In more bad news for AT&T, a Jan. 13 study from ChangeWave is the latest to suggest that the original Apple iPhone provider may suffer a customer exodus once Verizon begins selling its own long-awaited iPhone Feb. 10.
Days before Verizon's big Jan. 11 announcement - "We are pleased to introduce millions of wireless users to the industry-leading iPhone 4 on the nation's most reliable network," Verizon COO Lowell McAdam said in a statement - ChangeWave asked 4,000-plus consumers how likely they were to switch providers in the next 90 days.
Fifteen percent of both AT&T and T-Mobile customers said they were "very/somewhat likely" to make a switch, while only 4 percent of Verizon customers said the same.
Wading into the figures, ChangeWave found AT&T's 15 percent to represent its highest churn rate in the past 18 months of polling, more than doubling the 6 percent who answered similarly in June 2009 and nearly also the 8 percent who said the same in June 2010.
Behind their "weakening loyalty," reports ChangeWave, is a general displeasure with the service, with 42 percent citing poor reception/coverage as their reason for considering leaving, and 27 percent citing dropped calls. (Another 17 percent said cost was the motivator.)
When ChangeWave directly asked AT&T customers whether they planned to switch to Verizon "if-and-when they begin offering the iPhone," 60 percent said no, 16 percent said yes and 23 percent weren't sure."Importantly," ChangeWave wrote in a report synopsis on its Web site, "current Apple iPhone owners are the most likely group of all to switch, with more than one-in-four (26 percent) saying they'll leave AT&T for Verizon."Whether those polled actually follow-through on their stated intentions should be revealed soon enough."Note that among all AT&T subscribers planning to switch ... 41 percent say they'll do it within the first three months of the iPhone's release," wrote ChangeWave, "and another 31 percent within the first year."In a bit of good news for AT&T - and those subscribers intending to stay put - survey respondents reported that the number of dropped calls they experienced on the AT&T network has dropped over the last 90 days."While AT&T continues to struggle in this very important area and trails Verizon by a wide margin, it has made significant advances since our previous survey - improving from its all-time worst 6.0 percent rating [in Sept. 2010] to 4.7 percent in the current survey. The findings suggest AT&T is now taking concrete steps to try to improve long-standing service issues."AT&T officials have been saying the same for some time. During the carrier's second-quarter earnings call in July 2010, AT&T CFO Rick Lindner said the carrier was "moving heaven and earth" to make improvements to the network, particularly in New York and San Francisco, where high numbers of densely located users posed particular service challenges. Lindner added that during the quarter, AT&T had managed to decrease dropped 3G calls in Manhattan by 23 percent and by 13 percent in the greater New York metro area.The service challenges posed by the Apple iPhone have also led to much speculating about whether Verizon's network will be similarly overwhelmed by the device's notoriously data demanding users, though so far some in the industry are optimistic. An October survey from Majestic Research, for example, found that Verizon's Android users - while numbering far fewer than AT&T's iPhone owners -actually consumed more megabytes of data per month than the average iPhone user."I am quite certain that Verizon would not bring a new device onto its network if it thought there was any chance that it would impact or destabilize its network," Ken Hyers, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK at the time.Until February, and then beyond, the market will have to wait and see whether consumers do in fact make the move to Verizon - and what the impact of that will be."The Verizon iPhone is causing a major transformational shift in the wireless industry," wrote ChangeWave, "and for now the momentum clearly favors Verizon."