Verizon First, T-Mobile Last in New Wireless Study

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A new study from Rootmetrics has ranked the top four U.S. wireless carriers for the first half of 2016 on a variety of metrics that the company says indicates which wireless networks best respond to customers’ mobile expectations. The short answer: Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which was the top scorer on all five specific metrics, as well as the overall best performer.

Verizon’s overall score of 93.9 (out of a possible 100) bested AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which scored 89.9, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) with a score of 85.5 and T-Mobile US Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) with a score of 82.5. The five measures Rootmetrics uses are reliability, speed, data, call and text.

Rootmetrics calculates rankings for the United States as a whole and by state and metropolitan area. The full results are available here.

Here’s what Rootmetrics had to say about each of the four companies in the national ranking.

Verizon

Verizon’s performance in our testing of the United States was outstanding. For the first time since we began testing the whole of the US in the second half of 2013, Verizon won United States RootScore Awards outright across all six RootScore categories: Overall performance, Network Reliability, Network Speed, Data performance, Call performance, and Text performance. Perhaps just as impressive is that Verizon won the United States Overall RootScore Award for the sixth consecutive time.

AT&T

AT&T finished second to Verizon in five out of six categories at the national level, including the holistic areas of overall performance, network reliability, network speed, and data performance. The only area in which AT&T didn’t rank second behind Verizon was in the Call RootScore category; Sprint again narrowly edged past AT&T to finish second.

This marks the first time in five test periods that AT&T didn’t win or share the United States Text RootScore Award. In our previous test period, AT&T and Verizon shared top honors in the Text RootScore category. In this round of testing, however, AT&T finished second in the category, while Verizon won the Text RootScore Award outright.

In short, AT&T has remained a strong number-two performer behind Verizon in our United States RootScore testing for six consecutive test periods.

Sprint

While Sprint didn’t win any RootScore Awards at the national level, Sprint’s relative rankings in this test period remained identical to those from the second half of 2015. Sprint’s best finish came in the Call RootScore category, in which the network edged past AT&T to finish second. Sprint remained in third place in the categories of overall performance, network reliability, and text performance.

… Sprint has improved its LTE coverage in metropolitan markets, and Sprint’s results showed improvement in a number of areas in our metro area testing in the first half of 2016. If Sprint can continue its LTE expansion efforts beyond metro areas, Sprint could close the gap with the other networks in multiple categories at the United States level.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s relative national rankings in our testing across the United States were identical to what we found in both the first and second halves of 2015. We’ve noted before that T-Mobile typically performs much better in metro areas compared to state or national levels, and that was again the case in the first half of 2016. While T-Mobile didn’t win any United States RootScore Awards in this test period, the network narrowly trailed AT&T for third place in both our Data RootScore category and our Network Speed RootScore category.

Methodology: To determine which network led the performance race in the first half of 2016, Rootmetrics’ researchers drove over 265,000 miles while testing performance on highways and in big cities, small towns and rural areas across the United States. To put that in perspective, consider that the distance from New York City to Los Angeles is approximately 2,800 miles, the circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles and the moon is about 239,000 miles away. While collecting samples for their national report, the professional testers could have driven from New York City to Los Angeles about 95 times, circled the earth over 10 times or made it all the way to the moon (and then some). All told, researchers collected approximately 3.7 million test samples while driving and at more than 4,200 indoor locations.