Verizon keeps the national network crown that RootMetrics bestowed upon it in the first half of last year, with outright wins in most of the benchmarking company’s six categories which held firm in its testing during the second half of 2018.
AT&T, the test company said, continues to be “strong, balanced performance that was generally a step above those of both Sprint and T-Mobile,” RootMetrics said. T-Mobile US improved its ranking in network reliability in the most recent round of testing, RootMetrics said, although its overall position in the other five categories remained the same as last year — although, the company added, T-Mo “typically performs much better in metropolitan markets than it does at state or national levels, and that was again the case in the second half of 2018.” Sprint, meanwhile, “third or fourth in each category for the second straight test period, but the carrier’s ranking in the network reliability category declined in this test period.”
RootMetrics said that in order to succeed in its national category, network providers need to provide “outstanding performance across all of the different spaces where consumers use their smartphones, from cities and towns of all sizes to highways, rural areas, and all the places in between.
RootMetrics’ rankings are based on nearly 3.9 million tests performed over about 231,000 miles of drive-testing and tests of nearly 8,000 indoor locations, the company said. The company tested 125 metropolitan areas and visited 4,000 places, it added, and increased its testing during peak usage hours and in high-traffic areas in 13 major urban centers in order to get a more detailed view of user experience there.
In an interview with RCR Wireless News, Mike Haberman, vice president of network engineering, said the RootMetrics rankings are a point of pride for the operator.
“It doesn’t get old with us,” he said. “It’s the impression customers get with the service, so we have to stay vigilant … which is why we continue to stay on top.”
At a metro level, Verizon snagged 667 RootMetrics awards in testing during the second half of 2018, up from 602 during the first half. Of those, Verizon won in 118 out of 125 markets for network reliability, plus 94 awards for speed and 102 for data performance. Asked if not winning the reliability award in those seven markets informs network investments, Haberman explained Verizon’s logic: “We don’t necessarily go out to win a market. That’s not what we do. What we do is we have an engineering standard that we apply to all the markets. We shoot for the next period to do better. It’s about paying attention to what our standard is … and applying it everywhere.”
Verizon also won the most state-level awards: 263, followed by AT&T with 129, T-Mobile US with 22 and Sprint with 15 (those totals include both outright wins and shared awards). While Sprint had the lowest number of total awards, that figure was still a major improvement from the first half of 2018, when it won just seven state-level awards. T-Mobile US saw its number of state-level awards decrease from 32 in the first half to 22 in the second half, but both Sprint and T-Mobile US tallied an overall loss of total awards at the metro level. T-Mo still won 323 metro-level awards, not far behind AT&T’s 349 and well ahead of Sprint’s 80 wins — but it won 454 metro-level awards during the first half of 2018.
Haberman attributed Verizon’s continued success to investing in LTE Advanced technologies—4X4 MIMO, 256 QAM and multi-channel carrier aggregation, which is available in 1500 markets. Haberman noted that same technology set makes up what rival AT&T has branded as “5GE.” On that front, he said Verizon has a larger “5GE” footprint than AT&T.
Further commenting on AT&T’s “5GE” branding, which has prompted Sprint to file a federal lawsuit alleging false advertising, Haberman said, “I think it hurts the industry quite frankly because you appear disingenuous. Sometimes in this industry you get painted with the same brush. They make no material changes and they call it 5G. I think it shows poor form. And it’s going to dilute the message when true 5G is here.”
RootMetrics, which is part of IHS Markit, noted that the analyst firm has forecast that the 5G market will start off with a “very low base of early adopters in the U.S. in the second half of 2019” and is forecast to reach $19 billion in 2022.
Sean Kinney contributed to this report.