RootMetrics Report: Mobile Carrier Performance Gap Narrows in Seattle

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AT&T was named the top-performing network in Seattle for the first time, while T-Mobile’s recent launch of LTE service significantly boosted the carrier’s data speeds.

AT&T was named the top-performing network in Seattle for the first time, while T-Mobile’s recent launch of LTE service significantly 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 Seattle, AT&T took the top spot in the combined performance category, which includes results from data, call, and text testing of 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 consumer experience.

“Seattle highlights many trends we've seen emerge across the mobile performance landscape. A year ago, Verizon was ahead of the game. In the first half of 2013, AT&T made strides. Now we're seeing T-Mobile step forward with impressive LTE speeds. In short, the gap is narrowing in Seattle,” said Bill Moore, CEO of RootMetrics. “In this round of testing, AT&T proved the most reliable, T-Mobile was the fastest, and Verizon had a strong overall performance. This is all good news for consumers; as carriers improve performance, people in Seattle have more choices for quality mobile service.”

The final combined performance RootScore rankings for Seattle:

1 – AT&T (96.3)
2 – Verizon (94.2)
3 – T-Mobile (92.0)
4 – Sprint (79.5)

While reliability and speed have always been part of how RootMetrics tests, the company recently introduced two standalone indices within 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 Seattle, AT&T ranked the highest in network reliability, and T-Mobile was the leader in network speed.

Reliability Index rankings for Seattle:
1 – AT&T (97.4)
2 – Verizon (95.4)
3 – T-Mobile (90.8)
4 – Sprint (80.5)

Speed Index rankings for Seattle:
1 – T-Mobile (93.4)
2 – AT&T (91.9)
3 – Verizon (88.4)
4 – Sprint (64.8)

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

T-Mobile races past the competition with LTE-fueled speeds
All four major carriers now offer LTE service in Seattle. T-Mobile’s recent launch of LTE nearly doubled its average download speed from 9.5 Mbps in May to 17.8 Mbps. Its average upload speed more than tripled, rising from 2.4 Mbps to 7.3 Mbps.

In contrast, Verizon’s average upload speed decreased from 8.7 Mbps to 6.6 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
T-Mobile: 17.8 Mbps download/7.3 Mbps upload
AT&T: 15.1 Mbps download/7.9 Mbps upload
Verizon: 12.7 Mbps download/6.6 Mbps upload
Sprint: 2.5 Mbps download/0.6 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. Verizon had the fastest time in Seattle at 2.6 seconds, with AT&T and T-Mobile close behind at 2.8 seconds and 2.9 seconds, respectively. People using the Sprint network could be waiting longer than others for their email to download, with an average download time of 6.5 seconds.

Making the call
AT&T and Verizon had the strongest call results in Seattle and shared a victory in the category. The two carriers had statistically comparable call failure rates of 0.5% or lower on average. To provide perspective, only about 1 in 200 calls would fail (drop or block) at this rate.

Text me
Seattle has plenty of great options for texting services. Sprint stood apart from the other carriers as the most reliable performer in the text category, with a 0.0% send failure rate. All four carriers delivered texts in less than 10 seconds at least 93% of the time.

Nearly 50,000 tests in Seattle
To evaluate the mobile experience in the Seattle area, RootMetrics conducted 49,953 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 25 – October 2, 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 71 locations) and outdoors during drive tests (covering 2,001 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 Seattle. 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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Ann Marie Ricard
Rootmetrics
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