AT&T and Verizon still the best networks for highway travel

Testing wireless networks is an imperfect science, at best. Different studies with wildly different methodologies routinely crown different networks as the Best Network ever, based on statistical interpretation of data.

But one thing that coverage testing can be excellent for is working out which network is the fastest or most consistent in a particular region. Normally, those regions are cities and states, but one new study tests something very different: Coverage along the highway.

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Global Wireless Solutions, a network benchmarking company, conducted over 700,000 voice and data tests along 52,000 miles of road in the lower 48 states and Alaska, between March and July this year. This kind of “drive-testing” has its flaws, especially when it comes to measuring coverage across the whole country. But when you’re testing for speed and coverage in one specific circumstance — inside a vehicle — it can be the most consistent and repeatable solution.

The results put AT&T and Verizon in first place, which isn’t remotely surprising. The two biggest carriers also have the networks with the widest coverage. T-Mobile has been building out its network at speed, but it’s focused on metro areas, as that’s where most people (and most of T-Mobile’s customers) live.

The test ranked AT&T as the fastest network, with an average download speed of 6.9Mbps. AT&T and Verizon tied for first place in reliability and upload speed, with “more than 99 per cent of data tasks initiated on the road” completed.

T-Mobile came in third and Sprint fourth, but both of the smaller carriers struggled, especially on reliability. T-Mobile’s call completion rate was 89 percent, behind the 97 percent of AT&T and T-Mobile.

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