By Dr. John Saw, CTO, Sprint
It’s an exciting day here at Sprint! We have just announced that our LTE Plus Network now beats Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile by delivering the fastest LTE download speeds according to an analysis of Nielsen Mobile Performance (NMP) data.
This matters in a big way because Nielsen looks at how real customers are actually experiencing the network based on a panel of volunteers representing more than 270 million consumers. It does this with an app that continually monitors performance on their phones, measuring LTE download speeds for common applications such as Facebook, Netflix, YouTube, Snapchat etc. This crowd-sourced data is always working uninterrupted in the background to show us exactly what wireless customers are experiencing.
As we look at data such as NMP, we see there’s a lot of noise in the market about whose network is better, and it’s important to understand how network tests differ. Today we see three types of metrics being used by carriers:
1.Nielsen Mobile Performance (NMP) – NMP uses crowd-sourced data to measure actual network performance and the real customer experience. In the Oct. – Dec. timeframe NMP measured more than 75 million download events.
2.RootMetrics® – RootMetrics is an independent mobile analytics firm offering scientific insights into how users experience networks under real-world conditions. Using off-the-shelf smartphones, the company tests call, data, and text performance from the end-user point of view. The company’s complementary series of RootScore Reports offers a full, nation-to-neighborhood view of mobile network performance.
3.Ookla – With its speedtest.net app, Ookla relies on crowd-sourced data from those consumers that for whatever reason choose to conduct a speed test. This type of stress-test also measures network performance capability.
Using a highway analogy for speed testing, some companies stress-test networks to determine how fast a network highway is built to perform – they are testing the capability of the network in a particular moment. Nielsen, on the other hand, uses crowd-sourced data to measure how fast actual traffic on the network highway is really moving on an ongoing basis.
Taking a Closer Look at Verizon and T-Mobile’s Claims
Verizon relies on RootMetrics data for its current “Better Matters” ad campaign, and Verizon would like you to think that their network is dramatically better than everyone else’s. As some media have so aptly reported, while Verizon’s network once held a big lead, that’s no longer the case. In their latest racing balls TV ad, they chose to use RootMetrics’ state awards rather than the metro awards. We assume they did this because the metro award landscape has become more competitive, with Sprint being the most improved (according to analyst Jeff Kagan). At the close of 2H 2015 we won a record 212 first place (outright or shared) metro RootScore® Awards for overall, reliability, speed, data, call, or text network performance in 125 metro markets as compared to just 27 awards in the same markets in 1H 2014.1
Yes, Verizon does hold the most #1 RootScore Awards, but what they aren’t telling you is the fact that #2, #3, and #4 are hot on their heels, and in many cases the difference between #1 and #4 is literally undiscernible to the customer. TakeHouston for example. Here we’re tied for #1 in overall performance, but look closely at the difference between #1 and #4 – the gap is extremely small. Same thing in Austin, Boise, Denver….There are many examples where it’s a very close race.
T-Mobile relies on Ookla for its network claims, which again, measures how fast a network is built to perform, not how fast traffic is actually moving. To achieve this, Ookla collects speed tests submitted by wireless consumers and compares those speeds by operator. The downside is, unlike NMP, which latently monitors network conditions (including speed) while consumers are using their phones for their daily needs, consumers must explicitly initiate Ookla speed tests. Not many customers run their speed test apps regularly, and usually when they do, it is for diagnostics purposes - either in an area where their experience may be very bad or very good.
T-Mobile may currently have made their highway faster (per their Ookla-based marketing claims), but with the introduction of BingeOn, we see that cars on their highway are moving at slower speeds. All those multi-lane highways and nowhere to go because they put in speed bumps.
As you can also see in the above chart, as Sprint continues to build faster highways, our customers’ cars travel at higher speeds compared to the rest, which is what matters!
Continually Improving the Sprint LTE Plus Network
In the past six months we’ve seen a meaningful impact from our deployment of two-channel carrier aggregation in more than 150 LTE Plus markets both big and small across the country. In the second half of this year independent third-party data shows that Sprint had the fastest median download speed in 16 LTE Plus cities, including places such as Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Phoenix. And since the first half of 2014 we more than tripled our average median download speed across 125 markets. An example of just some of the specific speed improvements in the second half of 2015 include:
There are many types of network measurement, and the various claims from our competitors can be confusing. At the end of the day though, what really matters is the actual customer experience, which is why we’re so proud to see the latest Nielsen data showing we now deliver the fastest LTE download speeds.
The teams here at Sprint are more energized than ever, and we’ll keep working hard to make our network even better and stronger. Looking ahead, we’re excited about densifying our network with the addition of more cell sites, and the anticipated network performance improvement as each new site goes live.
1RootMetrics award rankings based on RootMetrics Metro RootScore Reports (July – December 2014 and July – December 2015) for mobile performance, as tested on best available plans and devices on four mobile networks across all available network types. The RootMetrics award is not an endorsement of Sprint. Your results may vary. See rootmetrics.com for details.