Wireless Call Quality Stops Improving

March 7, 2011

jdpower-wireless-mid-atlantic-mar-2011.jpgShifts in wireless phone usage, including smartphone and texting use, as well as an increase in the percentage of wireless calls being made and received inside buildings, has led to a halt in overall call quality improvement, according to [pdf] the J.D. Power and Associates U.S. 2011 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study, Volume 1. The study finds the percentage of wireless calls made indoors has increased 40% during the past eight years, to an average of 56% in 2011 from 40% in 2003.

Verizon Tops in Most Regions

jdpower-wireless-mid-atlantic-mar-2011.JPGFor a 13th consecutive reporting period, Verizon Wireless ranks highest in the Northeast region. Verizon Wireless achieves fewer customer-reported problems with dropped calls, initial connections and interference, compared with the regional averages.

Verizon Wireless also ranks highest in the Southeast, Southwest and West regions, and ranks highest in the Mid-Atlantic region, in a tie with AT&T. In the North Central region, U.S. Cellular ranks highest for a 11th consecutive reporting period. Compared with the regional average, U.S. Cellular has fewer customer-reported problems with dropped calls, failed initial connections, interference and delayed notification of text messages.

The semiannual study measures wireless call quality based on seven problem areas that impact overall carrier performance: dropped calls; static/interference; failed call connection on the first try; voice distortion; echoes; no immediate voicemail notification; and no immediate text message notification. Call quality issues are measured as problems per 100 (PP100) calls, where a lower score reflects fewer problems and higher call quality.

In-home Wireless Calls Increase

Study data shows the proportion of wireless calls made from homes increased notably, averaging 35% in 2011 up 40% from 25% in 2003. Among wireless calls made outside of buildings, the greatest decrease has occurred among calls made in vehicles, which has declined 46% to 20% in 2011 from 37 percent in 2003. Typically, wireless calls placed indoors result in slightly more problems, on average, than calls placed outdoors.

Data-intensive Problems More Frequent

Among wireless customers who use data-intensive devices such as smartphones or who have high texting activity, problem rates are higher than the industry average. Problem rates among users of smartphones average 13 PP100, while problem rates average 14 PP100 among heavy texters.

These shifts in usage patterns have slowed the historic improvement in call quality, which steadily improved between 2003 and 2009. However, during the past two years, there has not been a significant change in overall call quality performance across the industry.

Other Findings

  • Wireless customers receive 161 text message notifications per month, on average, 12% more than six months ago (144) and nearly 65% more than just two years ago (98).
  • Among the top 27 US markets, average PP100 scores are lowest among wireless customers in the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh metro areas (6 PP100), and highest among wireless customers in the Washington, D.C. metro area (18 PP100).

T-Mobile Satisfies Wireless Retail Customers

T-Mobile ranks highest in customer satisfaction among major US wireless carrier-owned retail stores for a fourth consecutive time with a score of 739 out of 1,000, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Wireless Retail Sales Satisfaction Study, Volume 1. T-Mobile performs particularly well in price and promotions, such as competitiveness of service plans and devices offered. Sprint Nextel (730) follows T-Mobile in the rankings and also performs well in price and promotions.

About the Data: The 2011 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study, Volume 1 is based on responses from 26,019 wireless customers. The study, which is the source of the enclosed charts, is published by J.D. Power & Associates and was fielded between July and December 2010.

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