RootMetrics Compares Mobile Carriers in New Data Performance Review, Verizon Continues to Dominate

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New Report Shares Results from Nearly 500,000 Data Speed Tests in 75 U.S. Markets

RootMetrics™, the first independent service to measure mobile experience from a consumer’s point of view, released today an industry-wide health check on mobile carriers’ data performance. The report, titled, “The Need for Speed: A RootMetrics Review of Data Performance,” looks at carrier performance results in the first half of 2012. During this timeframe, RootMetrics had visited 75 markets, tested coverage across nearly 100,000 miles within those cities, and performed almost 500,000 drive and indoor data tests using off-the-shelf smartphones to show what consumers truly experience. The report shows that the main stories of the first half of 2012 are 1) Verizon’s large LTE network and its continued lead in the RootMetrics data tests; 2) T-Mobile’s impressive download speeds despite not offering LTE; and 3) AT&T’s expanded entry into LTE and its potential for changing the data speed race.

“With ads touting the benefits of LTE and ‘4G’ speed, the introduction of shared data plans, and the continued growth of smartphone ownership, the 2012 mobile landscape is tightly focused on data performance,” said Bill Moore, CEO of RootMetrics. “Our team is committed to cutting through the marketing hype to show what typical consumers are truly experiencing. In the end, numbers are powerful and the end results speak for themselves. They provide people with a clearer picture of what to expect from their carriers in real-world conditions.”

In the report, RootMetrics examines how consistently each carrier delivered fast download speeds and, just as important, how often the carriers recorded slow download speeds. To chart this angle of data speed performance, RootMetrics divided performance across three benchmark speed categories that provide an easy-to-understand continuum of how consumers would experience downloading data:
•Life in the fast lane. How often a carrier recorded speeds above 5 Mbps. RootMetrics notes that speeds above 5 Mbps provide a good indication of a 4G consumer experience.
•No passing allowed. In this category, RootMetrics notes how often a carrier recorded speeds between 1.5 Mbps and 5 Mbps. These speeds represent a wide swath of “3G” service.
•Caution: potential slowdown ahead. This category includes details on how often a carrier recorded speeds below 1.5 Mbps.

Life in the Fast Lane
Verizon dominated when comparing download speed intervals, delivering an impressive 77.4% of their download tests at speeds above 5 Mbps. Verizon also offered the least percentage of tests in the slow bucket. In short, Verizon was the most consistent carrier for delivering fast speeds and also the most consistent at avoiding the slowest speeds.

Beyond Verizon, things get more interesting, especially given T-Mobile’s strong performance without the availability of LTE. Their HSPA+42 network proved a major story of their first-half testing. Though AT&T edged ahead of T-Mobile, the distance between the carriers was small. In fact, despite AT&T’s rollout of LTE, they were often closer to T-Mobile than to Verizon. Compare, for instance, how often each of these three carriers delivered speeds above 5 Mbps: Verizon did so in 77.4% of our tests, while AT&T did so in 48.1% of our tests and T-Mobile surpassed 5 Mbps in 46.7% of our tests. While T-Mobile can’t tout LTE, their HSPA+42 network is turning in some very respectable download speeds and might surprise consumers.

No Passing Allowed
Sprint and MetroPCS were a tier below those on the fast track. Both Sprint and MetroPCS recorded nearly 70% of their tests in the slowest bucket, pointing toward a potentially hindered consumer experience while downloading data.ii The difference between these two carriers? Sprint proved much better at the top end of the tests. MetroPCS delivered speeds above 5 Mbps in a scant 0.9% of the RootMetrics tests, while Sprint did so in 17.2% of the tests.

Caution: Potential Slowdown Ahead
Cricket never exceeded 5 Mbps in our download tests and only delivered speeds that fell in the medium bucket 6.3% of the time. A whopping 93.7% of their tests qualified for the slow bucket.
The RootMetrics Review of Data Performance is one of a series of performance measurement reports from RootMetrics. The company will continue to publish additional reports on U.S. wireless markets to help consumers make better decisions about the right carrier for his or her individual needs. Review all RootScore reports at http://www.rootmetrics.com.

Consumers who are interested to see how their network coverage performs compared to other carriers can download the free RootMetrics Cell Phone CoverageMap 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 http://www.rootmetrics.com and via the Cell Phone CoverageMap app, allow people to make better decisions about the right carrier for their individual needs.

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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Ann Marie Ricard
RootMetrics
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