Woman making a skeptical face

Opensignal Released a New Report – I’m Skeptical

Opensignal just released a new report on the performance of U.S. wireless networks. The report ranks major U.S. networks in five categories based on crowdsourced data:

  • 4G availability
  • Video experience
  • Download speed experience
  • Upload speed experience
  • Latency experience

Verizon took the top spot for 4G availability and video experience. T-Mobile came out on top for both of the speed metrics. T-Mobile and AT&T shared the top placement for the latency experience metric.

Selection bias

I’ve previously raised concerns about selection bias in Opensignal’s data collection methodology. Opensignal crowdsources data from typical users. Crowdsourcing introduces issues since there are systematic differences between the typical users of different networks. Imagine that Network A has far more extensive coverage in rural areas than Network B. It stands to reason that Network A likely has more subscribers in rural areas than Network B. Lots of attributes of subscribers vary in similar ways between networks. E.g., expensive networks likely have subscribers that are wealthier.

Analyses of crowdsourced data can capture both (a) genuine differences in network performance and (b) differences in how subscribers on each network use their devices. Opensignal’s national results shouldn’t be taken too seriously unless Opensignal can make a compelling argument that either (a) its methodology doesn’t lead to serious selection bias or (b) it’s able to adequately adjust for the bias.

Speed metrics

Opensignal ranks carriers based on average download and upload speeds. In my opinion, average speeds are overrated. The portion of time where speeds are good enough is much more important than the average speed a service offers.

Opensignal’s average download speed results are awfully similar between carriers:

  • Verizon – 22.9 Mbps
  • T-Mobile – 23.6 Mbps
  • AT&T – 22.5 Mbps
  • Sprint – 19.2 Mbps

Service at any of those speeds would be sufficient for almost any activities people typically use their phones for. Without information about how often speeds were especially low on each network, it’s hard to come to conclusions about differences in the actual experience on each network.

When Will 3G Be Phased Out?

Last updated: May 24, 2019

Major U.S. network operators are slowly phasing out their 3G technology. In this post, I share my impressions about the status of the Big Four networks’ 3G phase-outs. For what it’s worth, I’m not confident all of the information is correct, and it’s possible some network operators won’t stick to their current deadlines.

Verizon

Verizon plans to mostly retire its 3G network by the end of 2020. More details about Verizon’s plans and policies can be found in an entry on Verizon’s knowledgebase

Although the network will largely be retired, FierceWireless explains that some of Verizon’s enterprise customers may continue to have access to 3G service after regular customers lose access.[1]

AT&T

AT&T appears to have plans to retire its 3G network in early 2022. Here’s an excerpt found on AT&T’s website as of 5/24/2019:[2]

We currently plan to end service on our 3G wireless networks in February 2022.

I’m not sure it’s correct, but I’ve seen an indication that AT&T plans to cease activating 3G-only devices on June 30, 2019.

T-Mobile

As far as I know, T-Mobile hasn’t made any announcements about when its 3G network will be retired. I haven’t seen any information about intentions to block 3G device activation.

Sprint

A document published by Multi-Tech indicates that Sprint may sunset its 3G network on 12/31/2022. I don’t know what source Multi-Tech relies on for that date.

Sprint appears to have had an intention to stop activating 3G-only devices on 4/30/2019. I haven’t confirmed that activations actually ceased.