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AT&T to lose 26% of iPhone owners to Verizon, survey shows

U.S. consumers cite poor reception, dropped calls as reasons for switching

January 13, 2011 02:28 PM ET

Computerworld - More than one-in-four iPhone owners now using AT&T will switch to Verizon, a U.S. consumer survey said today.

According to ChangeWave Research, 26% of iPhone owners said that they will leave AT&T for Verizon. The biggest chunk of those consumers will make the switch in the first three months that Verizon offers the iPhone 4, with the bulk of the remainder dumping AT&T within the next year.

ChangeWave surveyed more than 4,000 U.S. consumers just days before Tuesday's announcement that Verizon will kick-off iPhone 4 sales on Feb. 10.

Of the four major carriers in the U.S. -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon -- AT&T and T-Mobile had the highest percentage of subscribers who said that they planned to switch providers in the next 90 days. Both carriers' "churn rate" -- the percentage who plan to move to a different company -- was 15%.

By comparison, Verizon's churn rate was only 4%; Sprint's was 10%.

AT&T's subscriber exodus has accelerated, said Paul Carton, director of research at ChangeWave, and at 15% is the highest ever in his company's polling. As recently as last June, only 9% said they planned to abandon AT&T.

"The weakening loyalty of AT&T wireless customers is directly attributable to the upcoming release of a Verizon iPhone," Carton asserted in a survey results report published today.

Of all AT&T subscribers, not only those who already own an iPhone, 16% said that they would switch to Verizon when the latter got Apple's smartphone. Far more -- 60% -- said they would not, while 23% answered "don't know."

The reasons respondents gave to explain why they would jump ship won't surprise iPhone owners. More than four-in-ten (42%) pegged poor reception as a reason, while 27% said AT&T's habit of dropping their calls was behind the move.

Both issues have irked customers since Apple launched the original iPhone in 2007, sparked several lawsuits and was at the heart of the "Antennagate" uproar last summer when users complained that holding the new iPhone 4 in certain ways resulted in poor reception and dropped calls.

AT&T has also been hammered by its customers in the pages of Consumer Reports, which last October ranked the carrier in last place among U.S. mobile service providers.

But ChangeWave said there was a bright spot for AT in its survey results: The carrier has improved its dropped-call rate. About 4.7% of AT&T subscribers reported a dropped call in the last 90 days, down from 6% when the question was last asked for a September 2010 survey.

Verizon's dropped call rate is just 1.7%, according to subscribers polled by ChangeWave.



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