RootMetrics Releases Comprehensive Progress Report Exploring Which Mobile Carriers are Delivering “True 4G” Data Speeds

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Results Show Verizon LTE is Fastest Data Network in 24 out of 27 Markets but All Carriers Planning Upgrades and Network Improvements

Verizon Average Data Upload Speeds

RootMetrics™, the first independent service to measure mobile experience from a consumer’s point of view, announced today a comprehensive progress report detailing how the four national mobile carriers are performing when it comes to delivering 4G data speeds. Since March 2011, members of the RootMetrics test squad have traveled the country and performed more than 238,000 data tests in 27* different local markets. By aggregating all of these data test results, the company has identified patterns of performance and can isolate carrier consistencies. During this eight-month timeframe, Verizon dominated the competition as a result of its LTE rollout, delivering 4G speeds in 66 percent of the tests. AT&T edged past T-Mobile, hitting 4G speeds in 41 percent of the tests. T-Mobile recorded 4G speeds in 40 percent of the tests and Sprint delivered 4G speeds in 33 percent of the tests.

“We’re in the midst of a rapidly changing mobile environment. During months of testing, we’ve been looking for answers to one of the questions we hear time and again from consumers – which carrier has the fastest network?” commented Bill Moore, CEO of RootMetrics. “This Progress Report aims to provide some context around what people are hearing today from the carriers, but also to give a snapshot of what these speeds mean in real-world terms.”

RootMetrics’ Performance Testing Spectrum
During the performance tests, RootMetrics used average speeds to compare the carriers, and established a series of threshold speeds for this study. The company compares carrier performance along the following spectrum:

•Data download speeds greater than 3 Mbps will be considered “4G”
•Speeds between 1.5 Mbps and 3 Mbps will be considered “Upper 3G”
•Speeds between 500 kbps and 1.5 Mbps will be considered “Lower 3G”
•Any speed below 500 kbps would create an especially slow experience for consumers and will be considered “Below 3G”

Verizon – Measuring both the Fastest and among the Slowest
The clearest pattern throughout all 27 markets is that Verizon’s LTE is fast. In fact, Verizon won the RootMetrics RootScore Award in the data category in 24 of the 27 markets RootMetrics tested, losing only in those cities where LTE was not present. In cities where RootMetrics could test Verizon’s LTE network, the carrier’s average download speeds were roughly equivalent with the other carrier’s maximum download speeds. In the non-LTE markets, though, the picture changed considerably and Verizon was among the slowest for data delivery. Tests in non-LTE cities recorded in the lower 3G zone or entirely below the 3G zone over 27 percent of the time.

A Close Race between the Remaining Three Carriers, with Upgrades Being Implemented
AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint offered fairly similar performance overall and jockeyed back and forth behind Verizon in different markets. AT&T and T-Mobile were especially close: AT&T offered 4G speed in 40.7 percent of the tests, while T-Mobile recorded 4G speeds in 38.5 percent of tests. The edge goes to AT&T because it offered a greater percentage of tests in the Upper 3G zone and fewer in the Below 3G zone.

•AT&T – This carrier delivered 3G speeds more consistently than other carriers, recording speeds in the 3G range in 48 percent of the testing. Also, AT&T fell below 3G speeds in only 11 percent of the testing—the lowest percentage of any carrier.

AT&T’s data speeds progressively improved from the start of the study in March 2011 to the time of this report. The general trend line shows that average download and upload speeds, as well as maximum download and upload speeds have all increased.

AT&T delivered speeds above the 4G threshold in 16 of the 27 markets. Each of AT&T’s 4G cities came after the carrier’s upgrade to an HSPA+ 21 device took place.

•T-Mobile – The carrier performed at 4G speeds in 13 of the 27 markets tested. However, when the carrier doesn’t hit 4G, the data speeds are less consistent within the 3G spectrum and were prone to slipping to slower 3G speeds. When not on 4G, 21 percent of the tests registered in the Upper 3G zone, 18 percent in the Lower 3G zone and 22 percent in the zone below 3G.

T-Mobile is improving its infrastructure by upgrading to an HSPA+ 42 network and they have, in fact, already rolled out these improvements in several markets. At the time RootMetrics performed its testing, T-Mobile had not released a smartphone capable of accessing the upgraded network.

•Sprint – There was significant disparity between cities where Sprint had WiMAX available and those where WiMAX was not present or access proved sporadic. For instance, Sprint delivered a market best average in download speed of 4.6 Mbps in WiMAX-enabled Kansas City, while recording a much slower 0.5 Mbps in non-WiMAX Buffalo.

Similar to Verizon, RootMetrics observed a significant disparity when it came to Sprint’s data speed. Sprint exceeded the 4G threshold in 13 of 27 markets, and delivered 4G speeds in 33 percent of tests. On the other hand, Sprint rarely recorded speeds in the Upper 3G zone, reaching this zone in only nine percent of tests. RootMetrics recorded the majority of Sprint’s results in the Lower 3G zones (22 percent) or Below 3G zone (36 percent). Sprint recorded speeds below 3G more often than any other carrier.

To evaluate the data speeds in the 27 local markets, RootMetrics performed more than 238,000 data tests, covering all hours of the day and night, between the months of March and October 2011. Tests centered on typical activities that consumers perform on their smartphones including uploading and downloading files from the Internet.

The RootMetrics RootScore Progress Report analyzes the data test results from 27 individual local U.S. wireless markets. The company will continue to publish additional reports on local U.S. wireless markets and additional “Progress Reports" to help evaluate any changes in carrier performance.

Consumers who are interested to see how their network coverage measures up can download the free RootMetrics Cell Phone Coverage Map App for iPhone or Android devices.

Mobile performance varies depending on where people live, work or otherwise spend time.
The results of this report combined with the geographical coverage maps at and via the Cell Phone Coverage Map Apps allow people to make better decisions about the right carrier for their individual needs.

About RootMetrics™

Bellevue, Washington-based RootMetrics is building a movement to create a more open mobile market that democratizes mobile performance data. Deploying a sophisticated smartphone application, RootMetrics partners with consumers to collect network signal strength and data throughput speeds, aggregating collected metrics into easy-to-understand maps that rate each carrier’s performance. This comparative data provides transparency into comparative carrier performance down to the most granular levels. For more information, please visit

*The 27 markets include: Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Riverside-San Bernardino, St. Louis, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Virginia Beach, Washington, D.C.


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Ann Marie Ricard
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