It seems like a fact. If you were to ask someone, even someone who isn’t really into technology, “who has the best cellular network in America,” 9 out of 10 times the response you would receive would be, “Verizon.” Between the “Map for That” commercials, AT&T’s CEO making ridiculous statements about people needing to use less data, and the rumor of tiered data plans to curb the usage of iPhone owners those who use their smartphone to its full potential, there isn’t really any reason to think that Verizon’s network isn’t superior to AT&T’s. However, the New York Times has data from several wireless networking companies that seem to go against what we assume to be a simple truth.
One of the companies, Global Wireless Solutions, “covered more than three million miles of roads this year, while running almost two million wireless data sessions and placing more than three million voice calls,” and after compiling all this data concluded that, “AT&T’s data throughput is 40 to 50 percent higher than the competition, including Verizon.” A second company, Root Wireless, “ran 4.7 million tests on smartphones for each of the four major carriers, spread across seven metropolitan areas: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles/Orange County, New York, Seattle/Tacoma, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington.” Root Wireless came to the conclusion that, “in every market, AT&T had faster average download speeds and had signal strength of 75 percent or better more frequently than did Verizon.” Note that San Francisco and New York City are included in that list. Now, we’re thinking the same thing as you, where is the disconnect (pun intended)?
When Root’s Chief Technology Officer was asked why his company’s data goes against similar tests conducted by Consumer Reports, and others, his rational was rather shocking, the tests were done on devices other than the iPhone. The iPhone does not allow Root Wireless’ software to run in the background as is necessary, so other smartphones are used to conduct the tests. Roger Entner, a senior VP a Neilson Research, was quoted as saying, “the iPhone has the nimbus of infallibility, ergo, it’s AT&T’s fault,” however the air interface within the iPhone itself that controls both voice and data communication has, “serious shortcomings.” Is AT&T taking the heat for Apple? Who knows, both AT&T and Verizon aren’t publishing their internal data on network performance. For the time being, as Root Wireless’ CEO put it, consumers will continue to be, “buried under opinions and advertising slogans,” and for those of us who are affected, the calls will keep dropping.