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10 Reasons People Get Bad Wireless Service

Paul Ausick

When customers get slow, intermittent or no service at all from their wireless service provider, the initial reaction is that the company has lousy service and there is just nothing to be done about it. That may be true in some cases, but it's almost certainly not true in all cases.

A recent survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index on wireless phone service noted:

As users download more data and take greater advantage of streaming services, overloaded wireless networks are being challenged to keep up with the increase in usage. This contributes
to stagnating customer satisfaction with wireless service providers …

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Of the four largest U.S. wireless service providers, Verizon Communications Co. (VZ), scores best with a 2014 satisfaction score of 75. T-Mobile USA Inc. (TMUS) placed second with a score of 69, followed by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), tied with a score of 68.

But a Danish consulting firm, Strand Consult, has compiled a study that the firm claims demonstrates that "the quality of the smartphone combined with how it is used and configured is more to blame [for poor service] than the mobile network." Strand offers 10 reasons that could be responsible for poor wireless service -- and only one is the service provider.

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  • Using the wrong phone. The quality of the antenna is a key factor, as those with long memories will recall from the antenna problems on earlier versions of the iPhone from Apple Inc. (AAPL).
  • Too many apps installed on the phone. Apps create signal noise and that can interfere with cell coverage.
  • Free apps. Strand cites Angry Birds as an example of an app that is free by that eats up bandwidth with advertising.
  • Too many open apps. Apps that are open but not being used continue to send and receive signals from the network.
  • Too many Facebook Inc. (FB) friends or a few really chatty friends. Facebook pings and updates also use up network bandwidth.
  • The phone's operating system. A new version of the operating system may actually cause an older phone to perform worse than before. The Android operating system from Google Inc. (GOOG) is merely a platform on which every smartphone vendor that uses Android makes countless modifications.
  • The same model may not be the same model. Some smartphone models with a single name are made by more than one manufacturer and could use different components. According to Strand, there are at least 10 variations of a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone.
  • Rush hour. Peak usage times may put more demand on the network than it can handle. Carriers will not build their networks to accommodate peak demand periods because it is too expensive and customers would not be willing to pay for it. Get over it.
  • Service is poor on trains. The metal tubing around windows and some other materials are signal killers, and if the train is moving fast it can be difficult for the network to switch between cell towers quickly enough to maintain a good signal.
  • The network you chose is not the best one either for your phone or for your usage habits.

While we are always a little suspicious of studies that report that it's us and not the corporation that is responsible for all our troubles, there is probably enough good information in this list to make us think twice before cursing our wireless company again.

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