Which Carrier is a Winner for USA Visitors at the London Olympics? RootMetrics Ranks the Mobile Providers on Top Roaming Performance

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Testing reveals Verizon outpaces the competition on overall data speed.

Americans heading to the London Olympic Games now know what level of service to expect from their mobile provider while attending the Summer Games, thanks to a comprehensive report released by RootMetrics® that ranks the performance of U.S. carriers while roaming in London. This overview of data, text, and voice performance is the first international coverage report from the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which has evaluated mobile performance in over 75 markets around the United States.

While the carriers performed comparably in call and texting tests, in data performance Verizon was the overall winner. Verizon led the pack with an average download speed of 1.2 Mbps and tied Sprint with an average upload speed of 0.5 Mbps.

Verizon was also the most reliably swift, recording speeds above 1.5 Mbps in 46.3% of tests. Its closest competitor, AT&T, only managed speeds this fast in 19.2% of tests. At the other end of the spectrum, Verizon only fell below 500 kbps in 21.6% of their tests.

“The 1.5 Mbps and 500 kbps speed thresholds are the best way to get a sense of how your mobile usage habits will be affected while roaming in London,” said RootMetrics CEO Bill Moore. “They reveal clear differences in carrier performance while also providing valuable context for how consumers could be affected in common daily activities.”

At a speed of 1.5 Mbps, it would take approximately 15 minutes to download a 30-minute television show and approximately 15 seconds to download a song. Compare that to a speed below 500 kbps, which would take at least 1 hour to download the same television show and at least 1.5 minutes to download the song.

Cellphone roaming occurs because U.S. carriers do not have infrastructure in Europe, so U.S. visitors to London will roam on the network of a European carrier, or “operator.” Additionally, LTE is not yet available in the U.K., so data speeds were noticeably slower than those observed in U.S. cities. AT&T and Verizon customers in particular can anticipate not only significantly slower data speeds but also less reliable data delivery than what they are used to in the U.S.

Other observations in the mobile roaming competition:

  •     Verizon recorded the fewest dropped calls and Sprint recorded the fewest texting failures.
  •     Call failure rates in London averaged 6.1%, while the time to receive a text message hovered around 6.0 seconds.
  •     AT&T, Verizon’s closest competitor in the average download race, finished with a speed of 0.9 Mbps. T-Mobile placed 3rd with an average download speed of 0.6 Mbps, while Sprint finished last with an average download speed of 0.5 Mbps.
  •     Sprint and Verizon each recorded an average upload speed of 0.5 Mbps. AT&T wasn’t far behind, averaging a 0.4 Mbps upload speed. The outlier in this group was T-Mobile, which recorded a much slower average upload speed of 0.1 Mbps.
  •     With a notably high 15.0% failure rate, AT&T finished last in data reliability testing. The other carriers tied for first, with failure rates near or below 10.0%.

User experience could vary considerably during the next month or so in London, especially within stadiums and other crowded venues. Congestion on operator networks could lead to slow performance and elevated failure rates for those visiting London to watch the Games.

About RootMetrics™
Based in the Seattle area, RootMetrics is a fiercely independent data company dedicated to helping improve the daily mobile experience of consumers. Numbers are powerful and helping the mobile consumer is our #1 priority. We’re a facilitator between consumers and carriers, using technology on smartphones to gather independent data so that the carriers hear real-world concerns, can make smarter decisions on how to upgrade their networks, and connect with consumers. We’re gathering accurate, trusted data that helps consumers find the products and services that best fit their unique needs so that they can get the most out of their mobile lives. RootMetrics: making mobile work better for consumers.

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