US Wireless Network Problem Rates Differ Considerably Based on Type of Service
Overall network performance levels of wireless phones differ depending on whether services are deployed by full-service or non-contract carriers, according to J.D. Power and Associates.
Their study evaluated wireless customers' most recent usage activities in three areas that impact network performance: calling, messaging and data. Overall network performance is based on 10 problem areas that impact the customer experience. Network performance issues are measured as problems per 100 (PP100) network connections, with a lower score reflecting fewer problems and better network performance.
The study finds that overall network performance varies widely by service segment and the activities performed on the handset. For example, there are fewer reported problems overall among wireless customers who use a full-service provider network, compared with problems reported by customers of non-contract carriers. Overall, problems associated with placing calls, messaging and data-related activities average 11 problems per 100 calls (PP100) for full-service carriers. This compares with 13 PP100 among customers of non-contract carriers.
In addition, the specific types of problems experienced may vary greatly by segment type. In regard to data-related issues, there are more reported problems among non-contract customers for excessively slow downloads (21 PP100) and Web connection failures (14 PP100), compared with 16 PP100 and 10 PP100, respectively, among full-service customers. Performance also varies between the two service segments for call quality and messaging issues, but to a lesser degree than with data speed and connection issues.
"While it's not unexpected to find network performance disparity between these two segments, given the robust upgrade to 4G technology in the full-service segment, there is performance disparity in the non-contract segment, even between those carriers that own their own network and those that piggyback on full-service networks," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power. "Based on the varying degree of consistency with overall network performance, it's critical that wireless carriers continue to invest in improving both the call quality and especially the data connection-related issues that customers continue to experience as 4G service becomes more prevalent."
According to Parsons, there is a financial impact in providing a high-performing network, as spending increases by an average of $17 per customer among those who have switched from a previous carrier to obtain a better network/coverage, compared with those who switch for other reasons.
For the first time since the study moved to a regional format in 2004, Verizon Wireless is the first wireless provider to rank highest across all six regions of the country. By region, Verizon Wireless ranks highest in the Northeast region for an 18th consecutive reporting period. Verizon Wireless achieves fewer customer-reported problems with dropped calls, initial connections, transmission failures and late text messages, compared with the regional average. Verizon Wireless also ranks highest in the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, and West regions, and also ranks highest in a tie in the North Central region.
U.S. Cellular ranks highest (in a tie this period) in the North Central region for a 16th consecutive reporting period. Compared with the regional average, U.S. Cellular has fewer customer-reported problems with dropped calls, failed initial connections, audio problems, failed voice mails and lost calls.
The report is based on responses from 26,491 wireless customers. The study was fielded between January and June 2013.