Consumer Reports: US Cellular Best, AT&T Worst
US Cellular Tops Consumer Reports Mobile Provider List; AT&T Fails
AT&T continues its streak as lowest-ranked American mobile service provider, according to a 58,000-user survey by Consumer Reports. The bad news for AT&T is that its latest failing grade comes after spending over $2 billion on "network improvements".
U.S. Cellular, with only 6.1 million subscribers, came in at the top of the Consumer Reports survey, followed closely by Verizon.
AT&T blames its chronic dropped calls on increased demand for data streaming by iPhone users in urban centers such as San Francisco and New York, which it somehow did not predict.
"We take this seriously, and we continually look for new ways to improve the customer experience," AT&T said in an emailed statement. The carrier pointed to its success attracting customers and claimed its dropped-call rate is only slightly worse than the best in the industry.
AT&T's sub-par service was thrust into the limelight when it secured US iPhone exclusivity, but Verizon is about to eat AT&T's lunch.
However, once it gets the iPhone (which is a near-certainty), Verizon will also face data-traffic spikes as those not predisposed to smartphones take the plunge: far more research is required to buy an Android phone, since there are so many choices. Still, Verizon can treat its current smartphone stable as a testing ground for how it handles the data-vs-voice conundrum.
Verizon's current CDMA network is voice-centric, though, and its 3G is handled by the EVDO protocol, which does not carry voice calls. This means that, when a call comes in on your Verizon smartphone, any data activity gets put on hold.
The difference between Verizon and AT&T's networks isn't that one is designed to give calls priority — in fact, cellular networks prioritize calls over other traffic specifically so that they don't drop. The difference is that Verizon's physically locks out data when handling calls.