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Home Tech Most Reliable Network? Still Verizon, RootMetrics study says.

Most Reliable Network? Still Verizon, RootMetrics study says.

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USA TODAY

NEW YORK–Verizon has long boasted as having the most reliable and robust wireless network. Despite inroads made by rivals, Verizon can still make that claim.

That’s according to the independent testing firm RootMetrics, which declared Verizon the “undisputed leader in terms of coverage and network reliability.”

Nationally, Verizon took top honors in all six test categories for the second straight testing period: overall performance, network reliability, network speed, data performance, call performance, and text performance.

Runner-up AT&T earned second place finishes in five of the six.

Verizon also won 39 of the 50 states outright, compared to just two states for AT&T and none for Sprint or T-Mobile. If you count ties, Verizon was tops in 48 of the 50 states. T-Mobile slipped in the states’ tally.

Verizon Wireless Chief Network Officer Nicki Palmer insists Verizon has widened its lead. “The big story to me is with all these (competitive) claims out there, it’s not even a parity discussion. We have gotten better over the course of the year, so the difference is bigger than it used to be,” she said in an interview.

Without specifically mentioning RootMetrics by name, T-Mobile’s chief technology officer Neville Ray begged to differ in a company blog, in part, he says, because Verizon paid millions to consultants.

Verizon countered that it buys the rights to study the data to look for areas to enhance its network, and to use for marketing purposes since the results are so good.

Francis Sideco, IHS Markit vice president for semiconductors, IT & networking, says that regardless of who subscribes to RootsMetric data, it “remains completely and steadfastly independent, and there is zero outside influence over our testing, our analysis, and our results.” IHS bought RootMetrics last year.

The latest network tests were conducted during the second half of 2016.

That the carriers are constantly going at each’s other throats has become the norm in the fiercely contested wireless industry. The wireless wars heated up again just over a week ago when Verizon became the last of the major carriers to offer consumers a fresh “unlimited” plan. Rivals responded by tweaking their own unlimited offerings.

How the tests are done. RootMetrics uses off-the-shelf smartphones to determine the results, with the testers able to measure how each carrier did in the same location at the same time. The firm conducted 3,690,123 tests in all, covering 100% of the population in all 50 states. Drive tests covered 249,935 miles; 4,283 indoor locations were tested.

The firm also drills down to the state level, where AT&T and Sprint though still trailing are making gains, and in 125 most populated metro areas.

Verizon recorded median download speeds of 10 Mbps or faster in more markets than any other network tested, the study shows, though AT&T and T-Mobile weren’t far behind. Sprint showed moderate speed improvements compared to its results during the first half of 2016.

In his blog post, T-Mobile’s Ray isn’t convinced: “In a 2G world, these studies were everything. You needed paid consultants to drive around and measure network performance. Today, everyone is walking around with a frickin’ supercomputer in their pocket, and those smartphones can now tell us almost everything about network performance – with more granularity, better personalization and billions more data samples.  But, that doesn’t stop Verizon from living in the past.”

Ray blogged that “crowd-sourced” data from real people is a better way to measure performance, and such testing shows that T-Mobile’s network is “pretty damn good and pretty damn fast.”

RootMetrics says its methodology has become an industry standard. “We rely on rigorous science when we test and analyze mobile performance, with the objective of delivering the most comprehensive, accurate, and independent view of the mobile landscape available anywhere,” Sideco said in a statement. “While we believe that crowdsource testing can add color to a consumer’s understanding of their mobile network, crowdsourced data by itself isn’t especially useful or reliable.” One glaring reason, he says, is that by self-selecting the data, that data can be biased.

All the carriers tout good news from industry studies wherever they can find it, of course. Last week, for example, AT&T crowed that it swept all six categories in a J.D. Power “Wireless Purchase Experience” study: the performance of store sales representatives, the facility, the website, phone sales representatives, offerings and promotions, and cost of service.

Meanwhile, despite Verizon’s network success, Palmer says her team is focused on the negative. This constant lookout for network problems, she says, “is because that’s the only way to fix them.”

Email: ebaig@usatoday.com; Follow USA TODAY Personal Tech Columnist @edbaig on Twitter

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