Verizon reigns supreme in latest wireless test

RootMetrics once again has Verizon dominating in every category of its test, which ranges from speed to reliability and overall quality.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
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The back-and-forth over which carrier has the best network continues, with Verizon Wireless taking the latest win.

The nation's largest carrier also proved to be the best, according to the results taken from the first half of the year from testing firm RootMetrics. Along with the best overall performance, Verizon took the top spot in reliability, speed, data, calling and text message. AT&T finished second in every category except for calls, where Sprint edged out its rival.

The results, which didn't differ much from RootMetrics' second-half 2015 test, give Verizon further ammunition as it touts the superiority of its network. These tests are critical to carriers as they sell you on the strength of their service. That's particularly the case for Verizon, which needs to justify the premium it charges its customers.

But RootMetrics isn't the only game in town, and the results differ radically. Rival testing firm OpenSignal has declared T-Mobile the best overall network, and Speedtest.net regularly crowns T-Mobile the fastest network to boot.


The high score among wireless carriers goes to Verizon.


The differing results come down to how each firm conducts its test. OpenSignal and Speedtest relies on tests run by regular people, which they argue offer vastly more results in real-world situations. RootMetrics uses a fleet of test vans and professional testers with a consistent set of phones.

RootMetrics said it conducted 3.7 million tests, drove 265,386 miles and tested 4,249 indoor locations to get its results.

T-Mobile has previously knocked that methodology, noting that the results tend to be months behind the actual network quality.

On the state level, Verizon dominated by winning or tying in 48 states. AT&T, perennially second banana behind Verizon in the RootMetrics tests, won or tied in only eight states. T-Mobile tied in New Jersey, and Sprint didn't win any states.

RootMetrics also tested the coverage in metro areas, where T-Mobile tends to do better. Verizon, however, dominated by winning or tying in 98 areas. AT&T came in second with 51, while T-Mobile had 40 and Sprint had six.

"Obviously, we are thrilled with the results, and that we continue to improve our leading network performance," said a Verizon spokesman.

A Sprint spokesman said he was pleased with the improvement, and that the company had closed the gap between all of the carriers.

T-Mobile declined to comment beyond noting the improvement in the number of metro areas that it won this time. AT&T declined to comment.

Updated at 7:13 a.m. PT: To include comments from Verizon and Sprint.