As the 4G LTE war is heating up in the U.S. with carriers vying to best each other in speed tests, AT&T is showing that speed is just one factor of the mobile experience. Focusing on network performance, call and SMS reliability, and network speeds, AT&T is showing its muscles as it takes on larger rivals and smaller competitors in delivering a superior network experience.
Relying on independent research conducted by Root Metrics once again, AT&T says that it is first, or tied for first, place in the most markets in the second half of 2013. Claiming a first or tied for first in 93 cities, AT&T edges out Verizon’s 68 claims and T-Mobile’s 5-city claim.
For example, in tech-heavy San Francisco, California, Root Metrics gave AT&T a tied for first rating in call performance, data performance, and text performance. Given the congestion of the San Francisco market where AT&T ranked last just 6 or 7 years ago, the carrier has made huge strides in restoring customer confidence in a big way.
This is a significant victory for AT&T, whose network has been hit hard in the days of the iPhone exclusivity. As demand for the iPhone overwhelmed the network in 2007 and 2008, AT&T suffered from poor customer satisfaction, dropped calls, and slow data speeds. However, as the iPhone later expanded to rivals Verizon, Sprint, and later to T-Mobile USA, AT&T beefed up its network and its rivals are now facing the same overwhelming demand that is slowing down their networks.
The slow downs are significant enough that rival Verizon, which had long held claims to the marketing of ‘America’s Most Reliable Network,’ was overtaken by AT&T in other tests last year with AT&T claiming the fastest and the most reliable 4G LTE network in the country. Verizon had committed to expanding coverage in hard hit metropolitan areas, like San Francisco and New York, to improve coverage and boost data speeds late last year.
And while Verizon and AT&T are battling it out, newcomer T-Mobile is showing that it has what it takes to play in the big leagues. During a relatively uncouth keynote where T-Mobile CEO John Legere bashed AT&T Mobility’s head for his weight, the nation’s fourth largest carrier also boasted that it had the fastest network and threatened to take away AT&T’s claims in joking remarks. T-Mobile also said that its UN-carrier initiatives was met with positive reactions and it grew its subscribers.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that T-Mobile’s metrics come from individual users who rely on Ookla’s Speedtest.net application on their phones, rather than from independent research. The danger here is that given T-Mobile’s limited coverage and more limited subscriber base, you’ll likely find faster Speedtest.net results. It’s a self selecting process where subscribers will test the network speeds in areas with sufficient or good coverage and not test the network in poorer network conditions.
Still, having the fastest speeds may not be indicative of having the best network either. Factors like reliability and network coverage also come into play, and that’s why few business and small business owners would consider switching from a more established network like Verizon or AT&T to T-Mobile. These factors are covered by independent research data and are not part of the Speedtest.net app’s metrics.
Speaking with small business owners in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles, a majority said that they wouldn’t switch even if they can save a few dollars each month if they have dropped calls because T-Mobile doesn’t have robust coverage.
Whatever the case will be, mobile demand will continue to grow over the next few years as more people go mobile and find that they can enjoy the same levels of productivity while at home or the office when they are mobile as they have access to voice calls, video chats, video streaming, and fast Internet browsing. It will be an interesting landscape to watch to see who has the best network as demand increases and technologies improve.
Additionally, at CES, AT&T had announced plans to evolve its network to support HD voice with LTE-Advanced, which will bring clearer voice calls and faster call connection times this year to select markets.