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Which wireless carrier is best for you? Verizon, probably, but check for yourself

Mark Hachman | Feb. 11, 2015
Verizon unquestionably is the best wireless carrier, according to a comprehensive nationwide study of the service provided by the top four U.S. wireless providers during the second half of 2014.

Verizon unquestionably is the best wireless carrier, according to a comprehensive nationwide study of the service provided by the top four U.S. wireless providers during the second half of 2014.

That doesn't mean that it's the right choice for you. But it's a good starting point to help you choose the right wireless carrier, with a little hand-holding.

That's because the national study, released Tuesday by RootMetrics, doesn't dive into the specifics for where you live. What it does tell us, however, was which carrier was best in terms of call quality, data download speed, and other metrics. The data is broken down nationally, on a statewide basis, and in tested metro areas.

While you can assess the report for yourself, you can also use RootMetrics' own coverage map or smartphone apps to drill down further and determine whether the carrier you think is best has actually been proven itself to be so.

RootMetrics tries to test wireless networks from your perspective: placing automated, repeated calls from cars travelling on roads, from fixed locations, at airports, even indoors. All told, the study conducted 5.7 million samples during the second half, the company said.

Overall, Verizon was the clear winner on network reliability, network speed, data performance, and call performance, although AT&T was a close second. From an overall, nationwide perspective, AT&T was second, followed by Sprint and then T-Mobile.

The only real outlier was text performance: There, AT&T finished first, followed by Sprint, Verizon and then T-Mobile. That's a slight change from the company's survey from the first half of 2014, when Sprint finished last, and T-Mobile, third.

The problem with the RootMetrics report is that it doesn't really reveal which carrier performed best in say, Atlanta, as opposed to Seattle. Those specifics are presumably being sold directly to the carriers themselves. But the report offers some general conclusions that might help when picking a carrier:

Verizon is best at the state level.  Providing wireless coverage in dense cities while avoiding network congestion is one challenge; supplying a wireless signal across miles of empty prairie is quite another. Verizon won 38 states outright, tying in 10 others. If you subdivide those states by network reliability and speed; data, text, and call performance; and an overall ranking; Verizon won 257 out of those 300 categories.

T-Mobile's strengths are in metro areas.  No real secret here, if you're a T-Mobile subscriber. T-Mobile's service works fairly reliably in metro areas, and the company even topped one state ranking (Rhode Island) in terms of data speed. (T-Mobile also demonstrated the fastest median upload speed from any network.) But T-Mobile is converting its 3G antennas to LTE technology, and the transition may have hurt T-Mobile in overall testing, RootMetrics speculated. T-Mobile slipped from third to fourth because of call performance.

 

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