Verizon is voted king of the carriers, but AT&T has the best LTE network

Wireless carriers

The results are in and Verizon Wireless has been crowned as the highest-rated major carrier in the United States. The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a survey of 62,253 wireless subscribers to find out which carrier was most popular with North America’s user base. Verizon scored favorably in categories such as voice and data service, support, staff knowledge, and resolution of issues.

Competing carriers Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T scored in middle to low ranges in these categories, particularly in the voice and text service field. AT&T placed in last for the third consecutive year.

“Verizon stands out from the pack if you are a heavy-duty data user,” Mike Gikas, Consumer Reports senior electronics editor, said to NBC News. “They’re the Cadillac network. They’re pricey in some respects, but in terms of overall quality of service, they are the overall leader.”

This contributes to J.D. Power and Associates’ findings from its 2012 Wireless Network Quality Performance Study back in August: Verizon consistently outperforms the average wireless carrier and most of its competitors. However, while AT&T came in last place in the text and service category, its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network was rated as the best of all the carriers.

“AT&T has been a basement dweller for several years now,” Gikas also said to NBC. “A lot of people are unhappy with the service, except 4G customers. In fact, when it comes to 4G service, AT&T had the fewest problems of any carrier.”

It’s also important to remember that cell service can vary depending on certain areas of the country. Consumer Reports factored this into its findings as well, reporting that Sprint and Verizon provide essentially the same quality of service in St. Louis, but Sprint falls behind in last place in Chicago.  

It may be safe to say that smartphone users are tied to their technology more than ever in today’s times. Smartphone users set the bar significantly high when it comes to the way their devices perform, Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates, told NBC. “They expect their smartphone to do whatever it’s supposed to do every time,” he said.

In terms of prepaid phones, Consumer Reports rated TracFone as the top competitor. You can read Consumer Reports’ cell phone and service buying guide here.