Verizon again topped PC Magazine’s annual speed test, though the online report declared Sprint’s performance as “the story” this year.
PC Magazine said Verizon’s win was its third straight and that Verizon or AT&T had won each of the seven annual tests it has done. T-Mobile finished second to Verizon but was “hot on its heels,” it said.
“This year’s story is that Sprint is finally back,” wrote Sascha Segan, the magazine’s lead analyst for mobile.
He said the Overland Park-based carrier’s return to competitive levels began with the 2015 tests. A year ago, PC Magazine said Sprint had finished second to Verizon in its Kansas City testing. Its report came shortly after RootMetrics had said Verizion and Sprint had tied in Kansas City.
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PC Magazine’s impressions of Sprint came from the carrier’s download speeds during the 2016 tests, which used custom software from Ookla. This part of the test checks to see how quickly a mobile device can retrieve data, whether it’s a new app or streaming video.
“Sprint’s network is much more geared to downloads than to uploads, but the company argues that most smartphone users’ lifestyles are, too,” the report said.
Among 30 cities tested, Sprint won three — Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas; and Seattle — and finished fourth among the four national carriers overall. Segan attached a verbal asterisk to Sprint’s strong Seattle showing.
“I suspect Sprint’s network is very lightly loaded in Seattle, especially its new LTE Plus airwaves, which aren’t usable on older, less expensive phones,” he wrote. “So potentially here, we’re looking at pretty heavily used (and still quite impressive) T-Mobile and Verizon networks, and a just-out-of-the-box new Sprint network with almost nobody on the lanes yet.”
In Kansas City, Verizon easily topped its rivals by providing “download speeds bordering on what you normally get from cable Internet,” the report said. Verizon scored 96 on a 100-point scale. T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T scored 76, 74 and 73, respectively, in Kansas City.
PC Magazine’s testing continued as its fleet drove between the 30 cities. On the road, the four carriers’ performances diverged.
“Sprint’s strong performance this year surprised us, with spectacular download speeds, but both Sprint and T-Mobile still haven’t filled in some of the rural gaps that Verizon and AT&T cover,” its 13-state north-central report said.
As an aside, PC Magazine used a photograph of a Union Pacific Railroad locomotive for its Kansas City results artwork. It evidently overlooked that Kansas City Southern railway is based here.