Verizon snags J.D. Power nationwide network performance crown

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Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) topped J.D. Power's most recent network performance rankings across all six U.S. regions, marking a first-time achievement for any operator since the semiannual study moved to a regional format in 2004.

Verizon has traditionally rated highly in the semiannual study in the Northeast region and topped that region's ranking list for the 18th consecutive reporting period. This time around, however, the operator also came in first in Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, and West regions, and ranked highest in a tie in the North Central region. In that region, Verizon shared kudos with U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM), which topped the North Central region for a 16th consecutive reporting period.

The win is a big one for Verizon, which has long touted the superiority of its mobile network. Earlier this month, it was unseated in J.D. Power's customer satisfaction rankings by AT&T (NYSE:T), which topped that list for the first-time ever.

And while AT&T failed to top Verizon in J.D. Power's network rankings, AT&T's mobile network has increasingly gained recognition, with its LTE speeds beating those of its competitors in several third-party tests. AT&T has not been shy about touting those successes and in July began claiming that it, not Verizon, has "the most reliable" LTE network.

Yet according to J.D. Power's recent network survey, Verizon is the operator achieving fewer customer-reported problems when it comes to dropped calls, initial connections, transmission failures and late text messages compared against the regional average.

AT&T was second while T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and Sprint (NYSE:S) alternated between third and fourth place in five of the six regions. In the North Central Region, where U.S. Cellular and Verizon tied at the top, they were followed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, in that order.

The recently released network rankings are based on results from J.D. Power's customer survey of 26,491 wireless customers between January and June 2013. The study considers wireless customers' experiences with calling, messaging and data, assessing overall network performance based on 10 problem areas, including dropped calls, calls not connected, audio issues, failed/late voicemails, lost calls, text transmission failures, late text message notifications, Web connection errors, slow downloads and email connection errors.

J.D. Power's survey also found that there are fewer reported problems overall among wireless customers who use a full-service provider network rather than a non-contract carrier. Regarding data-related issues, there are more reported problems among non-contract customers for excessively slow downloads and Web connection failures.

"While it's not unexpected to find network performance disparity between these two segments, given the robust upgrade to 4G technology in the full-service segment, there is performance disparity in the non-contract segment, even between those carriers that own their own network and those that piggyback on full-service networks," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power.

Parsons estimated that there is a financial impact in providing a high-performing network, as spending increases by an average of $17 per customer among those who have switched from a previous carrier to obtain a better network/coverage, compared with those who switch for other reasons.

For more:
- see this J.D. Power release
- see this GigaOM article

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