City specific results
Of all the major cities we tested, New York City came top for overall consistent quality, with an average score of 78% of tests meeting Tutela’s criteria for an excellent”consistent quality score across all operators. Verizon beat that average significantly, with 92% of all tests meeting or exceeding the excellent consistent quality thresholds. That means that more than nine of 10 times, a Verizon customer in NYC should be able to reliably make an HD video call or stream 1080p video without any difficulties.
Among the other national network operators, T-Mobile was in second place, Sprint third, and AT&T last. This despite AT&T having the second-fastest network for download speed, and Sprint clocking in an average of just 10.9 Mbps.
As the largest city by population in the US, as well as the greatest consumer of data each day in our testing, New York will likely prove an interesting battleground between operators during upcoming 5G deployments. At MWC, Sprint announced it would be launching 5G services commercially in New York in the first half of 2019, T-Mobile confirmed it has installed 5G network equipment in the city, and Verizon has one of its five Verizon 5G Labs located in the city, where the network is working with startups to test out potential 5G use cases. Interestingly, New York does not appear on AT&T’s list of 5G network deployments, either in progress or planned, for later this year.
However, the true test for all operators will be in ensuring these deployments deliver a noticeable improvement in user experience, rather than simply a boost to the maximum speeds on offer.
In San Diego, Verizon took first place in both consistent quality and download speed, but it was a close race. Google Fi was just 2.6% behind for consistent quality, while AT&T was hot on Verizon’s heels with a download speed just 2.9 Mbps slower.
While New York City had a better average consistent quality overall in Tutela’s testing, there was less of a gap between the operators in San Diego -- T-Mobile and Sprint were virtually tied for third place on consistent quality, while AT&T still scored above 70% for excellent consistent quality in the city.
As home to Qualcomm, one of the big players in delivering 5G network infrastructure, San Diego has played host to a number of 5G trials. In December 2018, Sprint. Nokia and Qualcomm completed an over-the-air 5G transmission using 2.5 GHz and Massive MIMO on its live network in the city, while AT&T is promising to unveil a 5G network there early this year. However, daily data usage in San Diego was the lowest among all 10 cities in our testing, while the average download speed was the highest overall at 17.1 Mbps suggesting that of all the major cities, San Diego may be experiencing lower network congestion, and as such, may benefit less from a 5G rollout than other cities.
Xfinity Mobile beat out Verizon for the best excellent consistent quality result in San José, although there wasn’t much in it -- Xfinity Mobile scored 86.6%, less than one percent better than Verizon.
Although it lost out to an MVNO for the best consistent quality, it is worth noting again that Xfinity uses Verizon’s network to provide services to its customers. Verizon was the best-performing network operator overall: it was second for consistent quality, and won the download speed race by over 4 Mbps compared to second-place AT&T.
There was a significant step down in consistent quality between third place T-Mobile and fourth place AT&T, of over eight percentage points. This is despite AT&T having a network nearly twice as fast in terms of average download speed in Tutela’s testing.
Verizon was the best network for both excellent consistent quality and download speed in Phoenix. Meanwhile,AT&T ranked in second place for download speed, while T-Mobile took second-best on excellent consistent quality against Tutela’s performance thresholds by some margin.
Notably, Google Fi outperformed T-Mobile on both download speed and consistent quality, which shows the potential benefit of using two networks (T-Mobile and Sprint) rather than just one.
Although Sprint did provide excellent consistent quality for its users two-thirds of the time, its download speed performance was notably lower, just 7.0 Mbps.
In Chicago, Verizon recorded another clean sweep, winning both the best consistent quality and best download speed. Xfinity Mobile clocked an excellent consistent quality score extremely close to Verizon’s, despite seeing download speeds of about half those recorded by Verizon users. T-Mobile came in third for excellent consistent quality, again beating out AT&T, despite having slower average download speeds.
Verizon announced earlier this month that Chicago would be one of the first cities to receive 5G network services -- launching 11th April 2019. However, with expensive plans and few compatible devices, it is unlikely the city will experience any noticeable changes in mobile experience for the majority of users until 2020. That said, users in Chicago had the third highest daily data usage in our testing, after New York and Houston. 5G deployments may go some way to reducing the impact this demand has on existing network infrastructure.
Verizon took another clean sweep for both consistent quality and download throughput in Dallas. It was the only provider to see average download speeds greater than 25.8 Mbps, and the gap between Verizon’s average download speed and next-placed AT&T was substantial.
The advantage in download speed doesn’t translate to a sizeable advantage in customer experience, however, in terms of providing a network that meets Tutela’s excellent consistent quality threshold notably more often. Verizon did win the best consistent quality for Dallas, with a score of 88%, but T-Mobile wasn’t far behind with 82.7%. T-Mobile snagged second place for consistent quality despite placing behind AT&T for download speed. AT&T ended up finishing fifth for consistent quality in our testing, perhaps lower than expected given the network is based in Dallas, although users are still getting a high level of experience that meets Tutela’s threshold for excellent consistent quality 74.5% of the time.
Dallas had the second lowest daily data usage out of all 10 cities tested, at 154 MB a day.
Verizon was the best operator in Los Angeles on both download speed and consistent quality, although Verizon’s advantage was greatest for consistent quality -- 86%, compared to the next-placed operator T-Mobile, which had 76.3%. Xfinity Mobile was in second place when including MVNOs, while Google Fi once again outperformed the standalone T-Mobile network for consistent quality and download speed.
In Houston, Google Fi achieved the best consistent quality score overall, while AT&T narrowly beat Verizon to take first place for download speed. Houston was also the only city where Verizon’s average download speed dropped below 20 Mbps.
Although T-Mobile’s download speeds were decidedly middle-of-the-pack, at 11.8 Mbps, it had the best consistent quality of any operator (82.9%), and was likely a big part of Google Fi’s winning consistent quality score.
In addition, Houston had the second highest average data download per user per day, suggesting demands on the network are higher than in other cities. Operators will need to factor this higher demand into their strategy to ensure the network can handle this traffic load, especially at peak times.
Overall, Philadelphia placed joint eighth with Houston for both consistent quality and download speed, despite having a daily data usage per user that was the fourth largest of the major cities surveyed.
In the city, Google Fi again took the best overall consistent quality result, with an impressive 86.0%. Verizon was behind Google Fi by just half a percent, but there was a big gap back to third-placed T-Mobile, at 78.9%. The gap between Google Fi and T-Mobile is likely attributable to the combined use of T-Mobile and Sprint’s network.
While Philadelphia’s leading networks demonstrated a consistent quality in line with higher performing major cities, half of networks tested in the city provided an excellent consistent quality less than two-thirds of the time.
San Antonio placed tenth among the ten largest cities by population with an excellent consistent quality score of 69.7%. This means that seven out of ten mobile network connections tested met Tutela’s threshold for excellent consistent quality -- which equates to a network able to reliably provide HD video streaming or group video calling.
In the city, Verizon placed top for both average download speed at 21.5 Mbps, and for excellent consistent quality at 87.7%. AT&T placed second for average download speed at 19.2 Mbps, but came fourth in Tutela’s consistent quality testing, meeting the excellent threshold 73.3% of the time.
San Antonio, previously the home of AT&T’s headquarters, is also one of the original 12 cities selected for the network’s initial 5G rollout, switched on in December 2018. How this will affect mobile networks in the city as 5G devices become more common remains to be seen
Tutela measures network quality based on the real-world performance of users in the field. Results in this report are based on a testing configuration to represent typical (not maximum) performance of users. We used a 2 MB file to perform our download testing and a 1 MB file to perform our upload testing. Tutela employs software installed on more than 3,000 partner apps to complete frequent, lightweight tests using 2 MB files.
Our results differ from other network testing companies which measure the peak performance of networks under ideal conditions (such as downloading a 200 MB file).
In total, Tutela’s software operates on over 250 million Android and iPhone devices globally, collecting over 10 billion mobile data measurements every day. Our data scientists analyze results for each country every month, and our analytics platform, Tutela Explorer, lets operators chart, map, and filter over 80 key performance indicators into customized dashboards to help them better understand industry performance and benchmark against competitors.
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