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Change and upheaval in the US mobile industry, RootMetrics

It’s been a year of massive change in the mobile industry, from the long-anticipated merger of T-Mobile and Sprint coming to fruition to the (slow) growth of 5G to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on connectivity as remote working and learning have taken hold. To provide a comprehensive view of the mobile performance landscape in this changing environment, RootMetrics by IHS Markit, the standard for mobile performance benchmarking, today released its semi-annual US State of the Mobile Union report for 1H 2020, providing the most comprehensive picture of mobile network performance available.

Key takeaways include:

  • Verizon continued to lead the competition at both the national and metro levels.
  • Verizon won the most awards overall, but AT&T bested Verizon in speed and won the US Network Speed RootScore Award.
  • T-Mobile’s 5G footprint leads the pack and continues to grow, but its speeds often trailed those of AT&T and Verizon.
  • Verizon won the first US Network Accessibility RootScore Award, which offers a holistic look at accessibility performance across data, call, and text testing and includes latency results during data testing, as well as speed results during call and text testing.

Fast speeds becoming vital to the end-user experience

As more and more consumers depend on excellent data performance as a fundamental part of everyday life, it’s no surprise that fast speeds are becoming the foundation of the always-on end-user experience. A recent RootMetrics survey showed that always-on users are:

  • Heavily reliant on fast data performance
  • More likely to make mobile plan purchasing decisions on the basis of data performance
  • More likely to switch carriers on the basis of data performance
  • Extremely excited about the potential of 5G and what it means for daily connected life

The good news for always-on users is that topline speeds are impressing in major metros as 5G rollouts continue. RootMetrics testing showed huge strides toward achieving faster speeds and launching 5G in more cities across the country since the second half of 2019.

To provide a look at speeds consumers can expect from each carrier, the new RootMetrics report includes a look at each carrier’s fastest median download speed and how long it would take an end user to download a 600MB video from Netflix at that speed.


Fastest median
download speed 1H


Time to download a
600MB video (sec)



Fayetteville, NC




Minneapolis, MN




Harrisburg, PA




Dayton, OH


Based on the above chart, consumers looking to download their favorite movie should be pleased with the performances of all four carriers, with each registering speeds that would allow movie downloads in under 2 minutes, though AT&T’s median download speed in Fayetteville was the only speed that would let consumers download a video in less than a minute.

  • AT&T remained a strong performer with fast speeds: AT&T outperformed all other carriers when looking at top-end speeds. In fact, AT&T delivered median download speeds of at least 40 Mbps in more markets (67) than any other carrier in 1H 2020, with speeds faster than 50 Mbps in 42 of those metros.
  • Sprint showed high-end speed improvement: Sprint increased the number of markets in which it delivered median download speeds of at least 40 Mbps from 6 in 2H 2019 to 27 in 1H 2020.
  • T-Mobile delivered strong text results, solid data reliability, and impressive 5G availability: T-Mobile had the most widespread 5G network among all carriers and is expected to continue to broaden its availability and increase speeds by expanding its mmWave spectrum 5G to more and more cities and by increasing the implementation of the mid-band 5G spectrum T-Mobile acquired from Sprint.
  • Verizon continued its run of excellence across all award categories: Verizon delivered the best combination of fast speeds and excellent reliability among all carriers, winning by far the most Metro Area RootScore Awards of any carrier, with 329 out of a possible 385. Verizon also delivered the single fastest 5G median download speed of any carrier in 1H 2020 at 254.7 Mbps in Los Angeles, CA, though its 5G availability was limited due to the characteristics of mmWave spectrum and Verizon’s targeted approach to 5G deployments.

“1H 2020 marks the first test period in which we are including 5G results in our testing now that all four major US carriers have deployed 5G, and we saw strong speed improvements overall. We are seeing more cities with 5G from all carriers compared to the second half of 2019, which is a great sign for continued 5G growth in the US,” said Doug King, Director of Business Development, RootMetrics

The importance of good mobile performance expands beyond major metros: Verizon remains the leader in national testing, but AT&T wins the US Network Speed Award

Mobile users in today’s connected society expect excellent network performance anywhere they go, from dense urban areas to rural areas and all the places in between. Verizon continued its run of excellence in national testing, winning or sharing six out of seven awards. Adding to its record-setting performance streak, Verizon won United States RootScore Awards outright in the categories of overall performance, network reliability, data performance, and call performance for the fourteenth straight time. Verizon also earned distinction for winning the new US Network Accessibility RootScore Award outright.

With fast speeds across the board, AT&T pulled away from Verizon to win the US Network Speed RootScore Award. The story here is one of speed consistency across all testing: AT&T delivered fast speeds not only within the top 125 metropolitan markets but also during testing beyond the metro level. Indeed, at a speedy 42.0 Mbps, AT&T clocked the fastest aggregate median download speed among all networks in the US.

With 5G still maturing, results across the country are mixed

While none of the carriers offered 5G in every city RootMetrics tested, all four carriers have made great strides in terms of the number of cities with active 5G since 2H 2019. With all four major US carriers now having deployed 5G, 1H 2020 marks the first test period in which Rootmetrics is including 5G results (where available) in performance testing, and it’s also the first time RootMetrics has used 5G-enabled devices to measure performance on both 4G LTE and 5G.

While the results were somewhat mixed in terms of both 5G availability and speed, T-Mobile registered the highest 5G availability among all carriers in any city RootMetrics tested at 62.6% in Jackson, MS. AT&T also impressed, with its highest 5G availability of 49.9% recorded in Columbus, OH. Sprint’s 5G network was in a state of transition during RootMetrics testing as T-Mobile began to reallocate Sprint’s 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum post-merger. Verizon had relatively limited availability due to its mmWave spectrum, which generally offers faster speeds but covers smaller geographical areas than the low-band spectrum used extensively by AT&T and T-Mobile. In terms of 5G speeds, all carriers clocked 5G median download speeds of at least 80 Mbps in at least one city, while Verizon clocked by far the fastest 5G median download speed of any carrier at 254.7 Mbps in Los Angeles, CA.

The following table shows each carrier’s fastest 5G median download speed during testing.


Fastest 5G median
download speed 1H



116.2 Mbps

Phoenix, AZ


97.8 Mbps

Hartford, CT


82.5 Mbps

Hampton Roads, VA


254.7 Mbps

Los Angeles, CA

For full details, visit the complete report at

Additional notes from RootMetrics

  • RootMetrics completes testing in 55 cities before temporarily pausing testing efforts due to COVID-19: RootMetrics tests the 125 most populated metros in the US twice per year, but in 1H 2020, the company completed testing in 55 markets before pausing its scouting efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • RootMetrics testing resumed in June 2020: To accommodate safety restrictions while still following RootMetrics scientific testing methodologies under the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, RootMetrics suspended indoor test collection when testing resumed in June. The RootMetrics summary report therefore includes indoor test results for any market tested in early 2020 and no indoor test results for markets tested in June. For United States RootScore Awards, all indoor test results were removed in order to provide fair assessments of carrier performance across the nation.
  • RootMetrics fine-tunes the Network Speed Award category in 1H 2020: RootMetrics updated various speed thresholds to capture the most accurate possible picture of when users experience diminishing returns based on changing end-user expectations and performance. As a result, Network Speed RootScores from 2020 cannot be compared to those from 2019 or earlier.

How RootMetrics tests

RootMetrics combines scientific data with real-world mobile performance insights to provide consumers with an independent view of each carrier’s performance where they live, work and play. RootMetrics tested US carrier networks from nation to neighborhood, with tests conducted across major metropolitan markets, cities and towns of all sizes, rural areas, and the highways that connect them.

During the first half of 2020, RootMetrics scouters drove over 202,000 miles, visited over 3,100 places, and conducted more than 2.7 million scientific tests of mobile performance. For US national, state, and metro testing in 1H 2020, the company used the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphone to test Sprint’s network and the Samsung Note 10+ 5G to test the networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. All phones were purchased off the shelf from carrier stores to test both 4G LTE and 5G performance, and tests were conducted during the day and night while walking and driving. Note that in early April, after the Sprint/T-Mobile merger was completed, Sprint’s 5G service was only available to Sprint users with a Samsung Galaxy S20 5G smartphone. However, because the Galaxy S20 was not released to the public when RootMetrics began 1H 2020 testing, a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G was used to test Sprint’s performance. RootMetrics uses random sampling techniques to ensure results offer a robust characterization of performance across seven testing categories, including overall performance, reliability, accessibility, speed, data performance, call performance, and text performance.
CT Bureau

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