Yankee Group and Mobile Enterprise magazine surveyed large enterprises and small and medium-size businesses about the voice and data coverage they're receiving from what Yankee calls the "Big Four" carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
While AT&T and Verizon, the nation's largest carriers, were the two most popular voice and data providers, it was Verizon and Sprint that voice customers were most satisfied with. Regarding satisfaction with data services, responses were more mixed, though Sprint was voted first by large businesses and second by SMBs.
Large businesses were defined as those with more than 500 employees, while SMS were defined as having 500 or fewer.
Regarding voice service satisfaction, "Sprint ranks first in overall satisfaction and ranks either first or second in nine of the 10 categories among large businesses," Gene Signorini, a Yankee Group analyst, wrote in the Mobile Enterprise report.
The categories included topics such as voice quality, account management and voice service pricing.
"Sprint's scores among SMBs are not quite as impressive, with the carrier ranking third in overall satisfaction, but still finishing first or second in five of 10 categories. Perhaps not surprisingly as a market laggard, Sprint appears to be making aggressive moves on pricing to improve its positioning among business customers," Signorini continued.
Beginning Jan. 18, AT&T and Verizon introduced new, lowered pricing plans. Sprint also put out a news release about its prices - not lowering them, but reminding the public of its already thrifty plans.
An indicator of overall satisfaction, according to Yankee, is whether a company is considering switching carriers, and on this front, the news again wasn't so good for Sprint.
"Despite their high satisfaction scores, a troubling 22 percent of Sprint's large business customers are evaluating switching to a new primary wireless voice provider. This could indicate wariness on the part of enterprise customers about Sprint's overall corporate health in light of its recent financial troubles," Signorini wrote.
Verizon ranked second in voice service satisfaction among large businesses, though it was first among SMBs.
For data service satisfaction, Sprint - which finished first in overall satisfaction among large businesses and second among SMBs - and T-Mobile earned the highest scores among large businesses. SMBs, however, preferred Verizon.
"T-Mobile scores strong numbers for data services considering that it significantly lags behind the other three competitors in 3G network deployment," wrote Signorini. "Like Sprint, T-Mobile is positioning itself as the low-cost provider, which is reflected in its top scores in data service and device pricing among large business. However, as 3G competition heats up, T-Mobile's low scores in data throughput will hinder its ability to make up ground in the long term."
Large businesses indicated that data speeds are their number one criteria in choosing a new provider, followed by data service pricing and customer service and support. For SMBs, pricing was the most pressing issue, followed by data coverage and network speeds.
"Business leaders should begin to use tools such as the wireless voice and data satisfaction indices highlighted here to benchmark wireless carriers across a wide range of key performance indicators," Signorini concluded.
"With wireless and mobile technologies continuing to evolve at a rapid pace, the market leaders of today are not assured of long-term success unless they continue to deliver and innovate in these key areas."
Later in January, Yankee Group will publish a companion report offering deeper analysis of the survey results.