Verizon First, Sprint Stomped in New Wireless Performance Study

July 17, 2019 by Paul Ausick

The proposed merger between Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. (NASDAQ: TMUS) will, if approved, put together the two U.S. wireless carriers with the overall lowest scores for network performance in a new study. That’s certainly something to look forward to.

The data was gathered by RootMetrics and by IHS Markit, which has just published its performance review of the four major U.S. wireless companies based on data collected in the first six months of 2019. RootMetrics’ methodology involves buying off-the-shelf Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones and then testing them by walking and driving around in the real world. For the current report, the company performed more than 3.9 million tests and drove more than 236,000 miles.

The best-performing network belongs to Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which posted an overall award score of 94.8 (of a possible 100) based on category scores for reliability, speed, data performance, call performance and text performance. Verizon’s network either finished first or tied for first in every category.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) tied with Verizon in the text category and finished second in every other RootMetrics category, to finish with an overall score of 93.2. T-Mobile posted an overall score of 86.9, and Sprint’s overall score was 86.7.

Mobile network performance can (and does) vary widely across individual states and metro areas. Just because a carrier’s network performs well in densely populated metro areas is no guarantee that network performance will perform equally well over an entire state. Verizon is, by far, the best performing network overall in 45 states, while AT&T performs best in 15 states (ties are counted as wins for each). Neither T-Mobile nor Sprint wins in a single state.

In 13 major metropolitan areas, Sprint posts two top scores for download speed: 66 megabits per second (Mbps) in Seattle and 49.9 Mbps in Boston. Verizon posts the top download speeds in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. AT&T is fastest in Portland, Oregon; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Miami; Denver; and San Francisco. In no city is T-Mobile fastest, but it ranks at the bottom in 10 of the 13 cities.

Compared with RootMetrics’ scores in the second half of last year, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile improved somewhat, while Sprint’s number of top scores tumbled in the 125 metro areas tested.

RootMetrics commented on Verizon’s performance in the metro areas: “With an unmatched combination of fast speeds and exceptional reliability, Verizon once again earned the highest award total among all carriers.”

Does T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion merger with Sprint hold any promise for consumers that performance will improve on a merged company’s network? T-Mobile claims that the merger will speed up deployment of 5G network technology and result in lower prices for consumers. 5G could increase network speeds generally by a median average of four times current 4G/LTE speeds, according to RootMetrics.

The merger must overcome a lawsuit filed by 13 states and the District of Columbia seeking to block the deal claiming it will quell competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. Sprint and T-Mobile are negotiating with the U.S. Department of Justice over the sale of certain assets to Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ: DISH) that would theoretically create Dish as a fourth competitor in the mobile carrier market.

The lawsuit against the proposed merger currently is scheduled for a trial beginning October 7, but the states on Monday wrote to the judge saying that the absence of a settlement between the Justice Department and the companies has led to a delay in the states’ receipt of materials needed to meet the scheduled trial date. The lawsuit could still kill the proposed merger.


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