AT&T, Verizon at opposite ends of Consumer Reports survey

AT&T Mobility ranked lowest in wireless customer satisfaction in 19 of 26 cities surveyed by Consumer Reports, marking another blow to the carrier's image. Further, AT&T's chief wireless rival Verizon Wireless ranked highest in all of the 26 markets.

Respondents knocked AT&T service in New York and San Francisco--where subscribers, particularly of the iPhone variety, have previously complained--as well as in Atlanta, Cleveland Houston and other areas. The publication surveyed 50,000 readers in 26 U.S. cities.

"Apple's iPhones are the top smart phones in our ratings--actually, among the best of all phones we tested, period--but their exclusive carrier, AT&T, was middling at best in satisfaction," Consumer Reports said. "If you're readying to buy Apple's phone, prepare for possible disappointment with its service and expect to love the phone anyway."

Pali Research analyst Walter Piecyk wrote in a research note that it is becoming a "familiar juxtaposition" for Verizon and AT&T to be on opposite ends of the satisfaction spectrum. "While we recognize the shortcomings of each of these surveys individually, we believe the consistency of AT&T's ranking and the numerous press reports cataloging its network problems present a looming problem for a company that we believe has become over-leveraged to the iPhone," he said, noting AT&T replaced Sprint Nextel at the bottom of this year's Consumer Reports survey.

AT&T sought to cast a rosy glow over the survey dust-up. "We appreciate and value all customer feedback," the company said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD blog. "We learn from it and it helps us serve our customers better. Without question the surest indication of customer satisfaction is churn, or turnover. For the last quarter, our postpaid churn was just 1.17 percent."

AT&T has previously acknowledged difficulties in meeting the data demands of iPhone users. In response, it has begun upgrading its network to HSPA 7.2 technology; by the end of 2010, AT&T has promised to offer the HSPA upgrade in 25 of the country's 30 largest markets.

For more:
- see this Pali Research post (sub. req.)
- see this AllThingsD blog post

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