The overall rate of customers experiencing a wireless call quality problem has declined for a second consecutive year, with reported problems per 100 calls (PP100) reaching the lowest level since the inaugural study in 2003, according to Volume 1 of the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study(SM) released today.
The study, now in its fourth year, measures the number of problems experienced with wireless call quality on a semi-annual basis. Call quality is based on seven customer-reported problem areas that impact overall carrier performance. They are: dropped/disconnected calls; static/interference; connection on first try; voice distortion; no echoes; no immediate voice mail notification; and no immediate text message notification.
The study finds that the percentage of wireless calls with at least one problem has declined from 26 PP100 in 2005 to 24 PP100 in the 2006 study -- an improvement of 8 percent. The number of wireless calls that involved a problem also declined by 15 percent when comparing the 2004 (30 PP100) and 2005 studies. A lower PP100 score is better, as it means fewer problems experienced with call quality.
In addition to the decline in overall call quality problems, considerable improvements have been made in the areas of dropped/disconnected calls and calls with voice distortion. The number of dropped/disconnected calls has decreased by 15 percent when compared to the 2005 study. The number of calls experiencing voice distortion, which occurs when voice patterns become inconsistent due to problems with digital frequency, has decreased by 25 percent when compared to 2005.
"It's clear that wireless providers have made great strides in improving the quality of calls, especially in those areas that impact customer churn the most, such as calls that are dropped or disconnected," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. "With an increasingly competitive environment and an increase in the number of services used in conjunction with a cell phone, carriers that offer superior network quality will improve their likelihood of attracting new customers and will increase customer retention. In fact, improving network quality is a beneficial financial incentive for wireless carriers, as customers experiencing at least one call quality problem are three times more likely to indicate they 'definitely will' switch carriers in the future."
The study also finds that overall call quality performance varies based on where a call is placed or received. Wireless calls within a local calling area have significantly lower PP100 ratings when compared to calls placed or received while roaming -- 27 PP100 and 55 PP100, respectively. Additionally, outdoor wireless calls typically experience less problems when compared to calls placed inside of buildings, particularly those made from home.
"It is clear that carriers need to manage their network to reflect their specific customer's usage patterns in order to provide the best possible call quality experience," said Parsons.
T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless rank highest in five of the six U.S. regions (including one tie) included in the study. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless both perform particularly well in the areas of initial connections, dropped/disconnected calls and voice distortion. U.S. Cellular is the only other carrier to rank highest in a region (North Central).
Study results by region are:
Northeast Region: T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless rank highest in a tie for a second consecutive year. T-Mobile performs particularly well in the areas of timely voice mail notification and no echoes. Verizon Wireless performs well due to fewer problems experienced with dropped/disconnected calls and no echoes.
Mid-Atlantic Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest, outperforming the regional average in static, voice distortion and no echoes.
Southeast Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest with fewer problems in static, initial connections, timely voice and text mail notification.
North Central Region: U.S. Cellular ranks highest with fewer problems in static, initial connections and voice distortion when compared to the regional average.
Southwest Region: T-Mobile ranks highest in this region, with customers reporting fewer problems in dropped/disconnected calls and static.
West Region: T-Mobile ranks highest for the first time in this region, performing particularly well in initial connections and dropped/disconnected calls.
Volume 1 of the 2006 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study is based on responses from 23,368 wireless users. The results are from the two most recent reporting waves, which were conducted in October 2005 and February 2006. Volume 2 of the 2006 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study will be issued in September 2006.