U.S. carrier satisfaction: No love for Sprint, prepaid scores the highest

November 21, 2013
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It’s no secret that Sprint has been struggling for the last several years. Not only is its 4G LTE network a joke compared to the competition, the provider is also often criticized for having reportedly spotty service throughout most of the United States.

On the positive side, Sprint is also pretty aggressive when it comes to timely software updates, special promotions and then there’s its truly unlimited data for life guarantee. Of course all of these advantages only matter if you happen to live in an area that has pristine Sprint coverage.

This is just one survey of 58,000 users, and not necessarily an 100% accurate representation of how all U.S. phone users feel. Still, it does help paint a bigger picture.

So what do most consumers think of Sprint? According to a new Consumer Report survey, there’s little love for Sprint these days. Last year the same survey reported that Verizon was number one in satisfaction with Sprint in second. This year, Sprint has dropped down to dead last.

Verizon maintained its position as the top-dog in customer satisfaction when compared to the other four major carriers, with AT&T and T-Mobile getting mostly “ho-hum” results. Consumer Reports does note that AT&T was the only carrier to receive top marks for the reliability of its 4G service.

The highest ranking out of all cellular services actually went to Consumer Cellular, however. For those that don’t know, CC is a prepaid MVNO that runs off of the AT&T network.

Smaller, no-frills, no-contract and prepaid service providers continue to do a better job of satisfying customers, and provide an increasingly viable alternative to some of the expensive, long-term contracts that many consumers find themselves locked into.
Glenn Derene
Electronics Content Development Team Leader for Consumer Reports

Although Consumer Cellular received the highest marks out of all the prepaid offerings in the survey, Consumer Reports did mention that all prepaid and no-contract carriers scored fairly high in terms of overall customer satisfaction.

What these numbers mean for the U.S. carriers

We’ll get this out of the way now: this is just one survey of 58,000 users, and not necessarily an 100% accurate representation of how all U.S. phone users feel. Still, it does help paint a bigger picture.

As Sprint continues to play catch up in terms of LTE coverage, it’s not surprising to see that the Now Network has fallen behind. Considering Verizon has the best overall coverage (including LTE), it’s also not terribly surprising to see Verizon rated as number one among the four carriers.

What does interest us though is that prepaid carriers continue to dominate in customer satisfaction while growing at a pretty impressive rate.

Most of the globe is already dominated by prepaid carriers, and it is about time that U.S. consumers woke up to this.

Earlier this year, an NDP Group report indicated that in Q1 of 2013, 32% of all smartphones sold were associated with prepaid accounts. This represented a growth of 11% from the year before. Although this is merely opinion on my part, I believe this is just the beginning.

Most of the globe is already dominated by prepaid carriers, and it is about time that U.S. consumers woke up to this. If prepaid services continue to increase as contract plans decline, it will be interesting to see how the bigger carriers respond to this change in the coming years.

For T-Mobile’s part, we’ve already had a glimpse of this response through their (relatively) new uncarrier initiative — and we like what we are seeing so far.

What do you think, are you surprised to hear about Sprint dropping down to last place? Do you think that the big four carriers will continue to dominate the U.S. cellular market well into the foreseeable future, or are we heading towards an industry-wide shakeup?

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