Despite all the ads for special family data deals and discounts on the latest smartphones, fierce competition among major wireless providers is giving consumers and businesses plenty of choices for service. And the Triangle is a poster child for the battle in a year that so far has been dominated by Verizon.

But in the Triangle, AT&T ranks No. 1, according to independent testing firm RootMetrics.

The Seattle-based firm’s latest reports rank AT&T as No. 1 in Raleigh, Durham and at RDU International Airport. The top Raleigh honor has gone to AT&T in three consecutive testing rounds.

However, the battle is tight as all four major carriers are improving their service levels and speed as they steadily increase call reliability, download speeds and text services. And if trends continue, T-Mobile could soon become the leader. Both T-Mobile and Sprint have dramatically improved their scores since RootMetrics began testing in 2012. Sprint scored a mere 44.5 and T-Mobile came in at 74.4, both far behind Verizon and AT&T.

RootMetrics’ latest report, which is based on more than 20,000 tests for connectivity speed, text and speed reliability, says AT&T is No. 1 in Raleigh with a score of 98.6.

Verizon is next at 97.5 followed by T-Mobile at 96.2 and Sprint at 93.1.

Interestingly, the overall scores of the top four decreased slight in the latest tests, which are conducted twice a year. The latest testing took place in October. In testing earlier this year, AT&T scored 99 followed by Verizon (98.2), T-Mobile (98.1) and Sprint (94.6). (Raleigh-based Republic Wireless, which leaves network capacity from Sprint for its service, is not listed in the report.)

In August, RootMetrics data showed Verizon and AT&T tied for the top spot across North Carolina. Verizonw as deemed the overall winner nationally.

Verizon and AT&T are the top two wireless providers in terms of customers followed by Sprint and T-Mobile.

Other Triangle, national results

In the most recent Durham tests announced in October, AT&T scored 98.3 followed by Verizon (97.3), T-Mobile (94.6) and Sprint (89.8).

At RDU, RootMetrics tests in October scored AT&T at 99.6 followed by Verizon (98.7), T-Mobile (89) and Sprint (79.8).

In testing across all 50 states and 125 metropolitan areas this year, Verizon has dominated with 69 No. 1 finishes followed by AT&T at 37, T-Mobile 12 and Sprint 3.

Few dropped calls

Across Raleigh, the report notes:

“AT&T recorded the fastest median download and upload speeds at 16.7 Mbps and 12.9 Mbps, respectively” while Verizon’s speeds actully dropped.

How good is service?

“Notably, AT&T did not record any blocked or dropped calls during testing, while Sprint and Verizon did not record any blocked calls,” the report says.

The improving performance of wireless service can be linked in large part to faster technology such as 4G LTE networks. The terms refer to fourth generation delivery (fifth is under development), and LTE refers to Long-Term Evolution, which increases “the capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvement,” as Wikipedia explains.

“AT&T was ranked highest in our October, 2015 tests of overall network performance in the Raleigh area. Our overall RootScore Award looks at data, call and text performance across all data network technologies, including 4G LTE. We look at performance from the consumer’s point of view, and AT&T offered a very strong overall performance for those in Raleigh during our tests,” said Julie Dey, vice president of RootMetrics

In a statement, AT&T says its commitment to 4G LTE, which it launched in Raleigh in January of 2012, is one reason why the company leads in the Triangle.

“Our customers depend on their wireless service to help manage their busy lives,” said Robert Doreauk, regional director of External Affairs for AT&T North Carolina. “They want service they can depend on as they travel in the Raleigh area. We are happy to see our network investment is paying off and our customers are getting top-ranked wireless performance.”

AT&T pointed out that is invested around $1.6 billion in its North Carolina wireless operations between 2012-2014.

The full report can be read at: