Mobile carrier Verizon Wireless is still leading the mobile network race in nearly all aspects of testing, with the company's network again sweeping in the overall performance, reliability and speed categories, according to a report from mobile performance information specialist RootMetrics.
Verizon was also the top-performing network for data and call categories, while AT&T was at the top in text and finished a close second in every other category.
Sprint and T-Mobile trailed behind, suggesting there are still two distinct tiers among the major carriers.
The report noted that due to technology upgrades and improved call performance, Sprint showed progress, leapfrogging T-Mobile to finish in third place in the overall national RootScore and surpassing Verizon for second place in the text category.
"These results show all carriers are making improvements, and competition is heating up," Bill Moore, CEO of RootMetrics, told eWeek. "The improvements seen by Sprint and T-Mobile, led in large part by their performance in the metro areas, bode well for them competing with the market leaders."
While T-Mobile finished fourth in the overall national RootScore, its improved data network and speed performances helped it surpass Sprint to finish third in these categories.
Overall performance scoring is broken down in two ways. First, RootMetrics offers two holistic indices that give consumers a view of each network’s performance in the key areas of network reliability and network speed.
The reliability index is based on how reliably calls could be made and texts delivered, as well as how often RootMetrics could make a data network connection and then stay connected throughout testing of all performance categories.
The speed index includes how quickly a network could download and upload files, send emails, perform typical web and app-related tasks, and send and receive texts.
"Consumers always want it all. We used to be happy that our mobile phones worked at all. Now they are a fundamental part of our daily life, helping us stay connected and be more productive in both business and personal activities," Moore said. "Reliability, the ability to get on the network and complete what I want to do, is the major driver for most of us. And the importance of reliability cuts across call, data, and texting activities. After all, if I can't get on to a network, nothing else matters."
Moore also noted speed is of increasing importance, as well, as we all are doing more and more things on our phones, including high impact activities like video.
"But it's not all about top-end speeds. It's about consistency and staying at high enough speeds to complete the task I want to," he said. "With most current needs, there is actually a point of diminishing returns with speed—you need enough speed to easily accomplish your daily tasks, but beyond that the extra speed isn't necessarily as important. That's why coverage is critical and an all-encompassing term."
In addition to the overall performance category, the report shows which networks provided the most reliable and fastest experience, as well as each network's performance across data, call and text testing, with Verizon leading, followed by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Verizon also led the metro award tally by a large margin, winning or tying for first place in 113 of the 125 overall RootScore Awards at the metro level.
To evaluate network coverage across all test locations, each network undergoes a comprehensive battery of tests that measures data, call, and text performance from multiple angles, with tests for each category conducted over a six-minute test cycle.