[Column] Great 5G runs on top of great 4G! So, who leads in 4G performance?

By Arne Schaelicke

You cannot miss the excitement as the 5G race intensifies. And it is not just the operators who are so ambitious with their roll-out plans. It is also the 5G vendors who are battling to prove quality, performance, and speed as they deliver their 5G portfolio. As vendors make claims about their own network technology, it’s a good time to get an independent third party to tell us what is real.

One thing has become clear: as network operators worldwide commercialize their 5G in non-standalone architecture, it becomes evident that great 5G runs on top of great 4G. In non-standalone architecture, the 5G control information goes through the LTE eNodeBs and the throughput can tap the resources of 5G and 4G through dual connectivity. This means, if you have the best performing 4G network, you are already ahead of the game in 5G.

So, if 4G is critical, who is proving to have the top performing 4G deployments? A new study from RootMetrics shows that 6,000 public data points confirm that networks with Nokia 4G are the best-performing. RootMetrics is an independent network performance testing company. Every six months it publishes 3,000 RootScores for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon in 125 US metro markets. (The latest complete data set is for the second half of 2018.) It uses these RootScores to build rankings of network performance data across six dimensions of network performance: network reliability, network speed, data performance, call performance, text performance, and overall performance. From the analysis, Nokia came out as #1 in all six categories. Overall this data shows that networks supplied by Nokia gained higher rankings versus Ericsson and Samsung.

Here are some key facts from this study:

  • In overall performance, 62% of the Nokia-powered networks operated by one of the Big Four (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) finished #1 or #2. That is 12 percentage points ahead of Ericsson, the next ranked network vendor. Samsung did not achieve any #1 rankings.
  • One of the Big Four is ranked #1 in 90% of all of the metro markets, where its network is supplied by Nokia. This outstanding performance is aligned with their large-scale rollout of Nokia’s AirScale base stations.
  • The overall performance of networks supplied by Nokia improved year on year, by 11%, while Ericsson’s network performance degraded by 5%.

Coming back to 5G, the RootScore metric network speed is highly relevant in the near term, as it has a direct impact on the network speed experience of 5G users. RootMetrics network speed testing provides a holistic look at the speed performance across data testing. Let’s remember, that 5G-4G dual connectivity allows to pool in the 4G data capacity into the 5G user experience, a capability fully supported by Nokia AirScale. In the network speed category, 38% of networks powered by Nokia have a # 1 ranking. This number is 70% better than that of Ericsson. From 2H 2017 to 2H 2018 Nokia helped operators win the #1 rank in another 20% of Nokia supplied markets. At the same time, operators lost 15% of the #1 ranks in the markets supplied by Ericsson, the second network vendor.

RootMetrics is finalizing the 1H2019 measurements and there are further improvements in Nokia-supplied networks across many metro markets.  It’s clear that having the best performing 4G network is a must to deliver the best 5G network.

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