Mobile networks are racing to 5G, making network reliability and speed a top priority in the country's largest metro areas to support consumers' evolving mobile activities. The RootMetrics report combines scientifically based data with real-world mobile performance insights to provide consumers with a completely independent view of each carrier's performance where they live, work and play.
During the second half of 2018, RootMetrics scouters drove 230,926 miles, visited 7,922 indoor locations and conducted nearly 3.9 million scientific tests of mobile performance. All tests were conducted using unmodified, off-the-shelf phones purchased from carrier stores. RootMetrics uses random sampling techniques to ensure results offer a robust characterization of performance across six testing categories, including overall performance, reliability, speed, data performance, call performance and text performance.
Metro performance summarized
Metro-level testing offers consumers the most accurate picture of the mobile experience where they spend most of their time. To provide excellent mobile performance in metro testing, carriers must prioritize fast speeds and high network reliability.
The report reveals that Verizon continues to lead the way at the metro level. The carrier increased from 602 awards to 667 awards out of a possible 750. This improvement can be attributed to Verizon's consistently reliable and fast network performance. Notably, Verizon registered median download speeds faster than 20 Mbps in 111 markets, which is more than any other carrier. Meanwhile, AT&T is also making metro-level performance a priority, earning the second-highest tally of awards at 349, a big improvement from the carrier's 292 wins in the first half of 2018. In addition to focusing on network speed, AT&T has made solid gains in the call, overall performance and network reliability categories.
T-Mobile decreased its number of metro-level awards to 323 from 454 in the first half of 2018, but the carrier remains competitive when it comes to network speed. In fact, T-Mobile delivers top download speeds in 102 markets and records the fastest median download speed of any carrier at 57.0 Mbps in Flint, MI.
Sprint's ongoing network improvements saw it make impressive speed gains in metro-level testing, increasing the number of markets in which it delivered median download speeds of at least 20 Mbps from 31 to 55.
"Americans depend on their mobile devices for 24/7 connectivity, and our latest report shows the carriers are working to align with this demand," said Doug King, RootMetrics director. "Data performance has become a top priority for consumers, and it's clear the mobile carriers are listening and investing heavily to improve speed and reliability. As the wireless market focuses on making 5G a reality – with the carriers expected to fully roll out next-generation LTE nationwide by 2020 – we can expect to see continued emphasis on fast mobile experiences."
You can find a full breakdown of mobile network performance during the second half of 2018 at the metro level here.
State performance summarized
Providing a top-notch mobile experience at the state-level can be difficult for the carriers, as it requires strong service from dense urban areas to smaller, rural towns. The report revealed that Verizon remains the top-performer at the state level, earning 263 RootScore Awards out of a possible 300. This is more than twice as many as its next-closest competitor, AT&T, which earned 129 awards. Notably, this marks the eleventh consecutive testing period that AT&T has finished as a strong number-two competitor in state-level testing.
Sprint increased from 8 state-level awards during the first half of 2018 to 15 in the second half of the year, giving it the largest award gain among all carriers and closing the gap with T-Mobile, which earned 22 awards in the second half of 2018.
You can find a full breakdown of mobile network performance during the second half of 2018 at the state level here.
Performance at the national level
When it comes to providing a strong mobile experience at the national level, a network needs to offer outstanding performance across all the different spaces where consumers use their smartphones. This includes major cities, towns of all sizes, highways, rural areas and every place in between. The latest RootMetrics report reveals Verizon continues to outshine the competition at the national level, winning or sharing the United States RootScore Award in every category. This is the carrier's eleventh straight overall performance award.
Breaking down national-level performance from the other carriers, AT&T remains a strong competitor for Verizon. AT&T earned second place in every category but text performance, where the carrier shares the top spot with Verizon for the fourth consecutive testing period. Meanwhile, T-Mobile improved to third place for network reliability at the national level.
You can find a full breakdown of mobile network performance during the second half of 2018 at the national level here.
About RootMetrics RootMetrics by IHS Markit is mobile analytics that measure mobile network performance and offer insights into the consumer mobile experience. RootMetrics provides data on mobile network performance to help the networks improve and give consumers an end-to-end look at mobile performance. To ensure that RootMetrics results reflect real-world mobile usage, testing is conducted based on where, when and how consumers use their smartphones most often.