Verizon still holds the top spot in network performance, leading in all categories except text messaging service, according to the latest score from RootMetrics 2nd Half 2014 U.S. Mobile Network Performance Review. Still, the disparities in performance among the country's top four wireless carriers continued to shrink in the second half of 2014.
Overall, Verizon earned a performance score of 93.9 out of 100. AT&T scored 91.7, Sprint again solidified third place with a score of 86.6 and T-Mobile brought up the rear with an 84.0 rating in the second half of 2014.
T-Mobile stood at the back of the pack in the Network Reliability and Call Performance categories, with its score of 85.4 and 84.9 both falling about 10 points behind Verizon's leading score, according to RootMetrics. Meanwhile, Sprint fell behind in the categories of Network Speed and Data Performance, with ratings of its transfer rates falling roughly 18 points behind Verizon's pack-leading score of 89.0.
Despite T-Mobile's reliability issue and Sprint's trailing network speeds holding the two back from parity with AT&T and Verizon, there was a good deal of positive news for the yellow and purple teams.
In Portland, Oregon, T-Mobile bested its three rivals in overall performance. It's reliability score of 99.8 beat second-place Verizon by 0.1 and its speed rating of 95.0 also beat the red team by half a point.
Industry watcher and telecom analyst Jeff Kagan noted the struggles of Sprint and T-Mobile in recent years, but applauded the pairs' efforts in strengthening and rebuilding their networks.
"These current RootMetric results show that customers are noticing the improvement at Sprint, pushing the wireless carrier ahead of T-Mobile once again," says Kagan. "This is less about a problem with T-Mobile and more about the strengthening of Sprint."
Kagan says he's rooting for Sprint and T-Mobile to close the gap with the top two carriers, which would only heat up competition in the market. And RootMetrics is forecasting a highly competitive 2015, because Verizon and AT&T aren't letting up on the gas.
"Wireless network technology never stays still for long, and even as carriers are working on expanding LTE reach, new technologies are also coming online to improve performance," says RootMetrics. "One innovation that will become more widely used this year is carrier aggregation."
All four carriers are investing heavily in aggregation, the combination of wireless bands to increase speeds and decrease congestion, and hardware manufacturers have already been producing hardware to take advantage of the nascent technology.
The use of tri-band LTE radios is projected to deliver download speeds of around 300 Mpbs, a figure that could balloon as telecoms and hardware manufacturers iterate on the technology.