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The votes are in: Which mobile data provider is best?

Preston Gralla | Feb. 4, 2014
Which U.S. cell phone service is the best when it comes to what you really use a phone for these days -- data? Which gives you the most widespread and reliable access to its data network, fast upload and download speeds, the most bang for your buck?

Data connection availability and reliability
Let's start off with the basics: Are people satisfied with their data connection being there when they want it? In other words, how happy are they with the network coverage and availability — can they get online wherever and whenever they want to?

The answer: Generally, yes. A full two thirds, 67%, said they were satisfied. Only 17% were dissatisfied.

But that varied greatly by carrier, with 77% of Verizon customers saying they were satisfied. At the other end of the spectrum, only 48% of Sprint customers reported themselves as satisfied, and more than a third of Sprint customers, 36%, said they were dissatisfied.

People are almost as pleased with the reliability of the connection (once they're connected, do they stay connected?) as its availability. Some 61% reported themselves as being satisfied. Less than a quarter, 18%, said they were dissatisfied.

Once again, Verizon was tops, with 70% saying they were satisfied and only 12% dissatisfied. T-Mobile and Sprint rated the worst. Only 44% of T-Mobile customers reported themselves as satisfied, and almost a quarter, 24%, said they were dissatisfied with T-Mobile's network reliability. Sprint fared no better, with 46% of its customers reporting themselves as satisfied and 36% saying they were dissatisfied.

Download and upload speeds
People are just as happy with their provider's data download and upload speeds as with the availability and reliability of the connection.

Some 66% said they were satisfied with the average download speed. Only 16% were dissatisfied.

Verizon once again was the top performer, with 71% satisfied and just 9% dissatisfied. Sprint was the worst, at 49% satisfied and 38% dissatisfied.

Customers are not quite as pleased with upload speeds, with 59% satisfied; on the other hand, only 14% said they were dissatisfied.

Can you guess the winner and loser? Yes, you can. Verizon was tops again with 64% satisfied and only 9% dissatisfied. And fewer than half of Sprint users, 44%, were satisfied with upload speeds. Some 32% of them were dissatisfied.

Value and phone selection

A high-performing network is one thing, but bang for the buck is something else entirely. So we asked customers what they felt about the data network performance of their providers compared to what they're paying.

As a whole, they're only moderately pleased, with 52% saying they were satisfied and 25% saying they were dissatisfied.

T-Mobile customers, though, are a very happy bunch, with 67% rating themselves satisfied and 22% dissatisfied. Sprint got the big raspberry here again, with the worst results — 44% satisfied and 35% dissatisfied.

It's clear that the smartphone wars are good for consumers, because they reported themselves as being extremely pleased with the selection of available phones from their carriers — a whopping 81% said they were satisfied, and only about 6% were dissatisfied.

 

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