As the number of reported wireless problems reaches historically low levels, the overall rate of customers experiencing a wireless call quality problem has declined for a third consecutive reporting wave, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study(SM)-Volume 1 recently released.
Now in its fifth year, the study currently measures wireless call quality semi-annually. Call quality is based on seven customer-reported problem areas that impact overall carrier performance: dropped/disconnected calls; static/interference; failed connection on the first try; voice distortion; echoes; no immediate voice mail notification; and no immediate text message notification. Problems are measured by the number experienced per 100 calls (PP100), with a lower PP100 score reflecting fewer total problems experienced.
The study finds that the percentage of wireless calls with at least one problem has declined by 14 percent since the last two reporting periods (March-April and June-July 2006). Considerable improvements have been made with regard to interference/static, voice distortion and echoes. The number of calls with interference/static and voice distortion has decreased by 33 percent compared with the last reporting period in 2006, while the number of calls experiencing echoes, which occur when voice patterns become inconsistent due to digital frequency issues, has decreased by 20 percent over the same time period.
"Wireless providers have clearly made great strides in improving call quality," 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 are more likely to attract new customers and 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 almost four times more likely to definitely switch carriers in the future."
The study also finds that part of the improvement in call quality can be attributed to the industry transition to third-generation networks (3G) and mobile devices that support higher data speeds, always-on data access and greater voice capacity.
"One key advantage to this technology upgrade is that carriers can greatly increase the capacity of handling voice and data transmissions with existing network equipment," said Parsons. "As more wireless subscribers use cell phones that are 3G-enabled, the rate of call quality problems decreases significantly. For example, problems occur at nearly one-half the PP100 rate when calls are placed or received using a 3G-enabled mobile device compared with calls made or received using lower-generation devices."
Verizon Wireless performs particularly well in the study, ranking highest in four of the six U.S. regions examined, while tying with Qwest to rank highest in a fifth region. U.S. Cellular also ranks highest in one region. Study results by region are:
Northeast Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest in the region, with fewer problems reported with interference/static, dropped/disconnected calls, initial connections and voice distortion.
Mid-Atlantic Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest, with fewer problems experienced with voice distortion and echoes.
Southeast Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest in the region, with fewer problems with interference/static and voice distortion.
North Central Region: U.S. Cellular ranks highest for a third consecutive time with fewer problems in interference/static, initial connection, dropped/disconnected calls and voice distortion.
Southwest Region: Verizon Wireless ranks highest in the region for the first time, with fewer problems with echoes.
West Region: Qwest and Verizon Wireless rank highest in a tie. Qwest customers report fewer problems in the area of voice distortion, and Verizon Wireless performs well in initial connections.
The 2007 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study-Volume 1 is based on responses from 29,346 wireless users. The results are from the two most recent reporting waves, September-October 2006 and January-February 2007. Volume 2 of the 2007 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study will be issued in September 2007.