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Sprint Is No Longer the Worst Network, Says RootMetrics Study

T-Mobile continues to do well in some major cities, but loses out in the latest statewide and national comparisons.

Susan Law Cain / Shutterstock

Sprint is no longer the worst wireless network in America.

RootMetrics, which measures a wide range of network attributes including data speed, reliability and call quality, said that Sprint passed T-Mobile to move out of last place among the four major carriers in both its national and statewide results.

“It’s a very encouraging result for us,” Sprint network chief John Saw said in an interview on Monday. “It took us a little longer than we anticipated to get to this point.”

T-Mobile, which finished third six months ago and which replaced Sprint as dead last in the nation, continues to do well in many of the major cities, but lost out in nearly all statewide and national comparisons.

“We believe the metro stuff is the most important,” T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said in a phone interview. Ray said that looking at the top 30 metro areas, T-Mobile is second to Verizon in a number of categories and first at pure LTE speed.

Ray also noted that many of Sprint’s awards came from voice and text quality rather than the speed of its data network.

“Four years of Network Vision (Sprint’s network improvement effort) and they came up with a good 3G network,” Ray said. “The LTE performance is still pretty woeful.”

Meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T continued to reign in the RootMetrics rankings at the state and national levels, with Verizon topping AT&T more often than not.

Sprint and T-Mobile have traded places several times in the two years that RootMetrics has been doing its national rankings.

RootMetrics CEO Bill Moore noted that none of the carriers actually saw its absolute performance drop from six months ago.

Sprint and T-Mobile are both on the upswing, Moore said, but “AT&T and Verizon aren’t resting on their laurels.”

“Everybody is getting better, effectively across the board,” Moore said.”That’s good for consumers.”

Saw said Sprint’s goal for 2015 is to increase the density of its LTE network, paving the way for more consistent performance and, eventually, to carry voice, in addition to data, over LTE. While consumers don’t especially care how their calls are being routed, voice-over-LTE does pave the way for advanced features like video chat. Eventually, carriers can also re-use the spectrum now used for 2G networks that handle voice.

Ray said T-Mobile is looking to reach 300 million people with its LTE network this year and also expand the number of metro markets it serves.

“Our map at the end of the year starts to look very like that Verizon map,” Ray said.

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