Tutela, which relies on device-based, crowd-sourced measurements, found Verizon’s network has the most consistent quality

Mobile virtual network operators’ customers consistently get slower download speeds the customers of the branded carrier host network –23% slower on average, according to a new report from test company Tutela.

Tutela, which uses device-based, crowd-sourced data for its measurements, looked at five key performance indicators of “consistent quality” in LTE mobile networks in order to rank operators. The company said that it analyzed 240 billion measurements from more than 2.8 million handsets, including 11.4 million mobile network speed tests, 300 million latency tests and more than 600 million jitter and packet loss tests in the U.S. between January and August of this year.

“While top speeds are indicative of a strong network, we believe reliable network quality is equally, if not more, important. Our new consistent quality score gives a real-world view of true mobile experience, allowing operators to invest in areas that are going to have the biggest impact for consumers,” said company VP Tom Luke in a statement. 

Tutela reported that Verizon provided the most consistent network quality in 31 states, while T-Mobile US came out on top in 14 states. Consistent quality on AT&T’s network in urban areas “lags behind both Verizon and T-Mobile,” the company said.

The five KPIs making up Tutela’s consistent quality score are:

-Download speeds of greater than 4 Mbps

-Upload speeds of greater than 2 Gbps

-Latency of less than 50 milliseconds

-Jitter of less than 30 milliseconds

-And packet loss of less than 5%.

Those conditions, the company noted in the report, “might not seem especially challenging for carriers to hit. That’s because most popular apps are optimized to work under less-than-ideal conditions.” Tutela’s score looks at the amount of time that carriers exceeded those minimum thresholds for decent performance.

Verizon scored the highest in all five of those performance areas, although T-Mobile US performed well in average upload speed and AT&T did well in terms of packet loss.

Tutela said that Verizon met or exceeded its KPIs in 78.1% of tests in urban areas, while T-Mobile US met or exceeded the KPIs in 76.5% of urban area  tests and AT&T had a “significantly lower” 60%.

“When we look at average LTE download speeds, however, AT&T outpaces T-Mobile by an
increasing margin, while still coming in well below Verizon,” Tutela added. “T-Mobile followed Verizon in having the second lowest jitter, while AT&T beat out the ‘uncarrier’ for second place in lowest packet
loss. Sprint, which T-Mobile is working to acquire, consistently came in last place across all tests.”

Sprint had notably higher packet loss and jitter than the other three carriers, according to Tutela’s analysis.

However, Tutela uncovered some interesting differences in how carriers handle the traffic of the MVNOs which use their networks, versus subscribers to their own brands.

Its test showed that Comcast’s Xfinity, which operates on Verizon’s network, provides roughly half the average data speeds in urban areas where Tutela conducted tests — 12.6Mbps in comparison to 24Mbps. The consistent quality score showed a 33.8 point disparity in Verizon’s favor,” the test company said.

For AT&T and its MVNOs, Tutela found that “Consumer Cellular, Cricket, and H2O all have download speeds that are around half what AT&T offers in the urban locations where Tutela tested both.” However, the company went on to add that H2O andConsumer Cellular “both managed to achieve significantly higher consistent quality scores than AT&T: 72.8% and 71.5% respectively, compared to around 67% from AT&T.

“While we can’t draw any absolute conclusions, one possible reason for this is superior core network elements (e.g. gateways and routers) on the part of those two MVNOs. Cricket, meanwhile, came in far lower with 40.8% compared to AT&T’s 65.7%,” Tutela said.

For T-Mobile US, Tutela found that “the MVNO download performances of Consumer Cellular, LycaMobile,
MetroPCS, and Ultra Mobile were remarkably similar to T-Mobile. However, MetroPCS’ website states
that its customers’ data is ‘prioritized below data of some T-Mobile-branded customers at times and
locations where competing network demands occur.’ Tutela’s data reveals that at busier times
MetroPCS customer experience lags further behind T-Mobile than at quiet times.”

Meanwhile, for Sprint, Tutela found that the “download performance of Sprint MVNOs Boost and Virgin Mobile is just under Sprint’s average speeds, but the carrier has a better consistent quality score by about 10% in comparison to both resellers, which is an improvement on AT&T’s network performance versus several of the wireless resellers on its network.”

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