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Report: LTE performance tops all other network technologies

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 3:33pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

Mobile customers on LTE devices see fewer data-related issues than do customers on 3G and HSPA+ or WiMAX devices, according to the a new study released today by J.D. Power and Associates.

Now in its 10th year, the study evaluates wireless customers' most recent usage activities in three areas that impact network performance: calling, messaging and data.

Overall network performance is based on 10 problem areas that affect the customer experience (in order of importance): dropped calls; calls not connected; audio issues; failed/late voicemails; lost calls; text transmission failures; late text message notifications; Web connection errors; email connection errors; and slow downloads.

Network performance issues are measured as problems per 100 (PP100) network connections, with a lower score reflecting fewer problems and better network performance, and carrier performance is examined in six geographic regions: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West.

The study found that among customers with LTE-enabled devices, the problem incidence for excessively slow mobile Web loading is 15 PP100, compared with the industry average of 20 PP100. Furthermore, the overall problem incidence for excessively slow mobile Web loading is even higher among customers with WiMAX and HSPA+ technology (22 PP100 and 23 PP100, respectively).

There are no substantial differences in problem rates for other data-related issues between 4G LTE and WiMAX and HSPA+ technologies, such as Web and email connection errors.

"It's very interesting to see the stark performance differences between the newest generation of network technology,4G LTE, and other network services that were the first offerings of 4G-marketed devices in early 2011," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. "With the network advantages of using 4G LTE technology, in terms of spectrum efficiencies and increase in data connection speeds and reliability, it's not unexpected that wireless carriers are rushing to expand and upgrade their networks to align with this latest generation of service."

For a 16th consecutive reporting period, Verizon Wireless ranked highest in the Northeast region. According to the report, Verizon Wireless achieves fewer customer-reported problems with dropped calls, initial connections, transmission failures and late text messages, compared with the regional average. Verizon Wireless also ranks highest in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest and West regions.

U.S. Cellular ranked highest in the North Central region for a 14th consecutive reporting period.

Verizon is definitely ahead in deployment of LTE. The carrier recently announced that it has covered 75 percent of the U.S. population with its LTE network. Verizon's deployment is ahead of AT&T's current 51 markets, while Sprint has its LTE network running in a handful of markets and T-Mobile USA plans to launch LTE next year.

J.D. Power's 2012 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study--Volume 2 is based on responses from 26,695 wireless customers and was fielded between January and June 2012.

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