NEW YORK: 3 March 2016 — Wireless customers are becoming more sensitive to slow network connection issues and less tolerant when they occur as carriers face growing usage of 4G-compatible smartphones and mounting customer expectations for faster data speed and better network quality, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance StudySM—Volume 1, released today.
Now in its 14th year, the semiannual study is based on 10 problem areas of the customer experience: dropped calls; calls not connected; audio issues; failed/late voicemails; lost calls; text transmission failures; late text message notifications; Web connection errors; slow downloads; and email connection errors. Network performance issues are measured as problems per 100 (PP100) connections, with a lower score reflecting fewer problems and better overall performance.
According to the study, the number of customers using a 4G-enabled smartphone has risen sharply over the past two years, as have customer expectations for data speed and network quality as technology has improved. More than three-fourths (78%) of smartphone owners indicate using a 4G-enabled device, compared with 59% just two years ago in the 2014 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study—Vol. 1.
At the same time, the percentage of wireless customers who say they experience “slower than expected” data speeds on their 4G-enabled smartphone has declined to 14% from a high of 18% in 2014 Vol. 1, indicating that network connection quality is improving. Customers who say they experience “slower than expected” data speeds currently have a lower incidence of excessively slow mobile Web connections than in 2014 Vol. 1. Specifically, customers with “slower than expected” speeds experience slow mobile Web connections at a rate of 36 PP100, compared with 38 PP100 in 2014 Vol. 1.
Additionally, customers are becoming less tolerant of network problems, with fewer problems triggering them to switch to another carrier than in 2014 Vol. 1. Customers who say they “definitely will” switch carriers in the next 12 months experience slow mobile Web connections at a rate of 22 PP100, compared with 28 PP100 in 2014 Vol. 1.
“It’s imperative for carriers to understand customer expectations and meet their rising need for data speed, while working hard to reduce the incidence of slow network connections,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director and technology, media & telecom practice leader at J.D. Power. “As the popularity of Web connections, video downloads and streaming grows, networks are handling more and more traffic each day. Wireless carriers must continue to invest in and improve network quality performance to meet customer expectations and keep them as customers for the long haul.”
Following are some of the key findings of the 2016 study:
- Overall Wireless Network Quality Remains Steady: Overall wireless network quality problem incidence is 12 PP100 in the 2016 Vol. 1 Study, which is on par with the incidence in 2015 Vol. 2, just six months ago.
- Data Quality Varies by Device: On average, wireless customers experience the highest number of data quality problems when using a mobile broadband device (29 PP100), followed by a tablet (18 PP100) and phone (11 PP100).
- Millennials Experience More Network Problems: Members of the Millennial generation experience a considerably higher rate of overall network problems than Boomers (14 PP100 vs. 9 PP100, respectively), but also use their devices much more frequently than Boomers.
- How Tablet Customers Connect: 16% of wireless customers have a tablet with a data plan from their wireless carrier and 10% use a mobile broadband device, such as an air card or hotspot.
- Connection Problems Differ by Device: When examining the types of data problems, email connection errors occur more frequently on tablets than on phones (10 PP100 vs. 6 PP100, respectively). In contrast, issues related to slow mobile Web connections are more likely to occur on phones (15 PP100) and mobile broadband devices (16 PP100) than on tablets (13 PP100).
Overall network quality is highest in the Mid-Atlantic and North Central regions (11 PP100 each), followed by the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and West regions (12 PP100 each).
Verizon Wireless ranks highest in all six regions for the third consecutive study volume with typically lower PP100 scores than the regional averages in call quality, messaging quality and data quality.
The 2016 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study—Volume 1 is based on responses from 41,400 wireless customers. The study was fielded July through December 2015. Carrier performance is examined in six geographic regions: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West. In addition to evaluating the network quality experienced by customers with wireless phones, the study also measures the network performance of tablets and mobile broadband devices.
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For information about the 2016 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study—Volume 1, visit
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 J.D. Power defines Millennials as those born from 1982-1994 and Boomers as those born from 1946-1964.