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

February 3, 2014 06:30 AM ET

No. 3: T-Mobile

T-Mobile user ratings
Average download speed: 3.75
Average upload speed: 3.61
Availability of connection: 3.36
Reliability of connection: 3.28
Performance relative to cost (value): 3.72
Technical support: 3.79
Selection of phone models: 3.93
Customer service/billing: 3.83
Overall rating: 3.66
Source: Computerworld mobile data services survey, 2013
Base: 81 T-Mobile customers

T-Mobile's overall weighted rating of 3.66 isn't far behind AT&T's 3.71, but looking at the individual categories that contributed to T-Mobile's overall rating shows off both its strengths and its weaknesses.

One category stands out above all the rest in T-Mobile's numbers: performance versus cost, which translates into value. T-Mobile's rating of 3.7 is far ahead of Verizon's 3.3 and AT&T's and Sprint's 3.2. Clearly, its decision to buck the status quo of depending on long-term contracts and instead offer contractless and low-cost plans is paying off.

Did you choose T-Mobile based on...
Percentage of T-Mobile customers who ranked each reason 1 or 2, where 1 is most important and 5 least important
Price: 79%
Coverage: 55%
Plan options: 34%
Specific phone: 18%
Other: 15%
Source: Computerworld mobile data service survey, 2013
Base: 81 T-Mobile customers

T-Mobile is also rated slightly higher than the other providers for technical support and for customer service/billing, and is tied with Verizon for the top ranking in download speed. Apart from that, it's generally in the middle of the pack.

It's no surprise, then, that 79% of T-Mobile customers named price as the No. 1 or 2 factor in choosing the carrier, well ahead of the 50% average. The second most important factor for T-Mobile customers was network coverage, with 55% ranking it a 1 or a 2 in importance.

No. 4: Sprint

Sprint user ratings
Average download speed: 3.15
Average upload speed: 3.16
Availability of connection: 3.17
Reliability of connection: 3.11
Performance relative to cost (value): 3.17
Technical support: 3.67
Selection of phone models: 4.24
Customer service/billing: 3.73
Overall rating: 3.42
Source: Computerworld mobile data services survey, 2013
Base: 114 Sprint customers

Is there anything that Sprint has to crow about in our survey? Not really, although it can say that it scored in the middle of the pack for technical support, customer service/billing and phone selection. But that's as good as it gets for Sprint.

What really hurts the company in our ratings is how poorly it performs in its users' eyes when it comes to data speed and network reliability. It was dead last in availability, reliability, download speed and upload speed, and by a wide margin.

Did you choose Sprint based on...
Percentage of Sprint customers who ranked each reason 1 or 2, where 1 is most important and 5 least important
Price: 66%
Plan options: 55%
Coverage: 51%
Specific phone: 17%
Other: 13%
Source: Computerworld mobile data service survey, 2013
Base: 114 Sprint customers

Sprint customers generally don't think they're getting a good deal, either, because Sprint came in last for value as well.

Despite that, 66% of Sprint customers said price was the No. 1 or 2 reason they chose the carrier, followed by plan options at 55% and network coverage at 51%.




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