RootMetrics Report: For the First Time, AT&T Named Top-Performing Network in Chicago

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For the first time, AT&T was named the top-performing carrier in Chicago, but T-Mobile’s recent launch of LTE service has boosted the carrier’s data speeds.

For the first time, AT&T was named the top-performing carrier in Chicago, but T-Mobile’s recent launch of LTE service has boosted the carrier’s data speeds. That’s according to independent mobile analytics firm RootMetrics™, which conducts mobile performance tests designed to replicate real-world consumer behavior.

With the strongest overall performance in Chicago, AT&T took the top spot in the combined performance category, which includes data, call, and text test results from the four national carriers. The RootMetrics combined performance score, or RootScore, is synonymous with coverage: a good Combined RootScore means good overall coverage and a good customer experience.

The final combined performance RootScore rankings for Chicago:

1 – AT&T (98.4)
2 – Verizon (96.2)
3 – T-Mobile (91)
4 – Sprint (90.1)

While reliability and speed have always been part of how RootMetrics tests, the company recently introduced two standalone indices within the RootScore Reports that give consumers a clear view of each network’s performance in these key areas. The new Reliability Index is based on a combination of results from data, call, and text tests, while the Speed Index includes data and text results.

In Chicago, AT&T and Verizon shared the highest rank in network reliability, and AT&T was the outright leader in network speed.

Reliability Index for Chicago:
1 – AT&T (98.2)
2 – Verizon (98)
3 – Sprint (93)
4 – T-Mobile (92.7)

Speed Index for Chicago:
1 – AT&T (98.6)
2 – Verizon (89.2)
3 – T-Mobile (81.1)
4 – Sprint (77.5)

Looking at the network reliability and speed indices in conjunction with Combined RootScores offers the most comprehensive look at a typical mobile experience in Chicago.

“In Chicago, all four of the major carriers are touting LTE service, but as our testing shows, not all LTE is created equal,” said Bill Moore, CEO of RootMetrics. “With these reports, we want to give people an easy way to see beyond the hype to understand how the carriers are really performing.”

AT&T and T-Mobile gain speed as Verizon and Sprint slow down.

All four major carriers now offer LTE service in Chicago. T-Mobile’s recent launch of LTE service should result in faster data speeds for consumers, particularly while uploading files. T-Mobile’s average download speed in the Windy City increased from 8.6 Mbps to 9.6 Mbps since previous testing in May, and its average upload speed more than doubled, moving from 1.8 Mbps to 3.9 Mbps.

AT&T also saw a boost in data speeds compared to earlier RootMetrics testing, with its average download speed rising from 17.8 Mbps to 19.1 Mbps, and its average upload speed increasing from 8.4 Mbps to 9.5 Mbps.

Meanwhile, both Verizon and Sprint showed slower data speeds compared with May results. Verizon’s average download speed decreased from 14.8 Mbps to 13.5 Mbps, and its average upload speed fell from 9.3 Mbps to 6.6 Mbps. Sprint’s average download speed decreased from 8.0 Mbps to 5.3 Mbps since May, and its average upload speed fell from 5.1 Mbps to 4.0 Mbps.

Data speeds affect how quickly consumers can perform various tasks online. For example, in an ideal situation, uploading medium-sized pictures (1 MB) to Facebook or other online albums typically takes 25 to 45 seconds at speeds below 3.0 Mbps. At speeds above 6.0 Mbps, uploading a similar picture generally takes less than 1 second.

Average download and upload speeds by carrier:
AT&T: 19.1 Mbps download/9.5 Mbps upload
Verizon: 13.5Mbps download/6.6 Mbps upload
T-Mobile: 9.6 Mbps download/3.9 Mbps upload
Sprint: 5.3 Mbps download/4.0 Mbps upload

You’ve got mail — how long does it take to get it?

RootMetrics measured the average time it took each carrier to download a set of 10 emails. AT&T had the fastest time in Chicago at 2.0 seconds. T-Mobile and Verizon trailed AT&T at 2.7 seconds each. People using the Sprint network could be waiting slightly longer than others for their email to download, with an average download time of 3.3 seconds.

Making the call
AT&T and Verizon had the strongest call results in Chicago and shared a victory in the category. The two carriers tied as the most reliable in our call tests, with failure rates of 0.2% on average. To provide perspective, only about 1 in 500 calls would fail (drop or block) at this rate.

Text me
Chicago has plenty of great options for texting services. AT&T and Verizon had the most reliable text results, with fewer than 0.1% of text messages failing to send during testing. All four carriers delivered texts in less than 10 seconds at least 96% of the time.

More than 97,000 tests in Chicago
To evaluate the mobile experience in the Chicago area, RootMetrics conducted 97,287 call, data, and text tests on the networks of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon during all hours of the day and night from September 12 – September 19, 2013. The tests were conducted using the RootMetrics RootScout app running on Android-based, off-the-shelf consumer smartphones purchased from carrier stores. Tests were conducted both indoors (at 133 locations) and outdoors during drive tests (covering 4,029 miles). Mobile performance varies depending on where people live, work, or otherwise spend time. Because a variety of factors can influence performance, examples that show what data speeds mean while performing various mobile activities are a general look at data speeds for illustrative purposes and aren’t specific to Chicago. For details about the results, see the methodology section of the online report.

About RootMetrics™
Based in Bellevue, Wash., RootMetrics™ is an independent company that provides accurate and unbiased mobile performance data with market-specific RootScore Reports, geographical coverage maps, and a free downloadable CoverageMap app for use on either Android or iOS devices. To ensure that RootMetrics testing reflects a typical consumer’s mobile experience, testing is conducted based on where, when, and how consumers use their devices most often.

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