speed performance. "Based on a combination of results from data, call and text tests, the Reliability Index evaluates network access and consistency, while the Speed Index evaluates time to task completion across data and text results," the firm said. 

In terms of RootMetrics' Reliability Index, Verizon was rated the most reliable network with a reliability score of 89.8, while AT&T followed at 84.9, Sprint had a score of 65.2 and T-Mobile had a reliability score of 57.1. 

AT&T edged Verizon out slightly on the speed front with a Speed Index score of 88.7, compared to Verizon's 88.5 speed score, T-Mobile's 74.3 and Sprint's 65.8.

In a conference call with reporters, Nicola Palmer, Verizon's chief network officer, described RootMetrics' latest tests as the most comprehensive, third-party network tests conducted to date. The results also support Verizon's longtime advertising claim of having the nation's most reliable wireless network.

Palmer also said that the RootMetrics tests did not take into account Verizon's deployment of its AWS spectrum, which it using to augment its LTE network. Verizon has a 20x20 MHz block of AWS airwaves covering 54 percent of the U.S. population, she said. When that is combined with Verizon's 10x10 MHz deployment of LTE on its 700 MHz Upper C Block spectrum, she said that effectively triples the carrier's network capacity.

Palmer declined to say exactly how many markets Verizon has deployed AWS spectrum in, but said the carrier surpassed its goal of lighting up 5,000 AWS cell sites by the end of 2013. In December Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam disclosed that Verizon was planning to augment its LTE network in 50 different cities with AWS spectrum in the first half of 2014 to avoid potential capacity issues.

Palmer disclosed that fully 70 percent of Verizon's data traffic is now going over its LTE network. She also said around 25 percent of the LTE smartphones on the carrier's network can now access AWS spectrum, and virtually all of Verizon's new smartphones are AWS-capable.

"We are deploying it aggressively where we need it," she said. "Virtually every market where we have AWS has some level of AWS deployment, and we're just going to increase that throughout the year."

Palmer also said Verizon is working to deploy Voice over LTE this year. She also said that, as traffic volumes come down on its CDMA EV-DO network, Verizon will be rearming that spectrum for LTE. She said that will happen "surgically" and that Verizon will need to ensure it retains high levels of service for its 3G network.

For more:
- see this RootMetrics release
- see this RootMetrics report
- see this Verizon release
- see this Verizon post
- see this Bloomberg article

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