Oct. 12--Verizon remains at the top of the rankings of how local wireless carriers stack up in the Buffalo Niagara region, but the competition is getting a little closer.
Verizon finished first overall, mainly on the strength of its local data network, while a comparison of call performance and texting finished in a draw with the three other major local carriers. AT&T ranked second, while T-Mobile finished third and Sprint was fourth.
The rankings were based on a series of independent tests conducted over a six-day period last month in Erie and Niagara counties by RootMetrics, a Bellevue, Wash., company that has been testing the speed and reliability of wireless networks since 2008.
In the latest local rankings, Verizon still finished on top because of its clear victory in the rankings of local data networks, but RootMetrics said the competition was too close to declare a clear winner in voice service or texting.
And RootMetrics said Verizon's competitors are making inroads that have bolstered their own data networks locally. AT&T's average download speed increased by 17 percent since the firm conducted its previous test in the Buffalo Niagara region during April. Its average upload speed has jumped by 25 percent since April. AT&T began offering 4G LTE service locally last year.
T-Mobile's recent launch of 4G LTE service locally also bolstered the performance of its local data network, increasing average download speeds by more than 91 percent, while more than tripling upload speeds.
But that wasn't enough to unseat Verizon, which rode the strength of its data network to the top overall spot in the rankings. Verizon's data network was rated the fastest locally, edging out AT&T and topping T-Mobile and Sprint by wide margins. Its data network also got top marks for reliability.
Verizon, which also held the top overall spot in RootMetrics' May test, has upgraded more than 150 cell sites across the Buffalo Niagara region to handle its 4G LTE service, which it launched locally two years ago.
"It reflects the investment and the effort we've made to build out our 4G LTE network," said John O'Malley, a Verizon Wireless spokesman.
The carrier has upgraded "the overwhelming majority" of its cell sites in the region to 4G, but it is continuing to work on converting its remaining sites.
"The build-out continues," O'Malley said.
RootMetrics conducted the test by sending a team of testers into the community to measure the performance of the local wireless carriers using off-the-shelf Android smartphones. The testers measured the results of the 17,397 calls, texts and data tests they conducted at all hours of the day and night, at randomly selected urban and suburban locations, both inside buildings and on the road.
The testing took place over an area stretching from Youngstown in the north to Evans and Boston in the south and from Lake Erie east to Alden.
The report is available at www.rootmetrics.com/compare-carriers.