Consumer Reports Ranks AT&T Worst U.S. Cell Carrier

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AT&T has found itself at the bottom of the Consumer Reports annual customer satisfaction survey for a second year in a row. Verizon earned the number one spot again, just as it did in 2010.

T-Mobile and Sprint both fared better than AT&T in the survey that included more than 66,000 Consumer Reports subscribers. The company polled subscribers in 22 U.S. metropolitan markets.

Consumer Reports: AT&T has meh customer satisfactionConsumer Reports: AT&T has meh customer satisfaction

According to the survey, Verizon left customers more satisfied with texting and data plans compared to other U.S. carriers. CR electronics editor Paul Reynolds added, “Our survey indicates that subscribers to prepaid and smaller standard-service providers are happiest overall with their cell-phone service.”

Despite AT&T’s low customer satisfaction rating, the company seems to be maintaining its iPhone customers, just as rivals Verizon and Sprint are, too. All three companies offer the iPhone 4S, although AT&T also sells the two-generation old iPhone 3GS as a nearly free phone with a two-year contract.

Consumer Reports is including the full survey in its January print issue and online for subscribers.

 

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Comments

prl53

Does anyone really care what CR has to say anymore? Look at AT&T’s numbers. If that many customers were really upset, they would have moved to Verizon or Sprint but they haven’t. CR can manipulate numbers like everyone else. I’m tired of all these satisfaction ratings anyway. Find something that’s meaningful to report on that is real, not something made up from a poll.

vpndev

AT&T’s locking policy has lost me as a customer.

I will get a Verizon phone when my AT&T contract is up. It won’t be any cheaper but at least Verizon will unlock it for GSM usage internationally. AT&T will not (and lies about it being “impossible”) so I’m gone.

Ross Edwards

Look at AT&T?s numbers. If that many customers were really upset, they would have moved to Verizon or Sprint but they haven?t.

The sea change trigger still hasn’t happened yet.  Remember, when iPhone 4 came out on ATT only, millions of ATT users re-upped for new contracts despite ATT jacking up the ETFs.  Those contracts will pop in summer 2012, and by then the iPhone 5 picture should be clearer (though honestly I can’t imagine they don’t just go to a fall schedule from here on out).  At that point you will probably see a pronounced exodus from the Death Star. 

I don’t think it will be an absolute emptying of the dugouts because some folks with grandfathered unlimited plans will hesitate to bolt, but still: look for the real en masse movement not to start until the LTE iPhone 5 next year.  ESPECIALLY if ATT doesn’t carry over unlimited grandfathering to 4G plans… which VZ already does.  Keep in mind, just as ATT has better 3G speeds than VZ, VZ’s 4G LTE is better built out by a country mile than any other carrier’s.  As the Fandroids keep pointing out.

Lee Dronick

I wonder how many survey respondents switch carriers frequently enough to be able to compare the services.

mhikl

Does anyone really care what CR has to say anymore?

Now really, prl53. Let?s stop and think. Washing machines, used cars, floor mops. CR has its place.

skipaq

I’ve been with AT&T since even before the first iPhone. And I am a satisfied customers. I have had service with Sprint and Verizon in the past. I’ll stick with AT&T when the 5 comes out. There you have it - a survey of one.

RobertMac

The consumer champions who say the iPhone is no good and you shouldn’t buy one at all say that you should not use AT&T, either.

Let me write that down…

ctopher

In all fairness to Consumer Reports, they didn’t rank AT&T as the worst carrier. Their readers did.

So Mr. Gamet’s headline should really read, “Consumer Reports Survey: AT&T Worst U.S. Cell Carrier”

Mtliendo

...you surveyed 66,000 subscribers across 5 carriers…US Cellular, T-mobile, Verizon and at&t.  ok. 66,000 divided by 5= 13,200 people.  at&t has over 96 million customers.  that’s 0.013%.  I don’t care whose on top or bottom…but what I do wants is a fair and accurate survey to be done.

mrmwebmax

+

Cell service satisfaction has so much to do with where you live and whose towers are closest. I first had T-Mobile (almost useless), then Verizon (good, but I always dropped calls in my kitchen, as well as at random other times), and switched to AT&T when I got my first iPhone. I’m now on my second iPhone (iPhone 4), still with AT&T, and still very satisfied. I have had maybe two dropped calls in almost 4 years of service, and my 3G data works almost everywhere (except my vet’s office, where it can be spotty). Everyone’s mileage will vary depending on where they live, and where the towers are located.

BurmaYank

“Does anyone really care what CR has to say anymore?”

This CR article looks like just one more nail in CR’s coffin, after reading AppleInsider’s excellent study,Inside iPhone 4S US mobile data: AT&T vs Sprint vs Verizon (By Daniel Eran Dilger - Dec. 3, 2011), to wit:

”... AT&T is indeed the fastest phone network

Apple’s originally exclusive iPhone partner, AT&T, is clearly the fastest US mobile network. That’s largely due to the fact that AT&T’s GSM/UMTS network takes advantage of the iPhone’s ability to support AT&T’s newest UMTS network technologies: High-Speed Uplink Packet Access Category 6 (supporting data uploads of up to 5.76 Mbps on iPhone 4 and 4S), and High-Speed Downlink Packet Access Release 5 (enabling data downloads of up to 14.2 Mbps on the iPhone 4S or up to 7.2 on the iPhone 4 and 3GS).

AT&T doesn’t come close to saturating the iPhone’s data capabilities; the best download we observed in testing was 5.4 Mbps, and the best upload was 1.2 Mbps. But those speeds are comfortably fast, comparable to accessing WiFi from a mobile device. For data downloads, AT&T’s top speed was more than twice as fast as the best scores obtained on Sprint or Verizon, although AT&T’s fastest uploads were largely comparable with the best uploads found on Sprint or Verizon.

Whether you’re using Maps or Siri or watching videos, AT&T provides hands down faster experiences, at least when you have good service. Whenever you don’t have AT&T’s best service coverage, speeds drop considerably, even falling to zero in some places. However, on average across all the tests performed in parallel in both rural and urban settings across California, AT&T averaged 1.623 Mbps down and 0.764 Mbps up, numbers than were more than twice as fast overall compared to Verizon’s downloads (averaging 0.724 Mbps) and 2.9 times as fast as Sprint’s download average (0.559 Mbps).

In terms of upload speeds, AT&T’s average was about a third faster than Verizon’s average upload speed of 0.557 Mbps, and 1.8 times faster than Sprint’s, which clocked in at 0.422 Mbps. If you want the fastest mobile service for your iPhone, AT&T is the clear winner, even when you figure in areas of weaker coverage.

AT&T also has the greatest potential for building on its 3G speed lead for iPhone users. Verizon and Sprint are tied to CDMA EV-DO for their 3G service, and those networks can’t get much faster (although they could be make more reliable, potentially raising their average speeds closer to the technology’s theoretical maximum of 3.1 Mbps down and 1.8 Mbps up).

AT&T is already delivering download speeds quite a bit faster than EV-DO is capable of ever achieving. On top of that, AT&T’s network and the iPhone 4S are capable of even faster speeds up towards the theoretical 14.4 Mbps, something that Sprint and Verizon simply can’t achieve with their existing 3G networks. That’s why both Verizon and Sprint are working to build out LTE networks capable of faster speeds (although those networks won’t ever benefit existing iPhone users unless they begin using an external MiFi wireless LTE device to relay WiFi data service).

Bottom line: AT&T is already fastest in general, significantly faster on average, and has far more room to grow in progressively rolling out even faster speeds to existing iPhone users over the next couple years.

Verizon coverage is indeed more widely available

Neither the average speed of AT&T’s network nor its fastest peaks will matter to you, however, if you routinely want your iPhone to work in areas where AT&T delivers poor coverage. For example, we found specific locations where an AT&T iPhone simply wouldn’t ring or get any service: at home, in most of the mezzanine level of the San Francisco Muni Metro, in parts of the forest headed to Lake Tahoe, and in the shadowed valley of Los Angeles’ Runyon Canyon Park.

There are plenty of areas where mobile phones of all types fail to find service, but both AT&T and Sprint seemed more likely to lose coverage in certain dubious fringe areas than our Verizon test phone. Even in areas where one might expect not to have data coverage (such as in an underground metro station) the Verizon iPhone could often find enough service to remain marginally usable. These cases provide reasons why you might opt for slower overall coverage in order to have at least minimally functional service more of the time…

Sprint is indeed the only unlimited iPhone data contract still available…”

So it seems to me, for the vast majority of iPhone users (since we iPhone users apparently need not be concerned about any AT&T CarrierIQ on our smartphones, as Android users should be), there’s only one carrier worth looking at:  AT&T.

Lee Dronick

Cell service satisfaction has so much to do with where you live and whose towers are closest. I first had T-Mobile (almost useless), then Verizon (good, but I always dropped calls in my kitchen

AT&T gave me a free Femtocell. I never had a connection problem in the house, but did on the patio which I think was a line of sight problem. The femtocell fixed that.

...you surveyed 66,000 subscribers across 5 carriers?US Cellular, T-mobile, Verizon and at&t.? ok. 66,000 divided by 5= 13,200 people.? at&t has over 96 million customers.? that?s 0.013%.? I don?t care whose on top or bottom?but what I do wants is a fair and accurate survey to be done.

I am not a statistician, but from what understand ya can get surprisingly accurate survey from a small number of respondents. If the survey is set up conducted properly, I don’t know if they did that or not. I do know that I am happy with my AT&T service. Would I like it to be cheaper, yes of course.

BurmaYank

“Let?s stop and think. Washing machines, used cars, floor mops. CR has its place.”

After CR’s horrible record with bogus iPhone “evaluations” and now after this extremely questionable one on AT&T, do you really want to trust anything else CR might say about anything (including washing machines, used cars, floor mops, etc.)?

Ross Edwards

66,000 divided by 5= 13,200 people.  at&t has over 96 million customers.  that?s 0.013%.  I don?t care whose on top or bottom?but what I do wants is a fair and accurate survey to be done.

It is entirely possible to get a valid statistical sample of that size out of that population.  Their methodology may or may not cut the mustard, but that’s another issue and up for speculation anyway.  But in terms of the sheer numbers, one can project the statistical breakdown of a population of 96 million from as few as a thousand or so properly filtered and selected samples.

chipbrock

Fastest, maybe. But if you want to make a call, it’s painful in many places. I’m on a campus of 46,000 students which ATT deliberately ignored. Verizon spent big time. They made me buy a microcell for $100 just so I could use my phone in my corner campus office. I hated giving them money to “build” a tower for them since they refused to do so. At the least, they should have given me the tower. Well, that’s $100 that they’ll lose many times over when I leave.

The reason that people are not leaving ATT with their iphones is that it’s too expensive to break a contract. My family - 4 iphones - will leave as soon as it’s feasible to do so.

I travel to Europe a lot and the ATT GSM was also a draw for me. Voice and data are seamless…I don’t even think about it when I get off the plane. But now with the multi-band phone with Verizon, I’m gone.

ATT has deliberately chosen to have a lousy telephone experience in order to gather in the iphone clientele and they’ll pay for it in the end I predict.

Lee Dronick

I?m on a campus of 46,000 students which ATT deliberately ignored. Verizon spent big time.


Did they choose to ignore it or was there some sort of deal between the school and Verizon?

The reason that people are not leaving ATT with their iphones is that it?s too expensive to break a contract.

I, and I assume others, had expired contracts with AT&T over year before we bought two iPhone 4S. I stayed with them in large part because we were happy with the service. Of course other people’s mileage will vary.

Terrin

Regardless of what people think of AT&T. The iPhone works better in terms of data usage on AT&T. So, if you are a AT&T customer, and thinking os switching, you 1) will have to get a new phone, and 2) the phone will not be as functional on Verizon or Sprint.

The iPhone uses AT&T’s high speed network, and does both data and voice at the same time only on AT&T.

Does anyone really care what CR has to say anymore? Look at AT&T?s numbers. If that many customers were really upset, they would have moved to Verizon or Sprint but they haven?t. CR can manipulate numbers like everyone else. I?m tired of all these satisfaction ratings anyway. Find something that?s meaningful to report on that is real, not something made up from a poll.

Wireless Customer

Consumer Reports what real people say about real products. What is not true about this article is U.S Cellular was ranked higher than Verizon by over 10 points year over year. U.S Cellular is a regional wireless provider in 26 states and not the attention getting Verizon so Jeff who wrote this report didn’t mention U.S Cellular at all. Really Jeff, if your going to write a story on who was “#1 again this year” please make sure your facts are accurate.

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