U.S. Wireless Calls Get Clearer

New research finds that the number of performance problems reported in U.S. wireless communications services has fallen for a second straight year.

Consumer research specialist J.D. Power and Associates reported that the overall quality of wireless calling in the United States has improved for a second straight year.

The customer satisfaction expert released its 2006 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study, which polls mobile subscribers regarding the frequency with which they experience a range of potential problems with their services.

According to the results, the number of issues reported per 100 wireless calls fell for a second consecutive year and reached an all-time low since the study was first conducted in 2003.

Despite the gradual improvement, almost one quarter of all wireless calls continue to have some reported issue around problems including dropped connections, interference, voice distortion or echoes.

Lack of timely notifications for received voice mail and text messages also continue to linger, the report said.

J.D. Power found that 24 out of every 100 mobile calls harbored some sort of issue in its 2006 study, compared to 26 percent in 2005, and 30 percent in 2004.

The researcher contends that overall call quality varies largely based on the location from which a connection is placed, or where it is received, with calls made in a local areas resulting in far fewer reported problems.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about the factors driving the wireless communications market.

While only 27 percent of local calls had some sort of issue, 55 percent of all wireless roaming connections left subscribers disappointed.

The report also maintains that wireless calls made outside typically experience fewer problems than those placed inside of buildings, particularly those made from home.

Customer churn, the No. 1 enemy of all telecommunications services providers, is being significantly reduced by improved network performance, researchers said.

"With an increasingly competitive environment and an increase in the number of services used in conjunction with a cell phone, carriers that offer superior network quality will improve their likelihood of attracting new customers and will increase customer retention," said Kirk Parsons, analyst at J.D. Power, in a statement.

"Customers experiencing at least one call quality problem are three times more likely to indicate they definitely will switch carriers in the future."

On a carrier-oriented basis, the report found that T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless ranked highest in customer satisfaction across five of the six U.S. regions it surveyed, including one tie.

J.D. Power said that both firms performed well around key areas such as dropped calls and voice distortion in impressing their respective subscribers. U.S. Cellular was the only other carrier to earn a top rating in its region.

In the Northeast, T-Mobile and Verizon tied for the lead for a second consecutive year, while Verizon won out in the Mid-Atlantic and in the Southeast, and T-Mobile was on top in the West and Southwest. U.S. Cellular ranked best with customers in the North-Central region.

J.D. Power said that it surveyed more than 23,000 wireless users as part of its research, which was conducted in October 2005 and February 2006.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.