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Verizon wireless network tops field; Moves up to first in all 3 categories

Nine months after finishing in third place in a wireless network performance test in the Buffalo Niagara region, Verizon Wireless swept top honors in the most recent round of testing.

Verizon finished first in all three categories -- voice, data and text -- and took first place overall in the independent tests conducted last month in Erie and Niagara counties by RootMetrics.

Verizon beat AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Cricket in the performance tests, thanks to its 4G LTE network launched last October in the Buffalo area.

"The flavors of 4G are not created equal, and LTE is clearly the fastest," said Bill Moore, president and CEO of RootMetrics.

AT&T and T-Mobile had tied for best overall performance in RootMetrics tests conducted last August, and they remained tied for second place in the most recent round of testing.

Cricket and Sprint tied for fourth place.

"The RootMetrics results confirm and reinforce what we've seen in our own internal testing -- that our deployment of 4G LTE in the Buffalo market is resulting in a much faster, more robust wireless data experience for our customers," said John O'Malley, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless in upstate New York.

RootMetrics, based in Bellevue, Wash., started testing the performance and reliability of wireless networks in 2008. The results are available at the interactive site www.rootmetrics.com/compare-carriers/.

RootMetrics sends a team into a community to test off-the-shelf smartphones at randomly selected urban and suburban locations, both inside buildings and on the road.

Smartphones are tested for how well they handle voice calls, texting and data downloading and uploading, and companies are scored from 0-100 in each category.

"We're doing this from a consumer's perspective," Moore said.

In Buffalo Niagara, testing took place over an area stretching from Lewiston south to Evans and from Lake Erie east to Depew.

RootMetrics testers initially visited this region last August, when T-Mobile handily won the texting category, AT&T easily won for data, and Verizon all but tied AT&T on calls.

AT&T and T-Mobile finished in a statistical tie for overall performance, while Sprint didn't win any categories, and Cricket wasn't included.

RootMetrics officials said at the time that Verizon previously had won in every other market where the company had rolled out its LTE network.

This network was introduced last fall in Buffalo Niagara, a change that led to Verizon's victory in every category when testers visited May 2-6.

With the LTE network, for example, Verizon's data download speeds increased tenfold, and its data upload speeds were five times faster than during the 2011 testing, Moore said.

AT&T and T-Mobile, which have their own 4G networks that use different technology than Verizon's 4G network, saw smaller increases in their downloading speeds, he said.

"[LTE] is really the big difference-maker," Moore said.

Verizon received an overall score of 94.7, well above T-Mobile's 62.1 and AT&T's 61. Cricket scored a 47.2, while Sprint received a 40.4.

AT&T officials did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Verizon in April launched LTE service in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. The company has not yet decided when it will introduce the service in the other five counties of Western New York.

"It's an ongoing roll-out," O'Malley said.

Moore said RootMetrics will return to the Buffalo Niagara region in about six months to conduct another round of testing.

"The reason we do that is these technologies are changing so fast," he said.

email: swatson@buffnews.com