RootMetrics by IHS Markit, the standard for mobile performance benchmarking, today released its semi-annual US State of the Mobile Union report for 2H 2019, providing the most comprehensive picture of mobile network performance available. With mobile users across the US relying on fast data connectivity for streaming videos, online gaming, and much more anywhere and everywhere they go, the new RootMetrics report showed that major US carriers offered generally fast data performance, with the speeds of AT&T and Verizon a step above those of Sprint and T-Mobile.
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- Carrier speeds in US metros getting faster: two years ago, the fastest median download speed recorded by RootMetrics during metro testing was 50.1 Mbps. Jump ahead to 2H 2019, and the fastest median download speed improved to 66.6 Mbps.
- Verizon continued to lead the competition at US national, state, and metro levels.
- AT&T and Verizon registered faster speeds than Sprint or T-Mobile, but all four carriers provided strong speeds in most metropolitan markets across the country.
- Verizon delivered an unmatched combination of consistently fast speeds and outstanding reliability in US metros.
- Early 5G speeds and availability in the US were mixed, but improvements are expected later in 2020.
Fast speeds becoming vital to the end-user experience
As more and more consumers depend on excellent data performance as a fundamental part of everyday life, it’s no surprise that fast speeds are becoming the foundation of the always-on end-user experience. A recent RootMetrics survey showed that always-on users are:
- Heavily reliant on fast data performance
- More likely to make mobile plan purchasing decisions on the basis of data performance
- More likely to switch carriers on the basis of data performance
- Extremely excited about the potential of 5G and what it means for daily connected life
The good news for always-on users is that RootMetrics testing showed all four carriers have made huge speed improvements in metropolitan markets over the past two years. For instance, the number of markets in which all four carriers combined to register median downloads speeds of at least 30 Mbps improved from 82 in 2H 2017 to 255 in 2H 2019.
Topline speeds of AT&T and Verizon impress in major metros as 5G rollouts continue
While 5G deployments have begun in major cities across the US, it will likely be well into 2020 or 2021 before the myriad promises of 5G are realized and 5G becomes a default mobile technology. That said, the carriers are still delivering impressive speeds on 4G LTE, especially AT&T and Verizon.
The consistency of each carrier’s speed results are a key aspect of the end-user’s data experience. To provide a look at the speeds consumers can expect from each carrier, the new RootMetrics report includes a summary of speed performance at various speed intervals during metro testing. For real-world perspective, topline speeds of 50+ Mbps would allow an end user to download a movie (600MB) from Netflix in under 2 minutes.
Based on the above chart, movie fans looking to download content should be especially pleased with the performances of AT&T and Verizon. Not only did AT&T and Verizon register impressive download speeds in major metropolitan markets, both carriers offered strong performance during metro testing in general, with Verizon winning by far the most Metro RootScore Awards among all carriers. Sprint and T-Mobile also offered solid speeds in most metros across the country.
- AT&T remained a strong performer with fast speeds: AT&T was the only carrier that improved its award total in 2H 2019, and the carrier’s speed results were stronger than those of Sprint and T-Mobile.
- Sprint improved its high-end speeds: Sprint registered good speed results in general, while improving its number of markets with speeds above 40 Mbps from one in 1H 2019 to six in 2H 2019.
- T-Mobile registered strong speeds and good data reliability: T-Mobile clocked median download speeds of at least 30 Mbps in 50 markets and speeds of 40 Mbps or better in 12 of those metros.
- Verizon continued its run of excellence in metro-level testing: Verizon delivered the best combination of fast speeds and excellent reliability among all carriers.
“A key finding from our recent study of always-on users showed that above all else, end users expect a fast data experience. While 5G will eventually provide game-changing speeds that will power our connected communities and alter our daily mobile experience, the fact remains that the 5G era is just beginning. That said, the good news is that all four carriers are providing speeds on existing 4G LTE networks that are fast enough for consumers to do what they need to do with their smartphones,” said Kevin Hasley, Head of Product at RootMetrics. “As our latest report shows, AT&T and Verizon offered particularly fast speeds in major metros, and the speeds of Sprint and T-Mobile were quite good in most of the markets we tested. As 5G continues to expand in the US, all four carriers’ speeds should only get faster.”
The importance of good mobile performance expands beyond major metros: Verizon remains the leader in state and national testing
Mobile users in today’s connected society expect excellent network performance anywhere they go, from dense urban areas to rural areas and all the places in between. RootMetrics testing showed that Verizon continued to outperform the other carriers across the US as a whole and at the state level, while AT&T remained a strong number-two performer. Verizon won or shared all six national awards and earned far more state-level awards (246) than any other carrier. AT&T, meanwhile, earned a share of the US Text RootScore Award for the sixth straight report and improved its state-level award total from 113 in 1H 2019 to 143 in 2H 2019.
Early 5G availability and speeds offer mixed results
RootMetrics tested 5G in select cities to see how the recently deployed 5G networks of AT&T and T-Mobile compared to the more established (but still relatively new) 5G services of Sprint and Verizon. While the results were somewhat mixed in terms of both 5G speeds and availability, Sprint and Verizon showed particularly impressive speeds in some cities. The following table shows each carrier’s fastest 5G median download speed during testing across Chicago and Los Angeles, along with how long it takes to download a 600MB video at each speed.
How RootMetrics tests
RootMetrics combines scientific data with real-world mobile performance insights to provide consumers with an independent view of each carrier’s performance where they live, work and play. RootMetrics tested US carrier networks from nation to neighborhood, with tests conducted across major metropolitan markets, cities and towns of all sizes, rural areas, and the highways that connect them.
During the second half of 2019, RootMetrics scouters drove 225,794 miles, visited 7,764 indoor locations, and conducted more than 3.8 million scientific tests of mobile performance. National, state, and metro tests were conducted using unmodified, off-the-shelf Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones purchased from carrier stores. For 5G testing, RootMetrics used a Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G to test the 5G networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon and a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to test Sprint’s 5G. RootMetrics uses random sampling techniques to ensure results offer a robust characterization of performance across six testing categories, including overall performance, reliability, speed, data performance, call performance, and text performance.
About RootMetrics by IHS Markit (www.RootMetrics.com) RootMetrics by IHS Markit provides mobile analytics that measure mobile network performance and offer insights into the consumer mobile experience. RootMetrics provides data on mobile network performance to help the networks improve and give consumers an end-to-end look at mobile performance. To ensure that RootMetrics results reflect real-world mobile usage, testing is conducted based on where, when, and how consumers use their smartphones most often.
About IHS Markit (www.ihsmarkit.com)
IHS Markit (NYSE: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 business and government customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.
IHS Markit and RootMetrics are registered trademarks of IHS Markit Ltd. and/or its affiliates. All other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners © 2019 IHS Markit Ltd. All rights reserved.