As the wireless services industry continues to invest in network upgrades and more advanced technology, call quality performance has improved from six months ago, according to J.D. Power and Associates' "2009 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study-Volume 2," released late last week.
Verizon Wireless was named best in call quality, ranking highest in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Southwest regions. The report noted Verizon performs particularly well with regard to limiting dropped calls, failed initial connections, and late or failed text and voice messages.
The semiannual study measures wireless call quality based on seven problem areas that impact overall carrier performance: dropped calls, static/interference, failed call connection on the first try, voice distortion, echoes, no immediate voicemail notification and no immediate text message notification. Call quality issues are measured as problems per 100 (PP100) calls, where a lower score reflects fewer problems and higher quality. Call quality performance is examined in six regions: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, North Central Southwest and West.
The study found that wireless carriers have reduced the number of connectivity issues, such as dropped calls, to 4 PP100 from 5 PP100 six months ago. Failed initial connections have declined to 3 PP100 from 4 PP100 during the same period. Wireless customers also report fewer audio problems, such as calls with static, which has decreased from 3 PP100 to just 2 PP100.
"As carriers continue to upgrade existing network infrastructure and create more robust coverage footprints, wireless customers are recognizing an improvement in performance," said the senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates, Kirk Parsons. "As customers continue to increasingly stress wireless networks with growing call volume and data usage for texting, e-mailing and surfing the mobile Web, it is critical for carriers to keep enhancing network performance by maintaining and upgrading to next-generation technologies."
The company found T-Mobile performs particularly well in reducing the number of problems with echoes and distortion, Alltel performs particularly well in limiting the number of problems associated with late or failed messages, and U.S. Cellular had fewer customer-reported problems with initial connections, static or interference, and late or failed voice message notification.
The report also noted wireless usage patterns continue to evolve, as more communications than ever before are now made via text messages. The study found that wireless customers receive 112 text message notifications per month-nearly double the number of notifications from one year ago. In 2009, 32 percent of wireless calls are made or received in the home-a percentage that J.D. Power said is likely to continue to grow, as 27 percent of customers report using their wireless phone for all calls that they would have previously made or received using a traditional landline.
"Customers rely heavily on their mobile devices to stay connected, so carriers must provide their customers with a problem-free experience to keep them satisfied-particularly in such a highly competitive environment," said Parsons. "Customers have come to expect quality calling experiences, and wireless carriers must continue to deliver on their promises for faster downloading and increased bandwidth as customers continue to migrate to next-generation network technologies."