Survey: 46% of mobile customers experience slow mobile data speeds

Despite the introduction of LTE by Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and other carriers, nearly a majority of American consumers regularly experience slow mobile data speeds, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

An April 2012 survey from Pew's Internet & American Life Project found that 46 percent of respondents experienced slow data speeds a few times a week or more often. Further, 49 percent of smartphone users surveyed reported experiencing slow data speeds at least weekly. Only 21 percent of all mobile subscribers surveyed said they never experienced slow data speeds. Pew surveyed nearly 2,000 mobile phone owners in March and April and found that 88 percent of American adults own a handset.

"As mobile owners become fond of just-in-time access to others and as their expectations about getting real-time information rise, they depend on the cell phone's technical reliability," said Jan Lauren Boyles, a Pew Internet Project researcher who authored the report. "Any problems that snag, stall or stop users from connecting to the material and people they seek is at least a hassle to them and sometimes is even more disturbing than that in this networked world."

The survey's results contrast sharply with the marketing from wireless carriers, which heavily advertise their network speeds. Verizon and AT&T advertise average downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps on their LTE networks. Sprint advertises average downlink speeds of 6-8 Mbps on its new LTE network, which just went online in July. T-Mobile has said its HSPA+42 network with enhanced backhaul proves LTE-like speeds, and independent tests have measured average downlink speeds on T-Mobile of around 8 Mbps.

Pew's survey also took note of other issues affecting mobile users. The survey found that 32 percent of all mobile users and 35 percent of smartphone users experienced dropped calls at least weekly. Additionally, 25 percent of mobile phone owners and 29 percent of smartphone users experienced spam or unwanted texts at least weekly.

According to Pew, commercial parties cannot send spam to mobile customers who have placed their mobile device on the National Do Not Call registry. For those who have not chosen to go on that registry, governmental regulations bar text messages sent from Internet domain names. However, mobile-to-mobile spam messages are permissible, so long as the text contacts were not generated through an automatic dialing system.

For more:
- see this Pew report
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this PC Magazine article

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