A Consumer Reports study found little good news for T-Mobile customers, should AT&T's proposed purchase be approved. The first Senate hearing on the matter is set for May 11.
Reports has more bad news for T-Mobile customers already
fearing what AT&T's proposed purchase of their carrier might mean for them.
Following a survey with more than
50,000 subscriber participants last fall, the publication determined that the
sale of T-Mobile to AT&T could be a "setback" for T-Mobile
customers. The worry is that T-Mobile's service would come to resemble
AT&T's, rather than the reverse.
"Our survey data finds precious
little to cheer T-Mobile customers about the proposed merger," Paul
Reynolds wrote in an April 11 blog post on the publication's site, "or to
clearly support the expected pitch from AT&T that the proposed takeover of
its smaller competitor will improve service for current customers of both
AT&T and T-Mobile."
Regarding contract service, T-Mobile's
was found to be "meaningfully better" than AT&T's, and AT&T
received lower marks than T-Mobile on nearly every attribute Consumer Reports
rated for. In regard to prepaid service, T-Mobile's Go Phone brand actually
outranked offerings from Verizon, Virgin and AT&T, with only Tracfone and
Consumer Cellular beating it.
In almost all cities, T-Mobile's
network was also found to be more satisfying than AT&T's. In 20 of the 21
cities where Consumer Reports said it had sufficient data to rate both
carriers, "T-Mobile had notably fewer problems with dropped calls than
But AT&T's biggest problem,
Consumer Reports found-noting that it was the area where customers'
satisfaction rates showed the biggest gap-was customer service.
"From support on various modes
(phone, email, website) to success in solving problems ... and staff
knowledge," AT&T's customer service, wrote the pub, was
While T-Mobile is hardly perfect-regarding
issues with network service, AT&T and T-Mobile were said to be "evenly
matched," with each rating average or worse compared with other carriers-its
national reader score has remained stable. AT&T's, however, has slid, with
customers increasingly considering a move to another carrier. AT&T has
"become markedly less satisfactory to readers in resolving issues and has
prompted a startling jump (of a full 13 percentage points) in the proportion of
its customers who say they want to quit the carrier," Reynolds wrote.
When asked whether an issue had been
satisfactorily resolved, 70 percent of T-Mobile customers said yes in 2009, and
in 2010 71 percent said the same. When the question was posted to AT&T
customers, 63 said yes in 2009, but only 58 percent said the same in 2010. When
asked if they were seriously considering switching carriers, 37 percent of T-Mobile
customers said each year, while among AT&T customers, 33 percent said yes
in 2009 and 46 percent said yes in 2010. (It's worth noting that there were
strong rumors of a pending Verizon Wireless iPhone at the time, which may have
contributed to the increase in those considering a switch. However, had they
been satisfied, would a Verizon iPhone have been such a lure?)
For now, however, T-Mobile customers
can expect more of the same. Federal regulators still need to approve the
proposed $39 billion purchase-a process that many estimate will take nearly a
year, and that the Federal Communications Commission has said it will consider
slowly and carefully.
The first Senate hearing on the matter
has been scheduled for May 11 by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisc., chairman of the
Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.
Following AT&T's March 20
announcement of its intention to buy T-Mobile, a move that would create by far
the largest carrier in the United States, Kohl said he worried what the
purchase would ultimately mean for American consumers.
"Consumers have borne the brunt of
the increasingly concentrated market for mobile phone service. The explosion of
cell phone usage-especially smartphones-makes competition in this market more
important than ever as a check on prices, consumer choice, and service,"
he said in a statement the same day. "That's why the
Antitrust Subcommittee will take a close look at what this loss of competition
will mean for people who increasingly rely on wireless phone service to connect
to friends, family and the Internet."
Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.