RootMetrics US numbers indicate TMUS/Sprint merger is a good idea

The performance metrics of the four US MNOs confirm a significant gap between the big two and the other two.

RootMetrics did a deep dive into the networks of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint over the second half of last year. In the customary way it then published top-line performance numbers and ranked the networks according to a few sub-criteria. As you can see in the first table below, Verizon comes top in nearly all categories, with AT&T close behind and the other two lagging considerably. We’re not sure why AT&T isn’t number one in any of the speed categories but it’s presumably explained somewhere in the methodology.

The report also takes a specific look at 5G and finds some pretty major variations in performance. Verizon got so excited about the finding that ‘Verizon’s 4G LTE speeds were faster than the low-band 5G median download speeds of T-Mobile in Chicago and Los Angeles and identical to AT&T’s low-band 5G median download speed in LA,’ that it published a special press release. This doesn’t come as a massive surprise since TMUS is devoting so little spectrum to its 5G right now.

The more significant issue raised by this report is how far behind TMUS and Sprint remain on most key metrics. This would seem to support the case for their merger, since the resulting economies of scale, buying power, etc, would allow greater investment in the network. Whether or not that would actually come to pass, or whether shareholders would trouser the cash instead, is hard to predict. But it seems counter-productive to insist they continue to struggle as second-tier MNOs.

Belfast tops the UK charts for mobile connectivity

Rootmetrics has crowned Belfast the best city in the UK for mobile connectivity across the first six months of 2018.

Sneaking just ahead of Edinburgh and Sheffield, Belfast scored 96.3 overall, while also ranking in the top three positions in five of the categories measured. Having ranked first for overall performance, network reliability and data performance, the Northern Irish city also ranked second for network speed and call performance.

Looking at the overall table, the rankings do not make for comfortable reading for anyone living in the south of the UK. Nine of the top ten positions were taken by cities which were in the Midlands, the North or Scotland, with leading light Belfast taking up the final spot. London dropped down to 16th overall.

“As the capital city and business epicentre of the UK, you would expect connectivity that is equal to or better than rivals, but that hasn’t been the case to this point,” said Head of Product at RootMetrics Kevin Hasley.

“5G may well be the cure London needs, but currently, performance in other cities like Belfast and Edinburgh has been stronger. It will be interesting to see how the cities at the top end of the rankings encourage investment in new infrastructure to support 5G and thus maintain their dominance.”

For those who bemoan the attention and influence the capital commands over the rest of the UK, this might come as somewhat of an uplift. Companies take numerous factors into account when selected sites for new locations, with mobile connectivity becoming an increasing important one. In the age of IoT and 5G, this might well become more of a conscious factor possibly leading to a more evenly distributed economy throughout the UK.


EE cleans up in RootMetrics testing once more

For the fifth year in a row EE has come top of the RootMetrics assessment of UK mobile networks.

RootMetrics is owned by market intelligence giant HIS Markit and claims to offer ‘the most scientific and comprehensive survey of mobile network performance’. The 1H 2018 report marks the tenth times in succession EE has been the overall winner in the RootMetrics UK tests.

“EE’s reputation for delivering strong speed and performance is maintained in our testing; whilst Three’s consistent reliability places itself as another leading carrier across the UK,” said Kevin Hasley, Head of Product at RootMetrics and Executive Director of Performance Benchmark at IHS Markit.

“The first movers in 5G are going to have an advantage as consumers will see a big step change in performance of their devices across critical functions like live streaming video. EE’s high performance in 4G testing can lead to a seamless service transition to 5G; however it will be a brand new playing field once the technology is live. 5G will give all networks an opportunity to be a leader in performance and service provision.”

“However, 5G is most likely to impact urban area performance as it will be deployed in centres of high population density. Operators will still need to prove and maintain 4G and even 3G performance across wider geographies as that’s how we use our phones. We accept that when on the move and in more rural locations that performance will be lower, but we still have expectations about minimum performance.”

“We have relentlessly invested in improving our customers’ experience of our network,” said EE CEO Marc Allera. “We’re connecting customers in more places than ever before, more reliably than ever before, and with the fastest data speeds in the UK. We’ve been driving forward the UK’s mobile infrastructure for five years, and we’ll keep going – with 5G launching next year to raise the bar yet again.”

Here are the findings by category.

Rootmetrics 1H 18 overall

Rootmetrics 1H 18 reliability

Rootmetrics 1H 18 speed

Rootmetrics 1H 18 data

Rootmetrics 1H 18 call

Rootmetrics 1H 18 text

UK telcos not meeting demands of Brits

New research from RootMetrics points the finger at UK telcos for not meeting the expectations of the demanding consumer, claiming only 53% of Brits are actually happy with their mobile service.

Despite consistent belief and self-praise from the telcos, research pieces like this are becoming more common. Telcos argue performance and net promoter scores are constantly on the rise, while value added services are becoming a game changer, but perhaps this is evidence the telcos are fulfilling the core promise to the consumer; connectivity.

EE and Three have the highest levels of satisfaction with speeds, getting the thumbs up from 57% and 58% of respondents respectively, while O2 ranked the worst at 51%. These numbers aren’t necessarily the worst in the world, but there is almost certainly a considerable amount of room for improvement.

“5G will flush everything out and become a ubiquitous technology for connectivity in metro areas – no more Wi-Fi,” said Kevin Hasley, Head of Product at RootMetrics. “At the moment operators in the UK are involved in a bit of a cat and mouse game with each other and government about who will invest first in the infrastructure. Clearly mobile operators need to plan their capital expenditure carefully, but 5G will be a key battleground to winning subscribers in the near future and there is first mover advantage here.”

While data demands are intensifying, perhaps it is simply because the users have been offered the dream of something better. Telcos have been promising the absolute connectivity experience, anywhere, at any time, but realistically, living up to this expectation was always going to be a tall order. These promises of perfection have seemingly only set the telcos up to fail, and in turn, intensify the demand for 5G.

Looking at the business case for 5G, this is where the UK telcos (and Europe in general) are being a bit coy. Unlike counterparts in the US and Asia, UK telcos seem to resistant to the idea of aggressively rolling out 5G networks. There will of course be multiple reasons for this, from societal, to economic and political, but that does not change the suspicion that Europe will be the last to the connected bonanza. However, there might just be a business case in the consumer world after all.

According to the data, while price remains the defining factor when choosing a provider, 79% of respondents would be willing to pay marginally more if it could provide faster connectivity speed and higher reliability. O2 customers represented the most inclined, 17% to pay £10 or more for a better service, perhaps representing the frustrations of the customers who have been receiving apparent poor service. As with everything consumer related, you have to take it with a pinch of salt.

“People say they would pay more for better connectivity and that option is 100 percent available to them at the time of renewal, but many then make the decision on price alone,” said Hasley. “It is a false economy and people end up biting their nose to spite their face. In most areas of life we make decisions based on what we think is value for money, not just purely price motivated ones. Many among us have a tendency to be penny wise and pound foolish.”

EE the best, O2 the worst – RootMetrics

RootMetrics has released its bi-annual report detailing the performance of the UK’s MNO’s, with EE hitting top-spot across the board, and O2 wallowing at the bottom of the rankings once again.

EE collected the top award for each category measured by RootMetrics, with Three taking joint-first for the ‘Call Performance’ metric. While the margins of victory were certainly not a landslide, the fact that O2 sat at the bottom of the pile nationally, as well as pretty much every metric across the regions as well will possibly be more damaging for the brand than the rewards claimed by EE as the victor.

“We’re starting to see that capital expenditure in the latest network infrastructure, such as EE’s investment in VoLTE pays off in the form of improved customer experience,” said Scott Stonham, GM for RootMetrics in Europe.

“According to IHS Markit research, CAPEX is expected to grow moderately this year, and we will see the foundations being laid for fibre plant and 5G. It will be fascinating to see how the operators balance the creation of the networks of the future and maintaining and improving existing infrastructure.”

The rankings were calculated after RootMetrics took 708,000 tests over the second half of 2018 using a Samsung Galaxy S8, travelling more than 22,048 miles. These measurements also include 649 indoor locations across the UK and RootMetrics claim to have covered 100% of the population. The categories tested were overall performance; network reliability; network speed; data performance; call performance; and text performance.

Below, we’ve noted the performance of each of the brands:

UK England Wales Scotland Northern Ire
EE 1st 1st 1st 1st Joint 1st
Three 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd Joint 1st
Vodafone 3rd 3rd 3rd 3rd Joint 1st
O2 4th 4th 4th 4th Joint 1st

This is of course an overall summary of the performance of the brands, individual cities will vary. So if you are looking to change your contract over the next couple of months, the map below will tell you which provider you should go with depending on where you are in the UK.

Performance Map