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More consumers report problems with wireless network quality

A survey shows that all providers have lost ground over the last year

Man holding smartphone on sidewalk
Photo (c) Jordan Siemens - Getty Images
Consumers are increasingly using their cell phones and smartphones to access the internet as much as they use them to talk, and those growing data demands on mobile networks are causing problems. 

The J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study found that an increasing number of consumers are reporting problems with network quality. The most common reported problem is slow data or failure to load content.

“An uptick in wireless and device usage was bound to catch up to network quality,” said Ian Greenblatt, managing director at J.D. Power. “Wireless customers are increasingly adept in data usage and streaming, meaning they’re less inspired and more aware of problems. 

J.D. Power tracked customer satisfaction with wireless service across five different regions in the U.S. It found that Verizon Wireless ranked highest in all five regions, achieving the fewest network quality problems per 100 connections (PP100) in call quality.

An analysis of ConsumerAffairs reviews of the Big Three wireless providers shows that consumers give the edge to AT&T:

AT&T: 3.9 stars

Verizon: 3.5 stars

T-Mobile: 3.2 stars

Updated phones can help

Sometimes the perception of service improves when new equipment is involved. Kenneth, of Elmhurst, N.Y., said he was shocked at how much faster his T-Mobile service was when he upgraded phones.

“With the newer phones we got, they all so far worked flawlessly and T-mobile is the only carrier to have 5G on the phones too,” Kenneth wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “We have sim cards spread out between all the carriers based on level of use so it's as cheap as possible for us overall and I can say that one carrier has great signal, T-mobile.” 

In fact, J.D. Power found that the number of problems is significantly lower when 5G is available. When wireless customers reported issues, the survey found that it mostly involved streaming audio and video quality, slow loading times, and calls not going through.

Cheaper plans may be problematic

Our analysis of ConsumerAffairs reviews also suggests that customers with the most expensive plans report the fewest problems with network quality. Herbert, of Palmetto, Fla., has a Verizon plan with up to 50 gigabytes of data usage.

“After the usage they claim you will be slowed to .6 Mbps to 3.0 Mbps, which is still fast enough to surf the net and perform email, etc.,” Herbert told us. “Well it doesn't work that way. They slow the data to .01 Mbps up to .26 Mbps which doesn't even allow you to surf the net.”

With inflation at a 40-year high, more customers may be tempted to move to lower-priced plans. While they may pay less money each month, the level of satisfaction may also go down.

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