Analyzing the variability of Broadband Consistent Quality in the US by time of day

Fixed broadband in the U.S. is undergoing rapid development and modernization. Not only are cable companies and incumbent telephone companies facing competition from new regional fiber overbuilders, they are also challenged by national fixed wireless players using the latest 5G technology. Among these, T-Mobile and Verizon have deployed the largest networks so far, providing tens of millions of households access to fixed wireless services, and have rapidly become some of the largest fixed broadband providers in the nation. This means that consumers have more choice of broadband providers than ever before.

Opensignal has analyzed our users’ real-world experience across different times of day to understand how the major fixed broadband providers compare against each other at quiet and busy times. We have included the five major fixed broadband providers by homes covered – AT&T, Spectrum, T-Mobile, Verizon and Xfinity. 

In order to represent the major choices customers have in today’s Broadband market, we have focused our analysis on two competitive sets: how the wireline incumbents compare against each other, and how the new fixed wireless challengers compare with those longstanding wireline providers. To fairly represent these customer choices, and given their different footprints, we have analyzed each combination of providers individually, focusing the comparisons in those areas where Opensignal has seen that service exists for both providers. For Verizon, we separated its fixed wireline (DSL Internet and FIOS) and fixed wireless service – 5G Home.

Key Findings:

  • Among the fixed wireline service providers, Verizon had the highest Broadband Consistent Quality score between noon and 6pm, when the networks were busy, while Xfinity saw the smallest variation between busy times (afternoon and evening) and quiet times (night and morning). 

  • T-Mobile 5G Home’s Broadband Consistent Quality scores competed with most traditional fixed broadband providers at quiet times but dipped in the afternoon and the evening hours.

  • Verizon 5G Home scored higher or similar Broadband Consistent Quality scores compared to the traditional fixed wireline providers during all times of day, but its experience varied the most.

  • Broadband Consistent Quality on fixed wireless providers was much more variable compared to fixed wireline providers. In fact, T-Mobile 5G Home and Verizon 5G Home saw their afternoon and evening scores most often vary by more than ten percentage points compared to their scores seen at quiet times, in the night and morning. By contrast, AT&T, Spectrum, Xfinity and Verizon’s wireline scores varied much less, and never by more than 6.4 percentage points.

  • FWA vs fixed wireline experience will change over time as the services develop. Current variability is understandable given that fixed broadband is a mature platform with over two decades of service while 5G-based fixed wireless services are new and undergoing rapid evolution of spectrum capacity, the technology infrastructure and localized management processes as the subscriber base rapidly scales.

 

Fixed wireline vs fixed wireline

Comparing Broadband Consistent Quality for the four largest fixed broadband providers, we found Verizon was clearly ahead of both cable companies – Spectrum and Xfinity – across all times of the day (Verizon’s wireline services, i.e. DSL Internet and FIOS, do not compete with AT&T). AT&T, on the other hand, scored consistently behind both Spectrum and Xfinity across all four times of the day. Xfinity and Spectrum tend to cover different areas and not to directly compete with each.

Opensignal’s Broadband Consistent Quality results show that our users’ broadband experience was the lowest between noon and 6 PM for all four major fixed wireline broadband providers. This highlights how the afternoon hours (noon - 6pm) are generally considered the busiest for the wireline services.

Looking at the variation in Broadband Consistent Quality between busy and quiet times, we observed the most consistent results on Xfinity. Xfinity’s scores varied by 2.8 and 3 percentage points between night (midnight - 6am) and afternoon (noon - 6pm) when compared against AT&T and Verizon, respectively. AT&T’s hourly variation in Broadband Consistent Quality ranged between 5 and 5.7 percentage points, followed by Spectrum (5.2-6.4 percentage points) and Verizon (5.7-6.1 percentage points).

 

T-Mobile fixed wireless vs fixed wireline

During quiet hours — night and morning — T-Mobile 5G Home’s Broadband Consistent Quality score was higher than AT&T’s, statistically tied with Spectrum’s, while coming up short against Verizon’s. In fact, Verizon scored the highest among the group. When compared to Xfinity, T-Mobile 5G Home scored higher at night hours while the two providers were statistically tied during the morning. However, T-Mobile 5G Home’s Broadband Consistent Quality generally declined the most during busy times, coming behind Spectrum, Verizon and Xfinity both in the afternoon and in the evening hours, only coming ahead of AT&T during the afternoon as the two providers were tied in the evening.

Opensignal’s data shows that T-Mobile 5G Home’s Broadband Consistent Quality scores were generally lowest during the evening, while fixed wireline broadband providers were busiest during the afternoon. This highlights that fixed wireline and wireless services experienced different network congestion and that the latter follows mobile patterns.

Looking at the variation in Broadband Consistent Quality between quiet and busy times, T-Mobile 5G Home’s scores dipped by 9.7, 11.4, 13.7 and 14.1 percentage points when compared to Spectrum, AT&T, Xfinity and Verizon, respectively. On the other hand, the four traditional fixed broadband providers saw their scores vary by up to 5.6 percentage points, with Xfinity observing the smallest variation of 2.4 percentage points.

 

Verizon fixed wireless vs fixed wireline

 

Verizon 5G Home saw a higher Broadband Consistent Quality score than AT&T at all times of the day, while scoring higher than Xfinity in the night, morning and evening hours as the two providers were tied during the busy hours of the afternoon. Where we have observed Verizon 5G Home and Spectrum compete with each other, we found that the two providers’ scores were statistically tied at all times of the day.

Opensignal’s data shows that Verizon 5G Home’s Broadband Consistent Quality appeared to follow a similar pattern as the fixed wireline broadband providers observing their lowest scores during the afternoon (noon - 6pm).

Looking at the variation in Broadband Consistent Quality between quiet and busy hours, Verizon 5G Home’s scores decreased by 9.1, 10.2 and 12.7 percentage points when compared to Spectrum, Xfinity and AT&T, respectively. On the other hand, the three traditional fixed broadband providers saw their scores vary by up to 5.4 percentage points, with Xfinity observing the smallest variation of 2.7 percentage points between quiet and busy hours.

 

 

Definitions

Broadband Consistent Quality

Measures how often users’ experience on a network was sufficient to support common applications’ requirements. Excellent Consistent Quality uses six key performance indicators including download and upload speed, latency, jitter, packet loss and time to first byte. Metrics are represented as a percentage of users’ tests that have met the minimum recommended performance thresholds to watch HD video, complete group video conference calls and play games.