2020 US Nationwide Test
of Mobile Networks
Global Wireless Solutions completes annual “consumer experience” testing in over 500 markets representing 94% of the US population.
How was this determined? GWS Best Network OneScore takes into account voice, packet data, video, coverage, and reliability metrics, and combines them into a single score that highlights the overall performance of each network. The testing includes results from 501 markets in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, representing 94% of Americans. In addition, the importance of each metric is weighted based on feedback from consumers across the US; feedback that focuses on those elements of network performance that matter most to Americans.
What sets this evaluation apart from others? We drive, test, and collect more data in more locations than others. And by combining the engineering-led test results with consumer research, GWS has created the most comprehensive evaluation ever that highlights the performance of each major network in the U.S.
Key Test Facts
9.8 million individual controlled tests were conducted by GWS wireless network specialists in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
501 markets were tested including all US metropolitan areas as well as many other cities and towns – representing 94% of US population
1 million miles were driven while testing
GWS collection and evaluation of data was conducted using specialized network test equipment, Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, GWS’ Mobistat data reporting platform, and big data analytics
Findings from the study also show:
Network Capacity Stress Test
AT&T has the fastest throughputs during GWS’ network stress tests.
Data SpeedDownload – Verizon is the fastest for small download tasks like receiving app-related content or loading web pages while AT&T is the fastest for large download tasks like receiving photos and videos. Upload – Verizon has the fastest uploads for small and large tasks like posting social media content, videos, and photos.
AT&T has the highest success rate across the nation in completing data tasks.
AT&T has the best overall video streaming experience in terms of quickest loading time and least amount of rebuffering, and tied with T-Mobile for highest video quality.
Verizon had the lowest call setup time and the best voice retainability (i.e. lowest number of dropped calls) while AT&T scored the highest in voice quality and voice accessibility (i.e., successful call initiations).
Have the Networks Progressed?
GWS’ annual nationwide benchmarking program includes scientific testing, engineering analysis, and big data analytics. As a result, over time we can see how the networks are evolving – how the deployments of advance features are impacting each network’s performance. From our vantage point, the networks have been very active in upgrading their networks and adding new technology features from carrier aggregation to 256 QAM and MIMO to antenna beamforming and so on – all cornerstones of today’s evolving networks as we move forward into the era of 5G. The net result has been a dramatic increase in data throughputs along with marked improvements in voice calling and video streaming.
For example, over the three years that we have evaluated and reported on the best network, we have seen average throughput speed increase 62% across all operators. In particular, AT&T doubled their throughput speed while Verizon increased theirs by over 50%.
108% increase in throughput speed over last three years (based on network capacity stress tests between 2018 and 2020)
52% increase in throughput speed over last three years (based on network capacity stress tests between 2018 and 2020)
29% increase in throughput speed over last three years (based on network capacity stress tests between 2018 and 2020)
57% increase in throughput speed over last three years (based on network capacity stress tests between 2018 and 2020)
501 markets in total. Yellow pins represent top 25 metropolitan markets in terms of population.
As a result, by combining engineering-level testing with the results from current nationwide-level polling, GWS’ OneScore creates the most balanced picture of the mobile experience that consumers care most about today. Further, this combination of controlled, scientific testing (conducted with test equipment in each market across the US) along with in-depth nationwide consumer research results in the industry’s most comprehensive, realistic evaluation of network performance.
Network performance is often tested by looking only at factors like throughput or signal quality. This provides a good high-level overview of the state of a wireless network. But what does that mean to consumers using those networks? Would they rather be able to make a high quality call, or do they only care about fast data speeds? To truly understand if networks are providing measurable benefits, it’s crucial to understand consumer expectations and behavior when using their mobile devices.
More specifically, our consumer survey includes questions asking respondents to rank the importance of different tasks they perform on their mobile device, as well as the importance of different aspects of network performance. Our nationwide network test results are then weighted according to how consumers prioritize what’s important to them, and evaluated in eleven different network performance areas related to voice, data, network reliability and network coverage.
GWS collection and evaluation of data was performed between February and July 2020 using specialized test equipment, Samsung Galaxy mobile devices, GWS’ Mobistat reporting system, and big data analytics. The resulting setup enables the collection of a wide array of key network and device information, from radio frequency to packet and other network engineering data (including layers 1, 2 and 3; Ethereal IP and IMS Signalling).
Our testing platform also enables us to perform detailed voice quality score and call testing using standard algorithms such as perceptual objective listening quality analysis; all of which helps determine network voice quality and performance.
Using this platform, GWS network testing specialists were able to run tests and collect millions of measurements from multiple networks simultaneously (this also eliminates time and location as variables; something that cannot be done with other forms of network testing such as crowd source data collection). Over the last 24 years, we have benchmarked mobile networks of all shapes and sizes across the globe with all types of technology and features; and along the way we’ve invested millions of dollars and extensive resources in developing our collection and evaluation process. It’s a process that eliminates random, anomalous data found in other forms of network testing and it’s a process that emphasizes accuracy and “real world” consumer experience.
Voice Calling – Don’t You Lose My NumberFor the third year in a row, consumers consider making and receiving phone calls as the single, most important function on their phone.
Consumers & Operators – So Happy Together
8 out of 10 surveyed said that their operator has met their mobile communications needs during the pandemic in terms of wireless performance ‘always’ or ‘most of the time.’
Selecting an Operator – Tell Me What You Really, Really Want
Top factors that consumers consider when selecting a new operator (in order): coverage, reliability, network speed.
Smartphones – Never Gonna Give You Up
If consumers could only keep one product or service during the stay-at-home mandate, their top choice was their smartphone.
5G Delivers – Good Vibrations a Happening
Just over half of those surveyed weren’t aware or had limited awareness that 5G delivers greater capacity – allows more people, devices, and high demand systems to reliably connect at the same time with desired speeds.
Teleworking Stats – Taking Care of Business
GWS has also conducted research involving the shifting of consumer priorities and preferences as a result of living, working, and communicating from home during 2020. Click here to see the report.