Sprint is on the rebound. As the carrier works to improve its network, a report released Tuesday indicates that its efforts are paying off. Analytics firm RootMetrics said in its network performance review for the second half of 2014 that Sprint has reclaimed its place as third among carriers in terms of quality, surpassing T-Mobile.
In wireless phone service, Verizon and AT&T traditionally have dominated measures of network performance over smaller Sprint and T-Mobile. The latter two have been battling for the bronze. RootMetrics said in August that T-Mobile took third place for network quality, with Sprint slipping to fourth place for the first half of 2014. With changes in leadership and other overhauls, Sprint managed to overtake T-Mobile in the second half, with a RootMetrics rank of 86.6 out of 100, compared with T-Mobile’s 84.0 out of 100. However, Sprint’s overall quality still pales in comparison with Verizon and AT&T.
RootMetrics researchers traveled more than 293,000 miles around the U.S., collecting phones from carrier retail stores and testing their reliability, speed, text performance and other quality indicators. The researchers discovered that, while Verizon and AT&T come in first and second for overall performance, ranking 93.9 and 91.7 out of 100, respectively, individual scores vary on a number of fronts. For example, AT&T bests other networks in terms of text performance, with Sprint second, Verizon third and T-Mobile last, while T-Mobile still surpasses Sprint in terms of data performance.
Sprint has struggled with network quality for some time. Its 2005 merger with Nextel turned out to be detrimental as efforts to combine Sprint’s CDMA network technology and Nextel’s iDEN technology proved to be a challenge. After severing the relationship in 2013 amid being acquired by SoftBank, Sprint spent the first half of 2014 finishing an extensive network update.
The project involved physically replacing its entire 3G CDMA network in addition to adding an LTE footprint. Sprint Chief Technology Officer Stephen Bye told Fierce Wireless that the process caused the decrease in network quality in early 2014. Strides to build its LTE network have in turn improved the carrier’s performance.
RootMetrics isn’t the only source examining Sprint’s network improvements. Research firm Nielsen said the carrier is now experiencing its lowest dropped-call rates ever, with better than 50 percent improvement year over year.