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Despite Higher Costs - Customers Report High Levels of Satisfaction with Wireless Plan Upgrades

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Wireless customers who subscribe to plans that offer additional services such as in network calling and unlimited text and picture messaging are typically more satisfied and exhibit greater loyalty than subscribers without unlimited plans, according to a J.D. Power and Associates report.

The study finds that more than 25 percent of current wireless customers purchase plan upgrades, which typically offer unlimited use of text messaging, downloads, and picture and video services for a flat rate. Overall customer satisfaction with wireless carriers is notably higher among these customers, compared with those whose plans have usage limits. On average, unlimited messaging plan customers are 33 percent less likely to switch service providers in the next year compared with limited plan customers.

"Considering that these plans seem to boost overall satisfaction as well as lower switching intent, it's not unexpected that more carriers have expanded their unlimited service plan options to include flat-rate pricing," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. "Wireless customers who are high-volume users typically benefit the most, as they are more likely to exceed their monthly plan minutes, and unlimited plans solve that issue."

Wireless carriers also benefit, as typical customers of unlimited messaging upgrades tend to spend almost twice as much on their monthly service than traditional calling plan customers, on average -- $92 versus $57, respectively.

The semi-annual study measures customer satisfaction based on six key factors that impact overall wireless carrier performance. In order of importance, they are: call quality (32%); brand image (17%); cost of service (14%); service plan options (14%); billing (12%); and customer service (11%). Carriers are ranked across six regions in the United States: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West.

Verizon Wireless ranks highest in four regions -- Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, North Central and West -- and performs particularly well in call quality and brand image in each of these regions. T-Mobile ranks highest in the Southwest region, while Alltel ranks highest in the Southeast region.

Study results by region are:

Northeast Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest for a second consecutive time, performing particularly well in brand image and call quality.

Mid-Atlantic Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest for a sixth consecutive time, performing well in call quality and brand image.

Southeast Region: Alltel ranks highest in the region for a third consecutive time, performing well in all six factors contributing to satisfaction and performing particularly well in service plan options.

North Central Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest for a sixth consecutive time, performing particularly well in brand image, call quality and customer service.

Southwest Region: T-Mobile ranks highest for a seventh consecutive time, performing well in all six factors driving overall satisfaction. T-Mobile performs particularly well in cost of service, billing and customer care.

West Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest, performing particularly well in billing, call quality, customer care and brand image.

Volume 1 of the 2008 U.S. Wireless Contract Regional Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Study is based on responses from 22,052 wireless users. The results are based on the two most recent reporting waves, which were conducted in September 2007 and January 2008.

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