Nov 29 AT 5:28 PM Dustin Earley 73 Comments

Consumer Reports ranks AT&T worst, Verizon best, carriers in the US


Consumer Report’s annual carrier assessment has just been released, detailing the best, and worst, of cellular carriers in the US.

This year’s report isn’t likely to surprise anyone; it’s right in line with how things have been playing out for several years now. AT&T was ranked as the worst carrier in the US as far as voice, data and text quality are concerned. Ma Bell did manage to take first place when it comes to LTE networks, but Verizon took the overall top spot as the best carrier in the US.

Sprint and T-Mobile both found their spot right around the low-end of the quality spectrum.

As with most reports like this, personal experience makes up a huge part of the equation. Here in mid-Michigan, all four national carriers and even some regional carriers offer great service. What about your area? Does Verizon reign supreme, or has a different carrier taken the top spot in your book?

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Consumer Reports

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • Tangent

    T-Mobile is at least making the appearance of wanting to improve. I got a survey from them recently asking me to rate them on several areas. A few days later I got a follow up call because I said I wasn’t satisfied with their coverage. Somewhat appropriately that call dropped while they were trying to see if there was anything they could do to help make me happier…

  • snowbdr89

    I like verizon service the best no dropped calls and i can call customer service an talk to people who speak english instead of some homie named peggy from india!!

  • spintrex

    Not surprised that At&t is the worst overall but since jumping on the At&t wagon 5 months ago the only complaints I have is about the customer service. The first month was just a constant headache with customer service but after all that settled I havn’t had any complaints with voice or data quality.

    The article goes on to state that At&t was ranked the best for 4G LTE which was the main reason for me switching from Sprint. I couldn’t be happier with the speeds and availability of LTE in South Florida.

    The plans are a little pricey for what you get overall but if you can withstand the initial and potential headaches then At&t doesn’t seem so bad.

  • MikeG

    I see VZW and AT&T exactly the same. They have their strengths and weaknesses, but really I’ve seen no difference in either. I haven’t been a VZW customer since the first-gen iPhone came out, so maybe they have improved since then.

    Both are terrible at bungling Android updates though, and should be penalized for that alone.

    T-Mobile is the provider that I see in the highest regard, but would never switch, since I need my phone to have reception no matter where I’m at. AT&T (and Verizon) have this covered best IMHO.

    I’ve really been thinking about switching to a pre-paid provider though.

    • phaet2112

      Its the cost that is the big thing. If cost weren’t an object, Id go with Verizon, but I don’t have gold pieces falling out of my pocket.

  • DroidPower

    at least Tmo didn’t rank last! WIN!

  • Laura

    I have VZW with the iPhone and its clearly the best. Im a very happy consumer, especially with the iPhone and the incredible passbook app, that other companies dont have (they dont have the sophisticated technology i guess).

    • aluzeros

      Where do you use the passbook app? Please don’t say Starbucks.

  • Dave Clary

    I’ll listen to Consumer Reports when they’re talking cars or washing machines. Wireless carrier rating is so subjective, and dependent on location, that I find a CR recommendation next to worthless.

    • Supra98

      I wholeheartedly agree with you! Unless they release CR based on sate/city for people to determine in those areas but as a nation, NO

  • Voliam

    Having been an AT&T customer for years, I have experienced the good and the bad. Their biggest problem is customer service, so hope you never have to call them. They are very good resolving billing issues, but if you have a service issue you have to call them multiple times before it’s resolved (and I usually have to get LOUD on the phone before that happens).
    As others have said, don’t hold your breath waiting for Android updates! They are months behind Sprint and Verizon in that department.

    • MikeG

      I guess it depends on what department you call. I’ve spoke with the billing people a few times and my experience has been fine. Although, my number is technically a business line, so maybe that’s why I always get someone who speaks clearly and that resolves my problem quickly.

      I also spoke with their number porting people when I was switching an old landline over to Google Voice, using an AT&T GoPhone as the intermediate. These people are seriously the nicest phone reps I’ve ever had. Maybe they break out the extra nice people when “new” customers come around.

  • Tpaine

    Some harsh words on here, before we go berating each others character, let’s just remember that this is about cell service, it is not a slanging match, let’s just get a little perspective here.

    All carriers have their good and bad areas, here in western mass the all carriers are pretty good, with exception of sprint, as there data us still very slow. I have had tmobile for years and they have been great, in some spots I it 10-15mbps, I average 6-7mbps.
    Aside from that I think we should be talking about customer service, and pricing, having worked for AT&T I can say I will never give them the time of day. As for Verizon, I have been in their stores and had mixed service, and their prices are way up there. Sprint I have not had any experience with, but I here mixed things. T-Mobile has been great to me at least, I have had early upgrades given to me, rebates have never been an issue, and for the most part the in store service has been great.
    For me Tmobile wins for me, great price, good service, and all the android devices anyone could want.

  • JS_215

    This really comes down to where you live. Here in the Philadelphia area and surrounding suburbs the service is fine for all the carriers.

    If you live in the middle of nowhere then the service isn’t going to be as good. Should the carriers care more? Hell yes, but when it comes down to it… The middle of nowhere is not where the money’s at.

    • Steve Heinrich

      Totally agree. The more populous the more they care. Let’s not pretend these companies have a moral soft spot for people in rural areas.

  • Eric Wilborn

    I certainly agree. We have “coverage” from both carriers in a fairly populated area, but VZW trumps the AT&T service.

  • Ryan

    I’ve had AT&T for years and I’ve never had any major problems with them whatsoever. My calls a fine they never get dropped my texting services great and they were overall customer service has been good to me. I don’t understand personally how the number 2 carrier in the country can be ranked dead last in Consumer Reports. Doesn’t being the number to carrier in the country have something to do with positive feedback from customers? I live in Massachusetts and there was recently a report stating that AT&T was the number 1 preferred carrier in Boston which is obviously a major market. Now I know obviously there not the number 1 carrier in every major market but again being the number 2 in the country yes ranking dead last in Consumer Reports it just doesn’t add up to me . Obviously I’m sure people have had bad experiences with them but I doubt it’s really that bad I’ve had friends who have been on Verizon Sprint and T Mobile who have all said that their services we’re subpar as well. My brother was the Sprint customer and he switched to AT&T after he was being charged for numerous services which he did not subscribe to. Everyone’s experience with AT&T is going to be different but I just don’t understand the logic from Consumer Reports

  • kayvannj

    I’m with AT&T and living at UC Berkeley Campus. Honestly the signal is horrible here but they have a great customer service. They offered me a $200, 3g micro-cell tower for free (by purchasing an iPad) and I took the deal (then sold the iPad in profit and kept the tower) now I have a great signal at home but still its not full signal outside.

    • BKnowles

      What did you say to them to pull that off?

  • MagikalTrev

    AT&T currently top in Fairbanks, Alaska. Verizon is on its way and hopefully I will enjoy my service more then.

  • jefflarkin

    My frustrations with AT&T have gotten noticeably better over that past year. Dropped calls and people getting sent straight to voicemail without the phone ringing seem to have disappeared for me. I’ve not had reason to call, so I don’t know about the quality of their support. My biggest complaint now is the cost, but that’s not out of line with the other post paid carriers.

  • GeauxLSU

    In Louisiana, with all the large gatherings of people (LSU games, Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest etc) Verizon is a lot more reliable than AT&T. I don’t know if Verizon’s network can handle more people, or if AT&T has more customers and gets overloaded during these high traffic time.

  • jcommaroto

    I have never really had issues with AT&T beyond not being fond of their plans overall. I got my first cell phone back around 2000 and watched as that company got eaten by another company, then another, then another until it finally landed with AT&T.

    Customer service has always been really good for me. Haven’t had a dropped call in ages. Data is always up. Occasionally if I travel I run into areas where service isn’t available but that is rare.

  • BigCiX

    The only reason why I stick with at&t is because I’m grandfathered into “unlimited”data.

  • RobBull75

    I think the consumer surveys could be skewed. I know a lot of my iSheep friends switched from AT&T to Verizon for the LTE and they were accustomed to godawful customer service from AT&T, so basically, anything is an upgrade. I’ve never had any major problems with T-Mobile. I’m on the unlimited, unlimited plan and I go through tons of data. I commute downtown via public transportation and have Nexus devices with limited storage, so I’m using cloud services constantly. Never once have I noticed that my data was shaped in any way shape or form. My friends with grandfathered unlimited plans from VZ have noticed that their data is getting shaped (picture messages degraded, stuff like that) since shortly before Verizon started offering the iPhone. This is not my personal experience, but what I have been told by others. Also, my wife incurred a ton of roaming charges when she traveled to Europe last year. Literally hundreds of dollars. T-Mo saw that we were long-time customers and knocked the bulk (~85 percent) of those charges off our bill after dealing with the customer loyalty department. Our previous carrier was AT&T and I concur that they suck ass.

  • bdub

    In the city I live it, Verizon and US Cellular are the only to offer LTE currently. Most carriers work well over all, but where we spend a lot of time on weekends “up north” is way in the sticks, valleys. Verizon actually reaches the house with 3g, just enough to be useable without screaming. So we actually use a permanent VZN hotspot there for internet… otherwise its beyond sketchy dial-up.

  • stephen45003

    I have AT&T and the LTE speeds are pretty good, usually about 30 Mbps down. 3G( what they call 4G) still isn’t that great but fairly good if I have full service.

  • Zagdroid

    I always find it funny about how passionate people are about their carriers. I have been with TMO for 10+ years because it has worked well for me. However, I am sure that there are many places in the country that having TMO is completely infeasible. Verizon, surprisingly, does not work well at my house. So, my only options are TMO and AT&T (and potentially Sprint, don’t know about their service at my house). It pretty much boils down to what works for you. It doesn’t make you stupid to choose one carrier over another.

    Of course, I am not really saying anything different from those sentiments above…

  • cent0909

    Interesting report – I always thought AT&T was much better than this report says. I knew that Verizon has always had the best network quality. Personally, I have had not problems with T-Mobile myself.

  • CaptainDoug

    I like Verizon. But I just don’t need that great of phone service. I only use like 700 minutes and 400mb of data. I’m on wifi a lot so LTE doesn’t really impress me. I’m thinking T-mobile is more my speed for now.

  • mattkelly

    I’m a big Verizon fan. Hate their customer service, but their internet is super fast.

    • sbala

      I agree

  • linkinmark5

    This is news to me as i would never have expected ATT to edge out VZW with LTE. I had ATT for 2 years without any cell issues before having data trouble. I switched to VZW and had nothing but good things to say until they started to raise my plan prices, after I opted for a third smartphone my bill became a small fortune. Ive since switched to Sprint. I have 5 unlimited smart phones

  • tylerfoy

    Not totally surprised. I used Rogers (AT&T in canada) and was not pleased.

    Than again, cell phone companies are just varying degrees of frustration.

  • friendlyfire

    I used to have ATT with iPhone 1, thankfully I made a change to Verizon and droid

  • mario_1603

    Im not surprised neither..

  • grajasekar

    The only parts of Verizon that aren’t cool are their pricing and their policy as far as device updates go. They managed to ruin the device experience for a good number of people with the VZW version of the Galaxy Nexus.

  • juno23

    Their Internet is fast tbf, best Internet speed yet

  • Zach Stewart

    I have been thinking of moving to Verizon for the past year. Even though I have have been with TMO for almost 8 years and think their customer service is the best I have ever dealt with, I just don’t feel like they care about me as a customer.

    I have been having some contracts issues with them since I had added my wife to a family plan last year and it has been really frustrating trying to get the documents from them.

    Anyone else having issues with TMO recently?

  • Dorkstar

    I’ve had AT&T for about 3 years now and really have had no issues. Call quality got spotty for a while when I moved to Dallas, but improved a lot over the past year or so. (They make sure to send e-mail reminding me they are getting better). Now Sprint on the other hand was a nightmare, everything about it sucked.

  • striderr05

    What carrier is good in Omaha NE? I am sprint now but 3G kinda sucks. VZW is expensive. And if someone wants a phone that can be used in other countries while travelling then ATT is only option since is biggest GSM in USA.

  • paladaxar

    unlimited 4G LTE == best carrier for me…aka vzw. Why, oh why, would vz-dub get rid of this single killer feature that so many of us care most about?

  • kookeetree

    I have 2 year contract with At&t… hopefully I won’t have any problems and have to deal with their support.

  • darkgreen

    verizon is the best

  • Beeve

    Unfortunately Verizon knows what they are doing. They are marketing to the average and newer smartphone buying public to get them locked in to a contract. They have great service and an above average selection of phones (& NFL Network). The problem comes with those of us who are into tinkering with their devices. Verizon locks down everything and is very controlling when it comes to what is allowed in a UI or new application. Their great network, and the fact that I have an unlimited data plan are enough, for now, to keep me in their clutches. I just wish that they would soften up their hold on bootloaders and applications that compete with their products. Update for the “Nexus” Verizon?

  • jlnoell

    No surprise there. Verizon has always had great coverage everywhere I go.

  • melan26

    Dang you T-Mobile.

  • Ilyse Rose

    TMobile used to be great, customer service-wise. But once the merger was rumored it went right down the shitter.
    Service is still pretty good, especially in the populated areas I’m in, but I dread having to deal with their call centers.

  • nimslake

    I’m with At&t, because at the time(10-12yrs ago) where I live there was few choices. At&t or Sprint. Sprint has yet to upgrade down here and with the phone service I constantly got dropped. Customer service was bad and so was the service and the prices!. Sprint was buying Bell and other phone company’s and getting bigger, so although I was shuffled from one brand name to the next finally there was no choice. Along came AT&T and gave sprint a run for their money. I switched and have been happy with the service ever since.

    -My only complaint? -> I live in the middle of 4 towers. I should have excellent bars for reception, right? Nope I’m in the middle of the dead-zone so I have 1 bar maybe 2 on a good day. But go less than 1 mile away from home and I have all bars. It’s a small inconvenience but it’s not At&t’s fault I happen to live in the middle.

  • sweet

    verizon has good service but over priced imo

  • tjwwm0m

    I actually really like Verizon and would happily avail myself of their service if it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. With food and gas and medical care prices so high, my phone bill can afford to take a back seat. If it weren’t for Republic Wireless, I probably wouldn’t even have a cell phone. It’s just not worth the cost when I have so many other things to worry about in caring for my family. Verizon may be amazing, but my priorities lie with my family, not with my phone carrier.

  • Nolerltw

    Where I live in Southern California (Temecula) their 4G coverage is good, the other carrier options coverage maps aren’t as robust and I’m still on an unlimited plan. If it wasn’t for their dismal handling of the Galaxy Nexus updates and the fact that someday I’ll lose my unlimited plan I would stick with them for the long run. As soon as they take away my unlimited plan I will be moving on, probably to a prepaid deal.

  • humidity

    Go VZW!

  • [email protected]

    My brother thoroughly enjoys spreading the word on CR latest findings since he uses verison, we have att. But when you like to think you have the best – of everything- so it goes. And if you like to experience talking with someone who sounds as though they’re talking with a soup can tied on a string, way to go. As for me, att works at the cabin, in the city, and country for our family. Go for it CS readers, as for me, I’ll stay with the network that works, and not try to prove I have the best, I prefer to stay with the best.

  • [email protected]

    Sorry, the spelling of verizon should have mattered, at the time, it didn’t.

  • Mohammed