Sprint Has Slowest Wireless Network

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After notching a big gain in network download speed in 2016, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) appears to have hit a wall. The mobile carrier ranked second in 2016 with an average speed of just over 20 megabits per second (Mbps), slightly higher than both AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US Inc. (NYSE: TMUS). Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) topped the 2016 rankings.

In 2017, both AT&T and T-Mobile posted sharp gains in network speed, Verizon bumped up about 10% and Sprint flatlined.

According to a new report at PC Magazine, Sprint’s mobile network gets an overall total score of just 74 compared with 93 for AT&T, 96 for T-Mobile, and 97 for Verizon. PC Magazine noted:

While we saw the same spectacular peak speeds on Sprint that we got on the other carriers, they were far less consistent; Sprint’s speeds would shoot up and then plummet within cities more often than other carriers, creating lower averages.

The researchers compiled the speed scores based on six weighted metrics:

  • Average download speed, 20%
  • Downloads over 5 Mbps threshold, 20%
  • Average upload speed, 10%
  • Uploads over 2 Mbps threshold, 10%
  • Ping time, 10%
  • Reliability, 20%

Network speed varied a lot depending on location. AT&T, for example, showed weak performance in New York City but top performance in Indianapolis. T-Mobile’s performance was exactly opposite. By geographic region, here are the fastest mobile networks in the country and their PC Magazine scores:

  • Northeast: T-Mobile, 94; Verizon, 93; AT&T, 91; Sprint, 69
  • Southeast: T-Mobile, 95; Verizon, 95; AT&T, 87; Sprint, 68
  • North Central: Verizon, 97; AT&T, 93; T-Mobile, 88; Sprint, 76
  • South Central: AT&T, 98; T-Mobile, 94; Verizon, 87; Sprint, 72
  • Northwest: T-Mobile, 95; Verizon, 93; AT&T, 84; Sprint, 77
  • Southwest: Verizon, 96; T-Mobile, 91; AT&T, 91; Sprint, 65

While the top three carriers showed variations based on location, Sprint finished dead last in every region of the country. And the three top networks are working on something called “gigabit LTE,” which won’t actually provide gigabit speed on the mobile network, but has a nice ring to it. PC Magazine noted that the tests were conducted using a Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone, the only gigabit LTE phone available at the time of the test. However, the S8 does not work on Sprint’s unique network, which may explain the company’s poor showing.