For the first time in three years, AT&T did not finish last in Consumer Reports’ annual ranking of U.S. cell-phone service providers. That dubious honor in 2013 goes to Sprint,
which had the lowest customer satisfaction rating, “with dismal marks this year for value, voice, text and 4G reliability,” according to the study.
Among the four major
carriers, Verizon Wireless was again tops -- receiving high ratings for its data service and some aspects of customer support. AT&T and T-Mobile got mostly so-so scores, although AT&T was the
only carrier to get the top rating for the reliability of its 4G service.
The top-rated service overall again was tiny Consumer Cellular, which won top scores across the board,
although it uses the same network as lower-ranked AT&T. That continues a pattern of no-contract and prepaid services from smaller players like Consumer Cellular and TracFone outshining the largest
“Our latest cell service satisfaction survey revealed a somewhat precipitous decline by Sprint that shuffled the rankings of the major standard service
providers,” stated Glenn Derene, electronics content development team leader for Consumer Reports, in announcing the results. Sprint has long attempted to compete with its two larger rivals
Verizon and AT&T on pricing and value, running a steady stream of promotions.
In that vein, the nation’s third-largest carrier this week announced a deal to offer students
free unlimited talk, text and a 1GB worth of data for a full year if they buy a new phone at Best Buy between Nov. 18 and Jan. 4. But even such promotions, along with getting the iPhone, didn’t
help Sprint in the consumer ratings this year.
Sprint reported a profit for the third quarter, but continued to bleed subscribers, with a net loss of 313,000 subscribers. But the
company is expected to get a new infusion of capital through its recent acquisition by SoftBank.
Full study results, which were based on a survey polling 58,399 subscribers, can be
found at ConsumerReports.org and the magazine’s January 2014 issue