Verizon Wireless offers the highest-ranking wireless network performance, according to J.D. Power and Associates' "Wireless Network Quality Performance Study, Volume 2."
Applause is also due to Sprint. The study divides the U.S. into six sections, and while Sprint ranked last in each of these in the first volume of the study, in this second volume, it left that dubious distinction to T-Mobile.
Also deserving of acknowledgement is U.S. Cellular. While in five of the categories the podium ranking didn't budge-Verizon was followed by AT&T, Sprint and then T-Mobile-in what J.D. Powers considers the "North Central" portion of the nation, Verizon rated dead last, and U.S. Cellular stepped into the award-winning position.
The study considered 10 performance areas that affect the customer experience. In order of importance, these are as follows: dropped calls, calls not connected, audio issues, failed/late voice mails, lost calls, text transmission failures, late text message notifications, Web connection errors, email connection errors and slow downloads.
It also measured network performance issues in terms of problems per 100 (PP100) network connections; the lower the number of problems per connection, the better, which is where J.D. Power allowed the carriers to feel better about the mountains of money they've been sinking into their Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G networks.
Devices on LTE networks, the study found, experience far fewer data-related problems, compared with 3G networks as well as earlier 4G technologies such as WiMax (Sprint's longtime 4G flavor) and Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) (T-Mobile's 4G offering for now) and so lower PP100 numbers.
Consumers with LTE service reported slow-Web-loading scores of 15 PP100, for example, compared with the industry average of 22 PP100.
"It's very interesting to see the stark performance differences between the newest generation of network technology, 4G LTE and other network services that were the first offerings of 4G-marketed devices in early 2011," Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power, said in an Aug. 23 statement.
"With the network advantages of using 4G LTE technology, in terms of spectrum efficiencies and increase in data connection speeds and reliability," Parsons added, "it's not unexpected that wireless carriers are rushing to expand and upgrade their networks to align with this latest generation of service."
Other advantages of offering 4G LTE are the higher annual bills carriers tend to attach their services-an average of $6 more per monthly bill, said Parsons-and lower churn rates. Customers with smartphones accessing LTE churn at a rate of 11 percent, J.D. Powers found, compared with the 15 percent rate on other network technologies.
The U.S. government, in Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, encourages the timely deployment of "advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans," and the Federal Communications committee this week reported on how the nation is faring on that mission. The committee members both didn't agree on whether the pace was quick enough and whether mobile broadband networks should be included.
When mobile networks such as LTE are included, Commissioner Pai said in a statement of dissent, only 5.5 million Americans are without high-speed Internet services. When left to broadband services alone, the Commission found 19 million Americans to still be lacking these services "essential to innovation, jobs and global competitiveness."