Verizon, its overall score improving, is No. 1 again in the national wireless service survey as conducted by independent research firm RootMetrics. AT&T slips a bit farther behind but remains second followed by Sprint and T-Mobile.

In fact, a review of data from the last three national reports shows that Verizon is the only one of the four to improve its score, which takes into account various factors such as speed, text and call reliability. Verizon has taken the top spot in five straight surveys.

However, two other recent studies have reported somewhat different results.

RCR Wireless reports that a survey from OpenSignal declared T-Mobile as No1 in three of five categories followed by Verizon in two. Also, Nielsen Mobile Performance showed Sprint provided the fastest downloads.

Plus, a recent Consumer Reports survey found that smaller providers scored higher in customer satisfaction with Sprint, AT&T and Verizon receiving the lowest scores. T-Mobile scored slightly higher.

To determine ratings, RootMetrics says its testers traveled more than 231,000 miles and conducted 3.8 million samples.

Also, some 6,600 indoor sites were tested.

The annual report compiles data nationally, all 50 states, and the 125 largest metros.

AT&T battles Verizon in the Triangle and across North Carolina quite closely. The two shared first place in NC in the survey covering the first half of 2015. In the most recent Triangle metro report, AT&T finished first.

But overall, Verizon improved its score over the latest tests covering the last three months of 2015 to 94.5.

AT&T was second at 91.3 followed by Sprint (86) and T-Mobile (80.9).

Here are Verizon’s national scores over the past three annual reports:

  • 2013: 89.7
  • 2014: 93.9
  • 2015: 94.5

Here are AT&T’s national scores:

  • 2013: 86.2
  • 2014: 91.7
  • 2015: 91.3

Here are Sprint’s last three national scores:

  • 2013: 68.2
  • 2014: 86.6
  • 2015: 86.0

T-Mobile’s national scores:

  • 2013: 64.3
  • 2014: 84.0
  • 2015: 80.9

Here’s how RootMetrics calculates the overall scores:

“Overall Performance scoring is broken down in two ways. First, RootMetrics offers two holistic categories that give consumers a clear view of each network’s performance in the key areas of Network Reliability and Network Speed. Network Reliability is based on how reliably calls could be made and texts delivered, as well as how often RootMetrics could make a data network connection and then stay connected throughout testing of all performance categories. Network Speed includes how quickly a network could download and upload files, send emails, and perform typical web and app-related tasks.”

Here are scores for categories:

  • Network Reliability rankings:

1 – Verizon (96.0)
2 – AT&T (93.7)
3 – Sprint (89.9)
4 – T-Mobile (81.9)

  • Network Speed rankings:

1 – Verizon (92.0)
2 – AT&T (86.8)
3 – T-Mobile (84.7)
4 – Sprint (73.1)

  • Data Performance rankings:

1 – Verizon (95.9)
2 – AT&T (93.2)
3 – T-Mobile (87.1)
4 – Sprint (83.1)

  • Call Performance rankings:

1 – Verizon (92.3)
2 – Sprint (88.7)
3 – AT&T (88.0)
4 – T-Mobile (70.9)

  • Text Performance rankings:

1 – Verizon (97.0)
1 – AT&T (96.5)
3 – Sprint (95.8)
4 – T-Mobile (92.2)

Here are summaries of each carrier’s performance as published in the RootMetrics report:

Verizon shines on the national stage

Verizon’s performance in our testing of the United States was outstanding. Verizon won or shared United States RootScore Awards across all six RootScore categories: Overall performance, Network Reliability, Network Speed, Data performance, Call performance, and Text performance. In our previous test period, Verizon won five out of six United States RootScore Awards; the lone exception was in the Text RootScore category, in which AT&T won the award outright. In this test period, however, Verizon and AT&T shared the Text RootScore Award, allowing Verizon to win or share RootScore Awards in all six test categories. What’s more, Verizon won the United States Overall RootScore Award for the fifth consecutive time.

AT&T delivers strong performance at the national level

For the fourth consecutive test period, AT&T was the only carrier other than Verizon to win or share a United States RootScore Award, doing so in the Text RootScore category. In fact, this marks the fourth straight time that AT&T has won or shared the United States Text RootScore Award.

AT&T finished a close second to Verizon in four out of the five remaining categories, including the more holistic areas of overall performance, network reliability, and network speed. AT&T also narrowly trailed Verizon in the Data RootScore category. The only category in which AT&T didn’t rank second behind Verizon was in the Call RootScore category, where Sprint narrowly edged past AT&T to rank second.

In short, even though Verizon led the way in terms of award total at the national level, AT&T wasn’t far behind in a majority of categories. Indeed, AT&T has consistently remained a strong number two performer behind Verizon in a majority of categories in our United States testing for five consecutive test periods.

Sprint stays in the mix, finishing second or third in four out of six categories

Sprint showed a great deal of improvement in our metro area and state testing, and the network improved at the United States level as well. While Sprint didn’t win any United States RootScore Awards, the network improved its results in the Call RootScore category from a second-place tie with AT&T in first-half testing to ranking second outright in this test period. Sprint remained in third place in our Overall performance and Network Reliability RootScore categories. …

Sprint has improved its LTE coverage significantly in metropolitan markets, and Sprint’s results showed a marked improvement in our metro area testing in the second half of 2015. If Sprint can continue its LTE expansion efforts beyond metro areas, Sprint could close the gap with the other networks in multiple categories at the United States level.

T-Mobile’s rankings remain consistent in each half of 2015

T-Mobile’s relative national rankings in our testing across the United States were identical to what we found in the first half of 2015. While T-Mobile didn’t win any United States RootScore Awards in this test period, the network narrowly trailed AT&T for third place in our Network Speed RootScore category. We’ve noted before that T-Mobile typically performs much better in metro areas compared to state or national levels, and this was again the case in the second half of 2015.

T-Mobile offered fast speeds and strong data reliability in metropolitan markets. If you primarily use your smartphone in a major metropolitan area, T-Mobile remains a strong choice. Even though urban areas carry more weight in our results, it appears that T-Mobile currently lacks broad enough coverage to excel in our National or State RootScore studies. In the second half of 2015, the devices we used for testing were T-Mobile 700 MHz capable. Note that we did not enable VoLTE on T-Mobile for call testing in the second half of 2015. However, VoLTE will be the default call experience for T-Mobile testing in the first half of 2016, as VoLTE is gaining significant consumer adoption.

Read the full report at: