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New Jersey offers the best video experience in the lower 48 US states

A few weeks ago, we examined how the lower-48 states in the U.S. stacked up in terms of overall speed, and we discovered an interesting pattern: The states with fastest download speeds were largely concentrated on the Eastern Seaboard along the Boston-to-D.C. corridor. Today we’re taking another look at our state map, but this time we’re examining the video experience offered in each state. And again, we find a similar pattern. Four of the five states with the highest video experience scores were all in the same region. The fifth? Well, the residents of North Dakota have some of the best mobile video quality in the country.

OpenSignal’s Video Experience metric is a first-of-its-kind analysis tool, which uses a range of factors including loading time, video stalling rates and picture resolution, to determine the overall quality of mobile video offered by operators. Video Experience is calculated as a score from 0 to 100 — the higher the score the better the experience. In a recent global analysis of 69 countries, we found that the U.S. landed close to the bottom of our list with an overall video experience score of 46.8, putting it in the Fair range (40-55) of our scale. But that doesn’t mean that mobile video quality was uniform throughout the country or over all providers. When we looked at U.S. operators, we found that Verizon and T-Mobile both significantly outscored AT&T and Sprint in our video experience analysis. And as you can see from the map above, overall video experience differs from region to region.

No state managed to hoist itself into a Good rating (55-65) for video experience, and in fact, 47 of the 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia, all stayed within the same Fair category as the national score. But within that range there was a lot of variation. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland and D.C. formed a tight cluster of states all scoring above 50 in overall video experience.

These states are part of the most densely populated region in the country, which helps explain why video experience scores here are higher than the U.S. norm. Operators tend to focus network and capacity upgrades on cities, meaning highly urbanized states like those in the Mid-Atlantic and lower New England will often see boosts in speeds, improvements in latency and other new service enhancements before the rest of the country. What’s more, the states are all geographically small with urban areas tightly clustered together. It’s much easier for operators to provide continuity of 4G service in such regions, which has a sizable impact on video experience. If a region has more consistent access to 4G connections, it’s more likely that video will load faster and experience fewer interruptions during playback.

Beyond our top tier of states, we found that much of the country maintained fairly consistent video experience scores between 45 and 50. Only in a few states did we see scores fall below the 45 mark. Those states are primarily rural with few major population centers, and more often than not they are geographically large, making them very difficult regions for operators to deliver consistent 4G service. Of course, every rule has its exception, and in this case that exception was North Dakota. The Peace Garden State is a bit of an anomaly in many of our metrics. Despite its extremely rural makeup and lack of a major U.S. population center, North Dakota scored highly in our state speed analysis in overall download and it ranked 2nd in upload speed. Those same high marks applied to video experience, suggesting that the investment in mobile broadband in North Dakota is notably high.

If you’re a mobile user in the U.S. we’d love to hear about your video experience in the state you live in. Tell us about it in the comments section below or on Twitter.