We recently tested mobile network performance during the Boston Marathon. A gruelling event where runners tested their physical endurance and mental toughness as well as their ability to look good in a photograph while totally exhausted at the finish line. In today’s social media friendly world, everyone, whether you’re in the race or at the race, commemorates the event by taking a selfie and posting it to Instagram, for example, or texting it to friends and family.

Given that roughly 500,000 people attended the Boston Marathon and watched the race – there was a lot of stress on the mobile networks to deliver those pics and videos. We tested the entire length of the marathon course to find out which network operator could keep up with the flood of mobile content that was exchanged between spectators and their social communities.

The objective when testing is to capture the consumer experience – to test in a way that best reflects how people use their phones. In particular, we evaluate network operator performance in terms of completing everyday voice and data tasks as well as the speed at which the data related tasks can be completed. At the Boston Marathon, this translated into specific tests involving video performance, voice quality and reliability, as well as data throughput and reliability.

The tests we conducted ranged from making voice calls to streaming YouTube videos to posting on Facebook; and we also varied the file size so we could simulate posting or sending Instagram selfies, Snaps and Facebook Messenger video messages. We tested along the entire route of the marathon; we also tested before the marathon and we hung out at the finish line during the pouring rain on the day of the race itself. Overall, we conducted over 9,000 voice and data tests.

To make sense of the data and present it in a way that is useful to consumers, we ranked the operators’ performance using our OneScore methodology. Our methodology factors in the network testing data combined with an understanding of how consumers use their mobile devices and what’s important to them (and that’s based on consumer research).

So, what did we find? We were impressed by AT&T’s performance. They finished at the top in every OneScore ranking. They finished first in video streaming performance; they tied with T-Mobile for data speed and overall data performance; and tied with T-Mobile and Verizon in our social media OneScore ranking. In addition, all operators scored equally in terms of OneScore network reliability.

It’s also worth noting that T-Mobile had the fastest upload speeds when sending selfies over the network and when posting content to Facebook. In addition, we noticed that network operators were using advanced LTE features to help manage the large volume of traffic. AT&T, for example, deployed four channel carrier aggregation (4CA) while the other carriers utilized 3CA. Operators also utilized 256 QAM and two and four-way MIMO.

To find out more you can read our press release and other media coverage here.