RootMetrics Report: Verizon Shines, Sprint Improves As T-Mobile Slips

From data, voice, and text speeds, to how well each carrier performed at a national and local level, here's the details solution providers should know about the current mobile performance of the top four carriers in the country.


The Mobile Landscape

IHS Markit has published its RootMetrics report for the first half of 2019. The country's four top carriers once again competed for dominance at the national, state, and metro level. This year's report wasn't a far cry from the results seen in recent years -- Verizon had a big showing across all six categories tested and AT&T continued to land consistently in second place. But this year, T-Mobile swapped seats with Sprint, falling to last place in nationwide reliability.

CRN dug into the recent report to evaluate how the top four wireless carriers in the country are currently performing. Here's the details you need to know about the current mobile performance of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

The Report

In the first of the twice-yearly RootMetrics report, IHS Markit conducted nearly 4 million tests in the first half of 2019 to see how the carriers performed across the entire US, within each of the 50 states, and in the 125 most populated metropolitan markets in the country. IHS visited more than 4,000 locations and conducted almost 8,000 indoor tests. The report evaluates carriers on six categories: overall performance, network reliability, data performance, speed, texting, and call performance.

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Keeping Their 5G promises

The four major carriers haven't been shy about their 5G plans. Verizon is on track to have 5G live in parts of 30 U.S. cities by the end of this year, AT&T currently has 5G live in parts of 19 cities, Sprint is live in about nine cities with 5G, and T-Mobile right now is live with 5G in six cities.

5G is thought to be a game-changer for both residents and businesses because the next-generation wireless technology promises median download speeds in the range of 150 Mbps to 450 Mbps, which is more than four times faster than the fastest median download speed that the RootMetrics report found across all 125 metros tested in the first half of 2019. Commercial 5G deployments are still in their very early days, and HIS said it intends to start testing 5G networks across the U.S. soon.

AT&T: A Silver Metal Finish

Dallas-based AT&T continued its second-place streak, scoring an identical ranking to the last testing period -- the second half of 2018. AT&T shined in the texting category, tying with Verizon for first place in the U.S. The carrier's strong second-place finish marked the 12th time the carrier came in behind Verizon in state-level testing.

AT&T improved in network reliability and overall performance. The carrier also during the testing period increased the number of markets in which it delivered median download speeds of at least 30 Mbps, going from 38 markets in the second-half of 2018 to 78 in the first half of 2019, with speeds faster than 40 Mbps in 36 of those markets.

Sprint: Moving Up

While Sprint's performance remained largely unchanged from the last half of 2018, the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier did manage to improve its score in the network reliability category, which boosted it up to third place. And while Sprint came in behind AT&T and Verizon in first place in the texting category, it scored a 95.0, only slightly trailing the leaders.

In addition to increasing the number of awards it won during the testing period, Sprint improved its speeds. The carrier's increased the number of markets in which it delivered median download speeds of at least 30 Mbps from 10 in the second-half of 2018 to 34 in the latest round of testing. Sprint also showed improved blocked and dropped call results.

T-Mobile: Still A High-Performer In Metro Areas

T-Mobile’s network reliability ranking dipped from third in testing for the second-half of 2018 to last place. However, T-Mobile, which has always performed better in metropolitan locations than it does at the state or national level, maintained its reputation during the first half of 2019.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based carrier showed improvement in network reliability and call performance. T-Mobile grew the number of markets in which it achieved an excellent reliability score for getting connected, growing from 104 markets in second-half 2018 testing to 110 during this testing period. T-Mobile’s performance, while it slipped into fourth place overall, didn’t necessarily get worse, according to the report. The gains in performance from the three other carriers corresponded with T-Mobile’s decreased award count.

Verizon: Consistently Fast And Reliable

For the year in a row, Verizon once again remains the carrier to beat. Verizon once again won outright or shared the first-place podium in all six categories. The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier stood alone as the winner in four categories; overall performance, network reliability, data performance, and call performance for the twelfth consecutive test period.

Verizon shines at the state testing level. The carrier scored 263 State RootScore Awards out of 300 possible award opportunities in the first half of 2019, which is the second consecutive testing period that Verizon earned 263 State RootScore Awards. The carrier also had the fastest speed among all networks tested in this round, achieving a median download speed of 67.8 Mbps in Dayton, Ohio.