First ever test of mobile networks on US highways – which operator was in the fast lane?
Wireless voice and data performance tests conducted coast to coast on highways
Dulles, VA – November 27, 2017: This year, AAA estimated that 45.5 million Americans journeyed 50 miles or more for Thanksgiving, representing more than 89% of all holiday travelers. In the lead up to this year’s busy travel period, Global Wireless Solutions has released the results of its first-of-its-kind controlled mobile performance tests on US highways indicating how well each operator’s network performed. Data was collected over 52,000 miles in 49 states (continental U.S.) providing a full picture of the mobile performance that highway drivers and passengers can expect this holiday season.
Backseat streaming and social media best with AT&T and Verizon
Data performance varied significantly between the four largest national operators. AT&T took top honors with the quickest download speeds for tests similar to watching a short video clip, meaning that it’s the best for backseat passengers streaming clips on channels like YouTube. AT&T’s speed, 6.9 Mbps, was nearly 33% faster than its nearest competitor Verizon. AT&T and Verizon both had the most reliable data service with over 99% of tasks completing successfully, and they also tied for the fastest upload speeds for tests similar to posting to social media. This means that both networks perform well for teenagers posting status updates and checking in with their buddies while on their long journey.
Unfortunately for Sprint, it had the least reliable connection on test with only 85% of tasks completing successfully. This means that while the family is cruising down the road Alexa won’t be able to stream Dad or Mom’s favorite song 15% of the time they ask her to. The operator’s download speeds were closer to that of AT&T’s 3G network than they were to any of its competitors’ LTE network capabilities. It isn’t surprising then that Sprint also relies on its 3G network more than the other operators (LTE was available 97% of the time on Verizon’s network, AT&T 92%, T-Mobile 88%, and Sprint only 86%).
Sorry I’m about to go into a tunnel
For consumers who like to talk on their VoLTE phones while in traffic, Verizon provided the most reliable network with 97% of calls completing successfully while on the road (slightly edging out AT&T at 96%). T-Mobile was the least reliable on the highway with a success rate of 89%; so if you’re running late and need to let someone know, keep in mind that 11% of your calls will be unsuccessful. When making circuit-switched calls on the older 2G or 3G networks, 97% of Verizon and AT&T’s calls were completed successfully while T-Mobile again had the lowest completion rate at 90%.
Network features that make the ride more enjoyable
During the time that AT&T’s LTE network was available, various advanced LTE features such as 256 QAM, 4-way MIMO, and carrier aggregation were active. For example, carrier aggregation for AT&T was available 31% of the time during testing. Deploying these advanced LTE features enables an operator to provide a better end-user experience (e.g., faster throughputs, more reliable connections) to their customers.
On average, AT&T was able to dedicate more resource blocks (as a percentage) to their active users than other operators. They had the highest physical resource block utilization rate (PRB rate) which measures the amount of resources allocated to an active user for data tasks in relation to the total amount of network resources available. Ultimately, AT&T performed best in tasks that matter to consumers such as downloading pictures and videos.
Interestingly, Verizon’s network supported the second fastest speeds for similar download tasks even though its PRB rate was the lowest (which is an indication of higher network loading). Verizon’s LTE network was available 97% of the time (including carrier aggregation availability of 30%) and either came on top or tied with AT&T in terms of speed and success in uploading pictures and videos.
Paul Carter, CEO, GWS commented: “According to the AAA, Americans spend on average 293 hours a year behind the wheel; a greater number of people are making road trips – for example, roughly 3% more were on the road this year during the Thanksgiving holiday than the previous year. Meanwhile, automotive tech is becoming more useful, more connected, and much more available. Innovations such as virtual assistants Android Auto and Apple CarPlay require robust and reliable networks behind them to work the way we expect them too.
When it comes to mobile networks, traffic doesn’t necessarily choke up the network. AT&T and Verizon have roughly double the number of subscribers on their networks than Sprint and T-Mobile, yet due to more efficient use of their networks they’re able to consistently finish at the top of our tests throughout our drive.”
Nearly 703,000 voice and data tests were conducted on major roadways and highways across the country between March and July 2017. GWS collection and evaluation of data was done using Rohde & Schwarz Diversity Benchmarker II test equipment, Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, and GWS’s Mobistat data evaluation and reporting platform.
This includes testing on roadways and interstate highways between major cities in both rural and urban areas across the contiguous US including Alaska (49 states in total); a total of 52,000 miles were driven while actual testing was underway.
About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.:
Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. defines the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Working with some of the world’s largest wireless network providers, GWS offers standardized, high-quality network data and engineering analysis to its customers through a suite of benchmarking products, services, and OneMeasure diagnostic apps that includes drive, venue, and in-building testing.
Firmly rooted in a deep understanding of network engineering, GWS provides best-in-class, turnkey solutions to help customers better understand overall network performance as today’s wireless networks grow and evolve. Founded in 1996, GWS is headquartered in Dulles, VA. At last count, GWS has driven 11 million data collection miles for its customers. For more information, visit www.gwsolutions.com and follow us on Twitter at @gwsolutionsinc.
Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.