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RootMetrics: Midwestern cities make network performance gains

Mobile carriers are bringing Midwestern cities up to speed in network performance, making noticeable improvements in speed and capacity available to consumers in both large and mid-sized markets outside the big coastal cities, according to the latest metro area rankings from RootMetrics.

This is the second consecutive test period that Lansing, Mich. has topped RootMetrics’ overall rankings. Kansas City and Fort Wayne, Ind. also ranked as top performers, and the midwestern market of Chicago was the only major metro to land in the top 10 markets for performance. Chicago came in at number four, followed by Cleveland, Ohio at number five.

“As midwestern cities climb in the ranks, we are beginning to see the results of carriers’ push to offer fast, reliable coverage across the US – not just in major markets like New York City or Los Angeles,” said Doug King, director at RootMetrics, in an email to RCR Wireless News. “The latest report doesn’t necessarily mean coastal cities are declining in performance – rather midwestern cities are finally catching up. For example, Fort Wayne — a city that Verizon recorded a top median download speed of 35.9 Mbps during our last round of testing — now has Verizon recording a top median download speed of 50.1 Mbps! This matches the evolving consumer needs across the country — with mobile users looking to use their phone for everything from texting a friend, to checking email, to streaming Netflix while on the subway home.

“It should also be noted that while it’s easy to look at the performance of midwestern cities from the perspective of data speed and reliability, all five of our top metros areas also performed well in call and text,” King added. “These capabilities are still important to mobile users – especially as they see reductions in dropped calls and unsent text messages in areas where they had always assumed they had ‘no signal.’”

Meanwhile, there were some intriguing shifts in performance rankings of the largest U.S. cities. New York and Los Angeles were both ranked in the 70s in last year’s list. This year, Los Angeles moved up to #48 in the rankings while New York dropped to 91 — but that’s more a reflection of an improving status quo than an actual drop in NYC’s network quality, according to King.

“Examining data performance for both metro areas, we see Los Angeles move up in the rankings due in part to improvements in downlink throughput speeds across all four carriers. In fact, median download speeds improved by as much as 12Mbps,” King said. “Meanwhile, New York City gave a consistent performance over the past two reports – seeing only a slight increase in its fastest media download speed from 26.8 Mbps to 31.0 Mbps. The change in rank for New York City can likely be attributed to the number of other markets who made large improvements over the past six months – allowing them to move up while NYC held steady.

Houston Tex. was another city which saw notable network performance improvement and a big jump in its ranking — from 70 to 25 — even after being slammed by Hurricane Harvey. The permanent infrastructure improvements made by carriers for Super Bowl LI apparently paid off in both network resiliency and performance.

“We actually tested in Houston just two months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall,” King said. “Houston’s big improvements in performance can be partially attributed to investments made by carriers to support the big game, as well as efforts made to provide needed interim supplement support (e.g. COLTS and COWs). However, its great performance, even in the face of a natural disaster, also speaks to the resiliency of the networks themselves and the long-term investments carriers have made to provide the best mobile experience for consumers.”

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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