2019 Nationwide Test of Mobile Networks

Global Wireless Solutions conducts annual “consumer experience” tests in over 500 markets representing 94% of the US population.

AT&T Crowned Best US Network Based on the Most Comprehensive Testing and Consumer-Focused Evaluation

Key Findings

After months of scientific testing, collecting and analyzing millions of data points across America, we are releasing the findings of the most comprehensive study into wireless connectivity to date. The results from our evaluation (based on scientific and engineering test methods that we have been conducting and refining for over 23 years) show that AT&T has achieved the Best Network OneScore for 2019.

Unlike other benchmarking rankings, GWS Best Network OneScore takes into account voice, packet data, video, coverage, and reliability metrics, and combines them into a single score that highlights the overall performance of each network. The testing includes results from 501 markets in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, representing 94% of Americans. In addition, the importance of each metric is weighted based on feedback from consumers across the US; feedback that focuses on those elements of network performance that matter most to Americans.

By combining engineering-led test results with consumer research, GWS has created the most comprehensive evaluation ever that highlights the performance of each major network in the U.S.

Key Test Facts

9.4 million individual controlled tests were conducted by GWS wireless network specialists in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
501 markets were tested including all US metropolitan areas as well as other cities and towns – representing 94% of US population
Nearly 1 million miles driven while testing
GWS collection and evaluation of data was conducted using specialized network test equipment, Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, GWS’ Mobistat data reporting platform, and big data analytics

Findings from the study also show:

Data Speed
Download – AT&T is the fastest for download tasks like receiving photos, app-related content and videos. Upload – Verizon has the fastest uploads for tasks like posting videos, photos and other social media content.
Data Reliability

AT&T has the highest success rate across the nation in completing data tasks.

Capacity Stress Test

AT&T has the fastest throughputs during GWS’ network stress tests.

Video Streaming

AT&T has the best video streaming experience in terms of video quality, quickest loading time, and least amount of rebuffering.

Voice Calls

AT&T scores top for voice accessibility (i.e., successful call initiations) and voice retainability (i.e. lowest number of dropped calls), while T-Mobile takes the lead for best voice quality on calls made.

Networks Prep for 5G

GWS’ annual nationwide benchmarking program includes scientific testing, engineering analysis, and big data analytics. As a result, from year to year we can see how the networks are evolving and which network is outperforming another in certain areas.

In 2019, we saw networks deploying and using advanced features as they move towards 5G; features that include 5 channel aggregation, 256 QAM (a higher order advanced modulation technique), LAA (license assisted access), 4x4 MIMO (an LTE multiplexing technique), and antenna beamforming.

Some networks utilized more of these features than others and overall more of these features were utilized than in 2018. For example:

  • • AT&T displayed the highest increase in 5CA usage, which helps them outperform others in terms of download throughputs.

  • • Verizon launched EVS wideband codec in 2019 which helped improve their voice quality; although T-Mobile again had the best voice quality (they also utilize EVS wideband codec).

  • • Sprint has deployed the most antenna beamforming, a 5G related technology, launching in numerous markets.

Markets Tested

501 markets in total. Yellow pins represent top 25 metropolitan markets in terms of population.

OneScore Ranking Explained

In addition to measuring real-world network performance, GWS’ OneScore also looks at what consumers want from their wireless network in terms of data speed, coverage, video performance, voice quality and network reliability. In particular, GWS annually conducts third party polling of 5,000 consumers across the country.

As a result, by combining engineering-level testing with the results from current nationwide-level polling, GWS’ OneScore creates the most balanced picture of the mobile experience that consumers care most about today. Further, this combination of controlled, scientific testing (conducted with test equipment in each market across the US) along with in-depth nationwide consumer research results in the industry’s most comprehensive, realistic evaluation of network performance.

Traditionally, network performance is tested by looking at factors like throughput or signal quality. This provides a good high-level overview of the state of a wireless network. But what does that mean to consumers using those networks? Would they rather be able to make a high quality call, or do they only care about fast data streaming? To truly understand how those networks are performing, it is crucial to understand consumer expectations and behavior when using their mobile devices.

More specifically, the consumer survey includes questions asking respondents to rank the importance of different tasks they perform on their mobile device, as well as the importance of different aspects of network performance. Our nationwide network test results are then weighted according to how consumers prioritize what’s important to them, and evaluated in eleven different network performance areas related to voice, data, network reliability and network coverage.

Data Collection, Processing and Analysis

GWS’ team of network testing specialists drove nearly one million miles across the US conducting scientifically controlled tests of network performance. Network specialists drove routes within specified geographic regions based on a weighted algorithm that reflects population demographics, targeting areas likely to have higher mobile usage. What this means is that GWS tested in both urban and rural areas, on major highways and minor roads – testing in areas where consumers live, work and play.

GWS collection and evaluation of data was performed between February and June 2019 using specialized test equipment, Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, GWS’ Mobistat reporting system, and big data analytics. The resulting setup enables the collection of a wide array of key network and device information, from radio frequency to packet and other network engineering data (including layers 1, 2 and 3; Ethereal IP and IMS Signalling). Our testing platform also enables us to perform detailed voice quality score and call testing using standard algorithms such as perceptual objective listening quality analysis; all of which helps determine network voice quality and performance.

Using this platform, GWS network testing specialists were able to run tests and collect millions of measurements from multiple networks simultaneously (this also eliminates time and location as variables; something that cannot be done with other forms of network testing such as crowd source data collection). Over the last 23 years, we have benchmarked mobile networks of all shapes and sizes across the globe with all types of technology and features; and along the way we’ve invested millions of dollars and extensive resources in developing our collection and evaluation process. It’s a process that eliminates random, anomalous data found in other forms of network testing and it’s a process that emphasizes accuracy and “real world” consumer experience.

GWS Consumer Research

All 2019 survey figures are from a study that was commissioned by GWS and conducted by Toluna. Total sample size was 5,221 adults. The survey was undertaken online in June 2019. The figures have been weighted and are representative of Americans (aged 18+).

The following are a few select highlights from the consumer survey results on mobile phone usage and network expectations. As mentioned previously, GWS’ annual consumer survey results are taken into consideration and used to determine weighting when analyzing network test results in the determination of Best Network OneScore.

Voice Calling Is Still Important

Similar to our previous surveys, making and receiving phone calls is the most common activity and considered the most important by consumers.

No Phone, No Work

Nearly one third surveyed said that they could not make a living without their mobile phone.

Reliability vs. Speed

Continuing the trend from our previous survey, consumers find network reliability far more important than network speed. In fact, they consider it to be more than twice as important.

  • GWS defines the industry standard for wireless network benchmarking. We offer network data and engineering analysis through a suite of benchmarking services.