RootMetrics Releases “Year in Review” Report, Highlighting 2011 as a Year of Change and Constantly Shifting Carrier Performance

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Report Looks at More than 1.7 Million Data, Call and Text Tests in 50 U.S. Markets

RootMetrics™, the first independent service to measure mobile experience from a consumer’s point of view, announced today a new “Year in Review” report exploring the mobile landscape and carrier performance in 2011. This report analyzes more than 1.7 million real-world data, call and text tests collected from 50 U.S. markets. Using that mountain of data, RootMetrics isolated differences in how the carriers’ networks performed to provide an interesting snapshot of how the carriers measured up during 2011. With three performance categories, three very different stories emerged: Verizon’s domination in the data category, consistency across the carriers in call performance, and T-Mobile’s leadership in text performance.

“During 2011, we published these RootScore Reports as a way to help answer questions that consumers are asking every day – which carrier has the fastest network? Who has the fewest dropped calls? Which one will send or receive texts the quickest?” commented Bill Moore, CEO of RootMetrics. “As 4G moves from ad claim to daily consumer reality, we will continue to stay on top of the carrier’s changes and developments in 2012. We already have 150 in-depth reports planned for this year, so stay tuned.”

Verizon’s Domination in the Data Category

Just before the start of 2011, Verizon became the first national carrier to launch an LTE network; with that head start and an aggressive rollout in 2011, they clearly grabbed the early lead in the 4G race. Verizon’s LTE speeds dominated RootMetrics’ 2011 data tests. Verizon’s average data speeds were often as fast or faster than the maximum speeds delivered by the other carriers. Verizon earned an astounding 43 out of 50 RootScore Awards in the data performance category. AT&T, the next closest carrier, won only 3 RootScore Awards for data. Even more impressive, the only markets that Verizon didn’t win were those where LTE had not yet been rolled out or RootMetrics was not able to test with an LTE-enabled device. LTE, in other words, never lost in 2011.

All was not lost for the other carriers, though. T-Mobile, for instance, shook up the testing in the last part of 2011 once RootMetrics was able to test its upgraded HSPA+42 network. In October, the first two mobile devices capable of accessing this upgrade became available and RootMetrics saw a significant jump in T-Mobile’s download speeds. Though they still trailed Verizon’s LTE speeds by a hefty margin, T-Mobile clearly pulled ahead of AT&T and Sprint in their HSPA+42 cities. In fact, with their upgrade, they often were nearly twice as fast as the speeds recorded from AT&T and Sprint, and sometimes much faster than that. RootMetrics’ 2011 tests show the HSPA+42 network doesn’t appear to be up to the speeds of LTE, but T-Mobile’s October release made the landscape a lot more competitive.

AT&T also showed noticeable improvement as 2011 progressed. Though still far short of Verizon, their data speeds increased throughout the year as they too modified their network by upgrading their HSPA service. AT&T also distinguished itself with the consistency of its speeds. When a carrier’s upgraded network is unavailable, a consumer’s speeds dip as the person drops to one of the carrier’s older infrastructures. AT&T did well in these situations: when RootMetrics was unable to access AT&T’s upgraded network, its legacy infrastructure performed better than those of the other carriers. Speeds dropped, but not dramatically so.

AT&T also undertook several aggressive steps in an attempt to shift the marketplace. The carrier’s bold attempt to acquire T-Mobile collapsed but that wasn’t their only move. At the end of 2011, AT&T rolled out its first LTE cities. This is huge news in the mobile data space. Verizon won’t be alone any longer. AT&T has now officially entered the LTE fray. RootMetrics will be testing AT&T’s entry into LTE and in early 2012 will share results.

While the other carriers were jumping forward, Sprint lagged behind in many of the markets RootMetrics tested. In particular, when WiMAX was unavailable, Sprint’s speeds slowed dramatically. Their 391 kbps average download speed in New Orleans was by far the slowest speed RootMetrics recorded for any of the national carriers in 2011.

Moreover, they fell below 1 Mbps in average download speed in 13 out of the 50 cities RootMetrics tested. Verizon was the only other carrier to dip below the 1 Mbps mark, doing so twice early in the testing, in cities that were non-LTE at the time. In contrast, many of Sprint’s slowest cities came from the second half of RootMetrics’ testing. At a time when the other carriers were aggressively rolling out upgrades to more populations and pushing their modifications beyond the major markets, RootMetrics found large gaps in Sprint’s ability to offer WiMAX in these same cities. At the end of 2011, they are clearly lagging in the race for 4G speed.

Consistency in Call Performance

2011 was a great year for all four major carriers when considering call performance. In general, each of the carriers performed well in RootMetrics’ call tests, with only a small gap between the best and worst performances in a market. Reflecting this equality, the scoring was so tight that in 40 out of the 50 markets, RootMetrics was unable to declare a RootScore Award winner for call.

With the gap between call performance so narrow, consumers’ choice for service probably depends less on a carrier’s general performance than on how they each perform in a specific location. People can use RootMetrics’ free Coverage Map app to drill down and compare the four major carriers where they are most using their phone, tailoring results all the way down to street-level.

A Trouncing in the Text Category

Similar to the disparity RootMetrics observed in data performance, they also found a wide gap in how the carriers performed in the text tests. As surely as Verizon dominated the data category, T-Mobile trounced the competition in the text category. They won the RootMetrics RootScore Award for texting in a whopping 44 out of 50 markets.

Just as RootMetrics saw steady improvement in AT&T’s data performance, so too did AT&T improve during the course of the year in text tests. Sharing or earning top honors outright seven times, they were the only carrier beside T-Mobile to win the RootScore Award for text. With a strong end to 2011, AT&T has set the groundwork for more close texting races with T-Mobile in 2012.

Verizon and Sprint were steady but not spectacular performers in the texting category. Their median text speeds remained relatively close during the course of our 2011 testing. Sprint fell off, however, when comparing the time it took to deliver a text to a phone within a carrier’s own network. They were consistently the slowest carrier in this measurement, often trailing the other carriers by a wide margin.

Combined Performance

With its dominant performance in the data category and a consistently strong showing in call, Verizon easily outpaced the other carriers in the RootScore Award–Combined category. With the enormous gap created by LTE, it seemed as if Verizon was playing on an entirely different field than the other carriers.

Keep in mind, though, that Verizon’s impressive advantage was created in just one year. At this time last year, Verizon’s LTE was in its earliest rollout. With other carriers now adding or preparing to add LTE, that advantage could disappear just as quickly. That’s the real story for consumers to take away from 2011: the mobile space is one of rapid change and constantly shifting performance as carriers continuously upgrade their networks.

The 2011 Mobile Performance: A Year in Review Report is part of an ongoing series of performance measurement reports from RootMetrics. The company has published reports on 50 U.S. markets to date. People can review this and all of the RootScore Reports at

The company will continue to publish additional reports on U.S. wireless markets to help consumers make better decisions about the right carrier for their individual needs.

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

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