Ookla recently released a report for the second quarter that summarizes its findings on speed tests conducted throughout the US. The report was generated using the results from 85.1 million speed tests taken during the quarter at the speed test site operated by Ookla. This kind of summary is always interesting, but I’m not sure how useful the results are.
The report looks at both wireless and landline speeds. Ookla says that AT&T was the fastest of the four major wireless carriers in the first quarter, with a ‘speed score’ of 41.23, with Verizon the slowest with a speed score of 30.77. The speed score is a unique metric from Ookla that weights 90% of the download speed and 10% of the upload speed. The reported speeds also toss out the slowest and fastest speeds and concentrate on the median speed.
T-Mobile had the best average latency at 31 milliseconds with Sprint the slowest at 39 milliseconds. The most interesting wireless statistic in the report is called the ‘consistency score’. This is the measure of the percentage of the traffic from each wireless carrier that was at least 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. AT&T had the highest consistency score at 79.7% with Sprint at the bottom with 66.1%. This score implies that between 20% and 35% of cellular data connections were are at speeds under 5/1 Mbps.
The landline speed results used the same criteria for summarizing the results of the many speed tests. For example, Ookla used the ‘speed score’ that uses 90% of the download speed and 10% of the upload speed – and the results also throw out the slowest and fastest speeds. Verizon had the highest speed score at 117.1, with Comcast and Cox being the only two other ISPs with speed scores over 100. Charter achieved a speed score of 95, AT&T at 82.8, and CenturyLink at 36.1. The AT&T and CenturyLink scores are lower due to customers still using DSL.
Verizon had the best latency at 9 milliseconds, which is a good indication that a large percentage of their customers are using Verizon FiOS on fiber. AT&T and Sprint had the highest latency of the big ISPs at 18 and 22 milliseconds, indicating that the two companies still have a lot of customers on DSL.
The consistency score is more of a headscratcher for the landline ISPs. For example. Spectrum and Comcast had the highest consistency ratings at over 84%, meaning that only 16% of the speed tests on these companies didn’t meet the 25/3 Mbps landline target speed. However, other than perhaps a few grandfathered customers that are still being sold slow products, these companies don’t sell products that should fail that test.
This raises the question of what speed test results mean since there are factors that likely influence the results. For example, I would guess that a lot of customers take a speed test when they are experiencing a problem. I know that’s what prompts me to take speed tests. The other issue that might make Comcast or Charter test at slower than 100 Mbps download is customer WiFi connections. It’s hard to know how many people get slow readings due to poor WiFi. I again understand this issue first-hand. I have a 3-story narrow and long house. The broadband enters on the first floor at the front of the house and my office is at the top of the rear of the house, with some thick hundred-year-old walls in between. Even with an array of WiFi repeaters, the speed in my office varies between 35 and 45 Mbps download – about one-third of the speed delivered at the router. How can Ookla understand the context of a given speed test result? Maybe it doesn’t matter since all of the ISPs have customers with WiFi issues and maybe it averages out. I would think situations like mine are what drive the consistency score. These kinds of questions make it hard to make meaningful sense out of the Ookla results in the report.
Ookla also uses the median broadband speeds to rank the 100 cities with the fastest broadband and also ranks the states. As would be expected, the states in the northeast with a lot of Verizon Fios like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island top the list as having the fastest average broadband speeds. More interesting to me is the bottom of the list. Ookla says that the states with the slowest median broadband are Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska. Several other entities that rank state broadband usually put West Virginia and New Mexico at the bottom, followed by Idaho and Arkansas. Those other rankings include an assessment that there are many homes in some states with little or no broadband options at home, while a ranking using speed tests only counts home with broadband.
Overall, this is an interesting way to look at broadband. States with median download speeds under 50 Mbps (6 states) certainly have a different broadband environment than states with the median broadband speeds over 90 Mbps (11 states). But there are places in the highest-ranked states with no broadband options and places in the states with the poorest broadband that are served by fiber.