The best wireless carrier in the US is not actually a carrier at all. At least that’s the view of the venerable American Customer Satisfaction Index(Opens in a new window), a massive decades-old survey that asks consumers how they feel about businesses in a range of industries.
Although the three big carriers came out in a muddled tie this year, depending on which part of the survey results you read, virtual carriers such as Consumer Cellular and Straight Talk got consistently higher satisfaction scores than any of the major players.
We found the same result in our Readers’ Choice Awards, which check a slightly different but overlapping set of mobile carriers.
T-Mobile comes out best by a nose in one of the ACSI’s sub-ratings…
…but the MVNO Optimum Mobile, running on T-Mobile’s network, easily beats T-Mobile’s score on another chart…
…and Consumer Cellular does best of all.
Does Bigger Mean Blander?
In phones, Apple and Samsung, the two giants that dominate the industry, are tied with a leading score of 80/100, the survey says. Google, Motorola, and “others” lag behind.
And in terms of carriers, AT&T leads the major carriers when rated as “wireless phone service,” but T-Mobile slips slightly ahead as a “mobile network operator,” and Verizon rates by far the best on “year-over-year network quality.”
The one clear signal in here is the same as we found in our Readers’ Choice survey: If you aren’t considering MVNOs, the virtual phone companies that rent the major operators’ networks for their service, you’re making a mistake.
Recommended by Our Editors
As we’ve found, none of the major operators can measure up to the level of customer satisfaction we see from the MVNOs. That’s true on this survey, too, where Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk, and Tracfone all receive higher scores than any of the three major carriers.
Our Readers’ Choice award went to Mint Mobile, which is not on the ACSI’s list. (All of these surveys, including ours, exclude smaller players when they can’t find enough survey respondents who subscribe.)
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