RootMetrics Study: Verizon Is the 'Undisputed Leader'

Last week, wireless carriers traded barbs over who had the better unlimited plan. This week, expect the focus to turn to who has the better network, with Verizon earning bragging rights from the latest RootMetrics report on network performance.

RootMetrics' report, released today (Feb. 23), rates Verizon as the "undisputed leader" of both coverage and reliability. For the second consecutive semiannual report from the mobile testing firm, Verizon not only was named the top carrier overall, but also swept RootMetrics' awards for reliability, speed, data, calls and text. It's the seventh consecutive report where Verizon has taken top overall honors.

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For the RootMetrics report covering the second half of 2016, Verizon tallied a RootScore of 93.8, ahead of AT&T's 90.5 score. Sprint finished third on the strength of its performance in calls and texts, while T-Mobile brought up the rear with a RootScore of 81.2.

Credit: RootMetrics

(Image credit: RootMetrics)

That's likely to generate some grumbling at the Uncarrier, which hasn't been shy in the past about criticizing RootMetrics' results. Indeed, a day before RootMetrics published its report, T-Mobile chief technology officer Neville Ray published a blog post criticizing network testing that favors drive tests over crowdsourced data for using outdated methodology.

Given that RootMetrics' testing involves driving around 250,000 miles to monitor performance across the U.S., it doesn't take much guesswork to figure out which testing firm T-Mobile's Ray had in mind. To remove any doubt, T-Mobile specifically the crowd-sourced network testing compiled by OpenSignal, which recently found T-Mobile and Verizon to be neck-and-neck in terms of LTE performance, with the UnCarrier closing the gap on Verizon's edge in LTE availability.

Verizon will likely prefer to talk up the new RootMetrics numbers, though, and for good reason. In RootMetrics' state testing, Verizon won or shared 278 of the possible 300 RootScore awards. (AT&T, Verizon's closest competitor in the report, won or shared 92.) In metro area testing, Verizon won 658 awards, a gain of 95 from its performance in the first half of the year, according to RootMetrics.

The testing firm chalks up Verizon's dominant performance in its report to Verizon's LTE Advanced service enabled over the summer. With LTE Advanced, Verizon uses three-carrier aggregation to boost its speeds. It joins T-Mobile as the only wireless provider widely using three-carrier aggregation, RootMetrics says.

Other carriers can find some positives in the RootMetrics report. AT&T is described as a "strong number-two performer behind Verizon" nationally, while the testing firm concludes that Sprint could close the gap with other carriers by expanding its LTE reach beyond big cities.

Tom's Guide has wrapped its own network testing, and we'll be publishing our results soon.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.