Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is the weakest among the four large wireless carriers, both in terms of customer count and financially. A recent test of the speed of its network demonstrates one reason the company may struggle to regain solid footing in a cutthroat industry.
In a nationwide test of wireless upload and download speeds, conducted by research firm SpeedTest and called SpeedTest Intelligence, Sprint finished last. The parent company that owns this research measurement system is Ookla. On the SpeedTest grading “speed score” yardstick, Sprint posted a score of 15.39. AT&T had a score of 20.05, while Verizon’s was 21.13 and T-Mobile’s was 23.17. The ratings were based on data collected from the “100 most populated Cellular Market Areas (CMAs).”
Sprint also lost out when widely used smartphones were measured on the four networks. It finished last against network speeds for the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7.
The research firm did acknowledge that Sprint had made some progress:
Though coming in fourth on our rankings for Q1-Q2 2017 with a Speed Score of 15.39, Sprint made significant improvements compared to the same period last year. Between December 2016 and June 2017 the company’s mean download speed on modern devices increased 23.7%. Sprint is well positioned for even more improvement moving forward given its massive 2.5GHz spectrum portfolio. Significantly lower levels of network budget compared to other carriers, low cell site density and a thin fallback LTE layer in the 800MHz and 1900MHz bands created real challenges for Sprint this year. They responded with an impressive bout of creative problem-solving during the past year leading to the deployment of small cells, mini-macros and relay solutions.
For wireless customers, those advances are jargon. All they see is how the networks perform on their phones in the areas in which they live, work and travel. On that basis, Sprint still has a long way to go.