Sprint Nextel may be trailing rivals such as AT&T and Verizon on a national basis. But the third place carrier in the U.S. has the best network in Seattle. At least that’s the finding of a new report released today by RootMetrics, the Bellevue company which measures dropped calls, data speeds, text delivery times and other attributes of wireless networks. Sprint was followed by T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T.

Sprint is making its mark on speed, helped in part by its partnership with Kirkland mobile broadband company Clearwire. According to RootMetrics, Sprint had the only network of the major carriers which recorded download speeds of 10 Mbps or higher. Its average download speed came in at 3.8 Mbps, which was nearly twice as fast as second place finisher T-Mobile which scored an average download speed of 1.9 Mbps.

AT&T’s HSPA+ network delivered on average data speeds of 1.5 Mbps, while Verizon’s network saw average speeds of 674 kbps. (See correction below.)

Overall, RootMetrics discovered that wireless networks in the Seattle area are fairly reliable, up more than 95 percent of the time. But when it comes to dropped calls, there’s clearly two big losers.

T-Mobile’s fail rate came in at 3.67, followed by AT&T at 2.61 percent. Sprint’s call failure rate was just .35 percent, while Verizon’s stood at .43 percent.

The report is especially interesting given the planned merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. As seen in the accompanying charts — at least as it relates to Seattle — the two networks are at the bottom of the charts.

This is the first of RootMetrics’ reports on major U.S. cities, with other reports to be released later this year for Dallas, Miami and other cities.

[Correction, Tuesday afternoon: AT&T was measured based on its 3G HSPA 7.2 network. RootMetrics CEO Paul Griff said Android 2.2 devices were used in all of the testing, limiting the options among AT&T devices at the time of the testing to the Nexus One, which connects to the HSPA 7.2 network but not the “4G” HSPA+.

Griff said RootMetrics consulted with AT&T on the decision, which agreed that the Nexus One was the most appropriate device to use, showing the network in the most favorable light possible while keeping the playing field level.

AT&T registers the top “Root Score” in the Seattle region based on RootMetrics’ consumer maps, which include data inferred from mobile users, but Griff said the data in the latest testing was collected in a more controlled manner, by RootMetrics teams conducting direct tests of a variety of network conditions.

Verizon was also measured in the latest study based on its 3G network.]

Here’s a look at how Sprint is crushing the competition on download speeds:

Previously: “Rewind: Why your wireless coverage stinks, and how it could improve”


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  • http://twitter.com/danshapiro Dan Shapiro

    I never measured download coverage speed, but when we were looking for a new office for Ontela a few years back, we visited many of the common Pioneer Square haunts for startups with four phones, one from each of the major carriers. Sprint was the clear winner, although all four carriers have great coverage from the third floor of the smith tower on up.

    However, it’s a running joke that the entirety of Sand Hill Road is a giant wireless wasteland with no bars for any carrier. On one occasion, a partner actually led me to a rock in the corner of their parking lot and suggested we stand on it while I gave the demo, as it was the only way to get signal. The one exception: Sprint has a faint but usable signal up and down the road.

  • Anonymous

    This matches my anecdotal data. I was convinced to give up the iphone when at a conferece, and my iphone was almost competely useless for viewing mail, however my sprint overdrive device was doing great. I found that if I connected my iphone via wifi to the sprint overdrive, I could get mail and surf very nicely. This was the nail in the coffin of AT&T for me.

    On AT&T I had regular dropped calls – on Sprint it almost never happens. I am much happer after switching to Sprint/Android.

    So at least 1 anecdotal support that the RootMetrics data is exactly right.

  • http://www.jrotech.com/ Jeff Rodenburg

    I’ve been with Sprint for years, which has had strong signal support in Seattle for years. The knock against Sprint for the longest time has been the phones on their network, which sucked. (This changed for the better by adding the EVO 4G last year, which has proven to be a great phone.)

    Given how many subscribers they’ve lost over the past few years, maybe the download speeds are also a function of the number of users on the network?

  • Guest

    Antidotally, T-Mobile has been absolutely horrible for me in Seattle’s downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. I get little to no signal inside buildings, and where I do get a signal it is so slow that I literally have to get out my dial-up modem and plug into a landline to get any data.

  • Anonymous

    Sprint Sucks,…. if you are in a contract with them, Lets plan MAY 1 as National do not use your sprint service day !!!!! LEt’s see if we can do it !!!

    • Anonymous

      Why does sprint suck if i may ask? I have no problems with it….have signal everywhere…..and since this is a PRO sprint article (at least in its topic), I believe you are just trolling

  • Mike2o6

    They should redo this test for 2013 Sprint is the worst Carrier every where now!

  • C B

    http://www.FramilyMeeting.com to share Sprint Framily IDs for collective savings. Because $25/mo for unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB data is about as good as any plan for most people.

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