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The votes are in: Which mobile data provider is best?

February 3, 2014 06:30 AM ET

No. 1: Verizon Wireless

Verizon user ratings
Average download speed: 3.85
Average upload speed: 3.76
Availability of connection: 3.94
Reliability of connection: 3.83
Performance relative to cost (value): 3.31
Technical support: 3.66
Selection of phone models: 4.04
Customer service/billing: 3.69
Overall rating: 3.76
Source: Computerworld mobile data service survey, 2013
Base: 304 Verizon customers

Verizon was the favorite provider for a simple reason: It had the best data speed and reliability rankings of all the providers. It swept every one of these categories, getting 3.8 in download speed, upload speed and reliability of connection and 3.9 in availability of connection.

It's no coincidence that Verizon offers the broadest LTE network coverage in the U.S. (although its competitors are rapidly building out their LTE networks as well). Indeed, 86% of Verizon customers ranked network coverage as the No. 1 or 2 reason for choosing the provider, compared with 71% of respondents overall.

Did you choose Verizon based on...
Percentage of Verizon customers who ranked each reason 1 or 2, where 1 is most important and 5 least important
Coverage: 86%
Price: 39%
Plan options: 38%
Specific phone: 25%
Other: 14%
Source: Computerworld mobile data service survey, 2013
Base: 304 Verizon customers

That doesn't mean, though, that Verizon customers necessarily think they're getting the most bang for their buck. The carrier's 3.3 rating was well behind T-Mobile's 3.7 for performance relative to the cost of the service.

But price isn't a generally a primary reason people choose Verizon: Only 39% of Verizon customers ranked it as the No. 1 or 2 factor in the decision of which carrier to use.

No. 2: AT&T

AT&T user ratings
Average download speed: 3.72
Average upload speed: 3.62
Availability of connection: 3.75
Reliability of connection: 3.63
Performance relative to cost (value): 3.35
Technical support: 3.58
Selection of phone models: 4.33
Customer service/billing: 3.68
Overall rating: 3.71
Source: Computerworld mobile data service survey, 2013
Base: 260 AT&T customers

AT&T came in a close second with an overall rating of 3.71 based on solid numbers in every one of the eight categories, just behind Verizon in connection speed, availability and reliability, and generally in line with the other providers in customer service/billing and technical support.

It stands out for phone availability, where it easily led the category with a 4.3 ranking. But like Verizon, it fell down in the value rating, with a 3.3.

Closely matching the overall results, 71% of AT&T customers who took our survey cited network coverage as the No. 1 or 2 reason for choosing the carrier.

Did you choose AT&T based on...
Percentage of AT&T customers who ranked each reason 1 or 2, where 1 is most important and 5 least important
Coverage: 71%
Specific phone: 43%
Price: 41%
Plan options: 34%
Other: 17%
Source: Computerworld mobile data service survey, 2013
Base: 260 AT&T customers

However, AT&T bucked the general trend of respondents considering choice of phone models as unimportant in that decision, with 43% ranking it at 1 or 2.

That's not surprising, given the company's strong satisfaction rating for phone model selection, and it may in part be a legacy from the years when AT&T had an exclusive lock on Apple's iPhone.



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