RootMetrics’ first half 2015 report validates Sprint’s continued network improvement
By Dr. John Saw , Chief Technology Officer, Sprint
RootMetrics has released its comprehensive 1H 2015 US Mobile Network Performance Report, and in it Sprint maintains its third-place ranking in overall performance nationwide. The report is full of a lot of data, but what we find most interesting is the pace at which we are improving our network and closing the gap on the competition. Consider these findings:1
- Sprint achieved a total of 180 first place (outright or shared) RootScore® Awards for overall, reliability, speed, data, call, or text network performance in metro markets measured in the first half of 2015, compared to only 27 awards in the year-ago period.
- Nationally, Sprint finished third in overall performance and reliability network performance. One year ago Sprint ranked last.
- Sprint moved up into a two-way tie for second place nationally in call network performance.
- Compared to the previous report six months ago, in almost every category nationally, Sprint’s scores showed progress in terms of closing the gap with the leaders.
- In metro markets Sprint continued to improve in both speed and reliability, showing considerable progress in data reliability in the first half of 2015, while improving its performance in the faster speed tiers.
In the first half of 2015, RootMetrics drove more than 237,000 miles while testing performance on highways and in big cities, small towns, and rural areas across the US, covering 100 percent of the population. To put that in perspective, while collecting approximately 6.1 million test samples, RootMetrics’ testers could have driven from NYC to LA about 85 times, circled the earth nearly 10 times, or made it all almost all the way to the moon. They tested mobile network performance while driving, at stationary outdoor locations, and at more than 7,300 indoor locations. Unlike subjective surveys or summaries that rely exclusively on crowdsourced data, RootMetrics takes a very thorough, objective, scientific approach.
RootMetrics is one source of measurement that validates our improving performance. An analysis of the Nielsen data shows our network is improving at a faster rate than our competitors, and we’re closing the gap in overall network performance.2 As for speeds, other third-party data shows our average download speeds across the network have increased 133 percent year-over-year as a result of our continued focus on optimization and the expansion of 800MHz and 2.5GHz service.
We were also pleased to see the recent report showing Sprint had the lowest 4G LTE latency in the second quarter of 2015, beating out AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, and moving up from a last place finish one year ago. Latency is the delay between the time wireless information is sent and received. Low latency means faster transmissions, and that’s a great thing. It makes all the difference in a multiplayer game like Modern Combat. And it will be critical in future applications such as telemedicine.
Unleashing Our Spectrum Advantage
We’ve made good progress in the past year, but our sights are set on being the best. And we’re fortunate to have a powerful weapon in our arsenal. Those of us in the industry know that spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless. It’s the invisible platform on which we live and work in a world that is increasingly connected. And yet, spectrum is finite.
Here in the U.S., Sprint controls approximately 120MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum in 90 of the top 100 largest cities. That’s a lot. But what makes this interesting, is that 2.5GHz spectrum is uniquely suited for delivering a lot of data at very high-speeds, particularly in dense urban environments. It is this capacity and speed that we believe will enable Sprint to achieve network performance parity or superiority in most markets within the next two years.
Earlier this month on our earnings call we spoke about how we’re continuing to evolve and improve our network, and I thought I’d provide some additional color on how we plan to fully leverage our strong 2.5GHz spectrum position.
A key strategy for improving our network is to densify and increase our number of cell sites across our 2.5GHz, 1.9GHz and 800MHz spectrum bands. This will include adding thousands of new macro sites to expand coverage, and it will include a continued expansion of our 2.5 GHz LTE footprint. As we continue to improve on our LTE coverage with techniques like carrier aggregation and beamforming, our customers in metro markets will soon see significantly improved data speeds and performance.
Even more exciting though is our plan to initially deploy tens of thousands of small cells, with the potential to increase that deployment over time. Small cells offer a number of advantages, including increased capacity and more efficient throughput which enables customers to send and receive data at faster rates. And they will allow us to add capacity in targeted high-traffic areas, as well as extend better service in hard to reach locations and indoor sites.
Our parent company, SoftBank, has had tremendous success over the past few years building a world-class network in Japan. They did it using small cells operating on a range of low and high-band spectrum, including 2.5GHz. Many of Sprint’s engineers, including myself, have worked with the SoftBank team for years, going back to our previous roles at Clearwire. Today we have an even closer relationship, and we collaborate tightly rolling out new technologies and sharing best practices.
This will be a progressive build that improves the customer experience as each new site comes on air. And you’ll see us take a different approach – this won’t be a traditional slow and expensive build. We’ll be extremely surgical and efficient, leveraging big data and network diagnostics to determine the optimal deployment of each small cell down to the street corner level.
It’s an exciting time to be in wireless. Technical innovations and changing business models are disrupting the status quo and increasing competition. You’ll see us continue to play hard and perhaps do things a bit differently. But more importantly, you’ll see us win with a network that has the right team, the right assets, and the right plan to support our customers’ insatiable appetite for mobile data.
*1 * RootMetrics award rankings and findings based on RootMetrics 1H 2014 and 1H 2015 US National and 125 Metro RootScore® Reports (January – June 2014 and 2015) for mobile performance, as well as the RootMetrics 1H 2015 US Mobile Network Performance Report (published August 18, 2015), as tested on best available plans and devices on 4 mobile networks across all available network types. The RootMetrics award is not an endorsement of Sprint. Your results may vary. See rootmetrics.com for details. 2 Based on analysis by Sprint using syndicated drive test information supplied by Nielsen for the top 100 most populous markets comparing the top four carriers’ voice and data performance improvements from the six month period ending May 7, 2015 to the six month period ending November 6, 2014.
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