Which Cellphone Company Has The Worst Call Quality In Your Region?

If you want to decide which cellular provider to do business with based on performance, you might be interested in checking out the new “2009 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study” from J.D. Power and Associates. If you don’t have time, just remember that Verizon Wireless offers the most reliable call quality around the country, coming out on top in 4 of the 6 regions.

“Overall, Wireless Carriers Reduce Dropped Calls, Failed Connections and Static, Driving an Improvement in Call Quality Performance” [JDPower via mocoNews]
(Photo: TheGiantVermin)

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  1. dragon:ONE says:

    AT&T’s the worst. Only three carriers here are Nextel, AT&T, and Verizon.

    And AT&T here does not have a 3G deployment… so we’re living it up with EDGE on our phones.

    Verizon? They’ve got EvDO Revision A.

    Nextel? No. Just no.

    And on AT&T you’re really using Rogers Wireless, since your phone will roam 95% of the time on Rogers. Yay living 3 miles from the nearest Rogers tower and 5 from the nearest AT&T tower.

    • shepd says:

      @dragon:ONE:

      Heh. You will think I jest, but the roaming fees you pay for using the data service on Rogers are actually lower than the fees Rogers charges its own customers.

      It’s sad, but Canadians that are in the know are jealous of American cellphone plans.

      Here’s the data only plans we pay over here (note the overage fee of 3 cents per megabyte, which surprised me–it’s FAR lower than it used to be, it’s now low enough using an Acoustic Coupler is no longer the cheapest way to push data through the network):

      [www.rogers.com]

      • jamar0303 says:

        @shepd: Out of curiosity, just how many people living on the northern side of the border sign up from the southern side just for the “cheap” factor?

    • pattiesmart says:

      @dragon:ONE: I’ve had AT&T since they were Cingular, and Cingular a good 5 years before that. Never have had a problem.

      • Berz says:

        @pattiesmart:

        Same, I was on ATT, then it was Cingular, now it’s ATT again. No big issues for me. Does help that i live in a large city and don’t really have to worry about not having a signal.

  2. baquwards says:

    I think that the only reason that At&t still has customers here is because of the IPhone. A friend switched to At&t and loves the Iphone, but absolutely hates the fact that he gets no signal in many places that he did before with Verizon. I would never give up signal for a fancy phone, it makes no sense to me.

    • nfs says:

      @baquwards: I’ll agree that a significant number of AT&T subscribers are iphone users but that does not mean that is the only reason AT&T has customers. I mean, 78 million AT&T users in the US are iphone users too?

      • The_Legend says:

        @nfs: AT&T has 78 million users because they bought most of their GSM competition (as Cingular). The ATT blue cell customers loved their service, as did SunCom. Ask them now.

    • Homerjay WANTS to jailbreak his iphone but is still scared to brick it. says:

      @baquwards: I gave up signal for a fancy phone. I’m not YET regretting it but it IS very annoying. If AT&T didn’t have their fastest 3G speeds in the northeast then I MAY be regretting it. Aside from that they’re a disaster and they clearly don’t give a shit.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @baquwards: I left Verizon to go to AT&T and I do have less of a signal in some areas, but I make up for it by not having to deal with stupid customer service people every month for incompetency and incorrect billing.

      • baquwards says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Lucky me! I have never had anything but stellar customer service from Verizon, but I usually go to a corporate run store nearby. I have been a customer for 10 years now.

        • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

          @baquwards: I have to say the same. I’ve always had really great service through Verizon, been with ‘em for…well, lets just say since the stone age of mobiles.

          • "I Like Potatoes" says:

            @LadySiren: I’ve had AT&T since they sucked up Cingular and never had a problem. Granted, my phone is a 4 year old pretty basic Motorola flip phone. Also, I only use my phone to make phone calls – no data or texting or anything. I pay 50 something dollars per month for two phones. No complaints from me.

            • "I Like Potatoes" says:

              @changed my name: Oops, I was replying to the original post from Baquwards. I always reply to the wrong person. I guess that just proves how technically challenged I really am.

    • theblackdog says:

      @baquwards: I know of a few people who have said they’re jumping ship and getting a Google phone after their contract with AT&T expires because they loved their iPhone, but they can’t stand AT&T. The Google phone is similar enough for them that they’re willing to make the switch.

    • TheWillow says:

      @baquwards: I was always on AT&T because my dad got a discount through work, and then I got an iPhone.

      If I hadn’t been indoctrinated from birth that Apple is my true lord and savior (no seriously, my grandparents own more Apple products than I think all of the other grandparents in the world combined own computers. they own the CUBE FFS. My dad had a Newton. I was doomed.), and if I would seriously consider the Google Phone. (Aside from the fact that I firmly believe any company with the motto “don’t be evil” is evil)

      I don’t get service in my bedroom. WTF.

    • nuton2wheels says:

      @baquwards: Verizon’s phone selection sucks, and I’ve gotten pretty tired of dealing with it (4 warranty replacements for my present phone!) … However, their customer and wireless service is good. I’d much rather have a GSM phone that has tried and true global development and unique features. These Verizon CDMA phones suck, and unless you’re willing to go with a Windows Mobile (ugh) or Blackberry (no need) PLUS the extra smart phone plan, you’ll end up with some cheap phone that’s got technology from 2004 and a bunch of bells and whistles thrown in to make it seem robust.

  3. mikeyl says:

    I live in Queens NY and frequent into the city Manhatten

    Quite Honestly all three of these carriers work fantastic in the city and queens area. I never had a drop call with any of them except when going into a subway system.

    I believe Verizon wireless has antennas in some parts of the subway system, because i’ve had and seen phones work down there.

    I go into long island about once a week and the best service out in long island is verizon wireless. At&t and sprint have very poor signal, especially in the hamptons and riverhead

    • kateblack says:

      @mikeyl: Pssst! Queens & Manhattan are the same city.

      My friends in Astoria who have iPhones and are stuck with AT&T have dropped calls allll the time now.

    • kimmer939 says:

      @mikeyl: AT&T is HORRIBLE in Astoria. I have an iPhone too, which is the only way I would ever be an AT&T customer. Now not only does my phone drop calls on a daily basis, even when I’m just sitting on my couch, but it also treats my friends and family to strange noises and pathetic call quality. The biggest mistake Apple ever made was to make the iPhone exclusive to AT&T.

      • Chris Walters says:

        @kimmer939: If my friend who works near Times Square calls me when I’m at home in Brooklyn (we both have iPhones), it sounds like a radio play of “The Langoliers” on our phones. By that I mean it sounds to both of us like horrible metallic locusts are attacking the other person. (I don’t really know what that story/movie is about–I just remember the metallic pacmen devouring everything.)

        I never had bad Cingular or AT&T service on my Nokia phones. Only after switching to the iPhone did service ground to a screeching halt. Interestingly, the iPhone is the first 3G-capable phone I’ve had.

  4. ninjatoddler says:

    I would switch to Verizon if they were GSM, so until then, it’s T-Mo.

    • baquwards says:

      @ninjatoddler: Why? Yes GSM is used in many more countries, but CDMA is very much superior. GSM has reached its technology limit, and is on its way out. CDMA is also on its way out, but much slower. At&t’s 3g network is built on CDMA technology as is Verizon’s because GSM just can’t handle it.

      • shepd says:

        I hope you’re wrong about CDMA, because outside of North America, people expect to be able to buy an unlocked phone with all the features enabled and use it on any provider any way they choose.

        CDMA providers, quite simply, don’t “do” this. And even if they did, you can’t just swap a SIM with a CDMA phone to use another provider, you’ll need to get the provider to program it for you (JOY!) every single time you want to swap it. And two providers at the same time (or swap at the touch of a button)? LOL no.

        • The_Legend says:

          @shepd: Have you heard of the Samsung Ace? CDMA (Sprint) and GSM (whoever you want). Works like a charm outside of the US

        • Subliminal0182 says:

          @shepd: This. I travel internationally and instead of getting an international plan, I just buy a prepaid SIM when I arrive at the country I’m going to.

          Service-wise, I’ve only had experience with T-Mobile (as they’re what my parents used when I was on their plan). It used to be iffy but we just got 3G in our area which is a bit better. Plus their CS is outstanding so it’s a tradeoff.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @shepd: Happens in China (yes, we DO have CDMA out here). There’s this little thing called R-UIM that’s just like a GSM SIM card. You can freely move from one phone to another, no messing around required. The only difficulty is in bringing over an American/Korean no-card phone. Those are so hard to activate since the provider’s not used to dealing with that. Only exception is Japan; no one’s figured out how to remove the R-UIM locks from those phones. It now makes me annoyed at American CDMA providers to no end. It also annoys small importers to no end because of how hard it is to make the provider cooperate when activating one of those (imported smartphones, because by Chinese law mobile phones can not have WiFi without also incorporating the Chinese equivalent that no one wants to touch; only Motorola bit the bullet, and even Apple’s supposed to be releasing a WiFi-less iPhone here so the import market is amazing)

        • baquwards says:

          @shepd: In the future At&t and Verizon will be on the same signal, LTE. It will be more like VOIP than regular cell that we have now, all functions of the phone will be over internet, including voice.

          That is what I have read.

  5. Shadowfire says:

    There’s no T-Mobile coverage here, and Verizon treated us Vermont Unicel customers like shit. Sprint’s coverage might as well be zero. AT&T for us!

  6. traid says:

    The problem I have with this article is that U.S. Cellular doesn’t cover major cities in the North (or) Central region. They don’t cover Minneapolis/St Paul, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Wichita, Little Rock, North or South Dakota, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Louisville, Dallas, Colorado…. but they are the “best” wireless provider in the central US? I guess if you live in rural America they might be great, but I wouldn’t consider any carrier that is roaming in almost every major city “the best.”

    • Major-General says:

      @traid: US Cellular is also not techinically a national carrier. But I had better service while roaming on US Cellular than I did on my native Verizon network.

    • Whtthfgg says:

      @traid: Where they do exist, US Cellular is fantastic…..how many carriers can you say that about (in Wisconsin)

  7. jwissick says:

    AT&T suck nuts…. No news there. They USED to be great. Not any more. Verizon, please sign with Apple!!!

  8. viper2000 says:

    I have verizon, and frankly, I hate it. I have to go outside my house or sit in the window to get a decent connection, the only data plan available for my phone if 44 dollars a month, treo 700w btw.

    No one with verizon here can get reception in my house, or most buildings. After I go 10 feet into a store, i drop to 1 bar, and their net connection on my phone is slower than 28.8k dialup

  9. SDreamer says:

    T-mobile here at home, Verizon at the university. My room mate can never get reception indoors anywhere on campus for some reason, and I’m hitting full bars on AT&T. AT&T gives me pretty good reception everywhere but within my own house, but there it’s still pretty good, at least 2 bars.

  10. MoonstarGem says:

    eh, I’ve only got one thing to say, it’s really only a local provider, but Metro PCS is the WORST I have ever dealt with. If I’m taking a call at work, and it gets DC’d, the person has metro, every time.

  11. AppleAlex says:

    I’m not sure who we have here. we have a tower a good mile away and my friend claims it only had Verizon and AT&T but Metro and T-mobile operate here aswell

    I remember the time we went camping and all 4 friends had 4 different carriers. I think verizon was the one that pwned with 4 bars. our fellow Sprint user got one. everyone else was in the middle.

    I’m not sure about here usually you get 3-4 bars with AT&T in a computer lab (surprising with all the interference) and 4 outside

  12. H3ion says:

    Verizon works pretty well anywhere in the DC Metro Area. We had Nextel and found that it didn’t work in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and some other places we had sites that we had to visit. We switched them to Verizon as well. One of our guys uses aT&T with an iphone and seems happy. One guy chose Sprint (or whatever its’ called now) and is waiting for his contract to expire so he can switch to Verizon. None of us are heavy text users and my hearing is pretty bad so I need a phone with clarity and volume. The Verizon Motorola phone seems to work as expected.

    • jeffbone says:

      @H3ion: Seconded. I gave AT&T the boot shortly after I moved to NoVA and they swallowed up Cingular…I went to Cingular to get *away* from the Death Star, plus I got tired of the constant call drops.

  13. Telekinesis123 says:

    I would have to say Telus for here in Calgary Alberta Canada. I friend of mine has Rogers and in places I couldn’t dream of calling he can even in peoples basements. Bell is also here but I don’t know enough to have an opinion on them.

    I had so many dropped calls once they sent me a letter…and a refund of 65 cents, yay.

  14. chocolate1234 says:

    US Cellular is amazing. In the few years I had them, I never had a dropped call. I ended up switching to Verizon though, simply because US Cellular doesn’t cover a lot of areas, and if I was traveling even a few hours, I was likely to roam.

    • queenofdenial says:

      @chocolate1234: I got sick of roaming with US Cellular and switched to Sprint. Big mistake! At the time I lived in Madison, WI and had no signal. Back to USC for me! But if I travelled it would be a different story.

  15. caknuck says:

    This confirms that my impending switch away from Sprint will be to Verizon.

  16. The_Legend says:

    I’m not a big fan of Verizon, but I have to give them props on call quality for all of the friends that have them. ATT? I have had more dropped calls just driving thru my neighborhood than all of my other friends carriers combined. I use Nextel for work, and it works fine. My daughter swears by Sprint, but depending on the phone, I have had problems. T-Mobile, ya got some catching up to do, especially in the mid south.

  17. Bgeezy says:

    I work at att wireless. I didn’t even know dropped calls still existed until I started working here. I’ve worked with them for 2 years and noticed it degrading more and more by the amount of outages I see daily.

    I have Tmobile and Sprint lines because my wife works at Radio shack and gets their dealer plans. With those two I never had any problems with dropped calls. Sprint doesn’t work at all downtown in my city but seems to work better in tall buildings than my tmobile phone.

  18. shinerunner12 says:

    I have been with alltel for 8 years, had great service in my area, then verizon took over, and its been days of garbage. Days where my phone worked but would not ring, wifes phone same way Kids phones worked fine. Days where text just refusing to send all phones effected. Internet with tether 1.1mbs, I even went to two alltel stores and tested using there demo laptops still same speed. I have had my touch pro about a year, wife has had hers about 3 months. Kids are on scoops.

  19. Corydon says:

    I’ve had Sprint for the last few years and have always had good signal here throughout Denver. Can’t remember the last time I had a dropped call. I even spent a weekend camping near Leadville, CO and was surprised to find I had signal (and good call quality when I left the phone on) even there.

  20. Principia says:

    We had severe problems with poor reception from AT&T and switched to Verizon as a result several years back. (We’re in the suburbs of Washington DC.) Until such time as the rest of the carriers get into the Metro system (which starts this fall), however, Verizon is going to have an unnatural advantage here.

    All of the carriers have their faults. If it’s not poor reception (AT&T) or managers calling the police to have people arrested for trying to pay their bill (Sprint), it’s chronic overcharging for services that cost the carriers nothing (everyone) and deliberate hobbling of phone functions (Verizon).

    I look forward to the FCC finally treating cell phone service like the public utility it ought to be regarded as.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Principia: Interesting. I live in the DC suburbs as well but I have great reception with AT&T for the most part. While I had better reception overall from Verizon, I never had “poor” reception with AT&T. Whereabouts are you?

    • nuton2wheels says:

      @Principia: But that would be too good for the consumer and very, very bad for those big corporations! Damn socialists! ;)

  21. TehQ says:

    I have T-mobile because I work for them, but I rarely drop calls. I live in southern california, about an hour south of LA.

    All I really have to say about cell service is each carrier works better in different areas. Go with the one that works the best in your area. And remember, its a cell phone and its not going to work everywhere. People have become too spoiled and think their phone should never drop calls. It happens, live with it.

  22. BlazerUnit says:

    I live in the south, and I use nothing but prepaid wireless. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to stick with Verizon now that they’ve engulfed my former Alltel service.

    But switching to AT&T could be even more problematic–I really don’t want to give AT&T my money, for one. And second, I’m interested in Tracfone or Net10–but a sliver of those co-owned services is owned by AT&T, and both use AT&T towers (in my part of the country).

    Neither T-Mobile To Go, Boost Mobile, or Virgin Mobile are viable options, so I could be stuck. Or am I? Almighty Google, use your magic (and your 700mhz spectrum) to save us!

  23. chris_d says:

    What do they mean by “call quality”?

    If they mean coverage and signal strength and how many dropped calls, then US Cellular is probably the best in my area, followed by Verizon. I haven’t actually used USC, but from what others have told me, their coverage is great. Customer service, I’ve heard, NOT so great.

    If they mean how clear the calls are, I have to say definitely NOT verizon. My experience is that calls are distorted. The ring-back tone sounds like it’s under water. I assume that’s from the audio compression. You also get dead silence when the other party isn’t speaking, so sometimes you wonder and ask if they’re still on the line. Other people have said the same thing.

    I currently have T-Mobile (prepaid for a cell phone on the cheap) service and subjectively, the calls sound better than Verizon. I also have fewer problems when calling a voice recognition system, so I suspect it’s not just my opinion.

    I compared T-Mobile service to my home phone tonight, and the home phone still wins hands down on clarity; it’s no contest.

  24. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    In the LA area.. ATT 3G is spotty. Calls kinda drop in and out. I went ahead and disabled 3G on my Samsung phone. I get full bars on EDGE, no dropped calls, and excellent sound quality.

  25. Warren says:

    More importantly, which cellphone company has the sleaziest contract terms (fine print, early termination gotchas, “taxes” that add 30 percent to your bill, etc)?

  26. Tawnie is Monster Mashing says:

    I live in the Southwest and could not be happier with Verizon. Excellent call quality and data service. I have been with all the other major carriers and that study is correct for this region.

  27. sp00nix says:

    T-Mobile. Some parts of town (including my house) are dead zones for mt G1 loving buddies.

  28. chaoss13 says:

    I live in CT.
    Had Sprint WAY bacy. It was ok, but CS were complete idiots.
    Had AT&T/Cingular after that, had certain “black holes” where no phone worked.
    Now I have Verizon. Extremely rarely have a problem with quality or drops. Data speeds are good enough to stream internet radio on my handset while I’m at work or out on my bike. CS can be a pain, but usually is pretty good.
    Key thing…Verizon works. It’s my only phone, too.

  29. julaun says:

    I live near Tufts University in the Boston area–can’t hold a conversation on my Sprint network for more than a couple minutes in our house. Lasts a bit longer outside. There’s a hole in their coverage right over my house for about a block around. Never really considered AT&T an option. I’d heard nothing but bad anecdotes about it before they got the iPhone, then laughed at all the fanboys when Mac signed the deal. Although it pains me, I think I’ll have to move to Verizon. I can’t stand their stupid commercials.

  30. aswearengen says:

    I used to have AT&T, and I worked in the AT&T building in Chicago, and I could not get a signal in there. So, they suck.

  31. PsiCop says:

    I live in a hilly, forested, mostly-rural region which by its nature is not cell-phone friendly. Carriers are reluctant, if not totally unwilling, to cover this area. At the moment the only real choice is Verizon, but even then, there are many “holes” in coverage. Sprint is next-best, followed by AT&T and T-Mobile which are about equally bad … as in, almost totally non-functional except within a few better-inhabited zones and along a couple of arteries (but still with holes along their lenths).

    T-Mobile and AT&T seem to have decided to write off the region entirely, depending only on Android phones and iPhones to sell their services (respectively). They have “hardware appeal,” not “network appeal.”

    The county I live in historically got maybe one new cell tower a year. It hasn’t had a new one built in 18 months. No new applications are pending, either. The carriers appear to have reached a dead-end here; the coverage we have, seems to be what we will have, for the foreseeable future.

  32. xkevin108x says:

    We have a small provider called nTelos that has the worst call quality. T-Mobile is a close second. AT&T earns passing marks but Verizon is the only choice for quality calls.

  33. HogwartsAlum says:

    I think my sister has had Sprint for a long time, and as far as I know she’s been fine. I don’t know for sure if that’s what she has now.

    I just got Net10 for my phone. Cheap and I don’t have a fancy phone or data plan. Just something I can make/receive calls or texts on if I need to (although I haven’t learned how to text yet). So far it’s been great and sometimes has better clarity than my AT&T landline.

  34. elendur says:

    AT&T is horrendous in Chicago. No question.

  35. thurmania718 says:

    I currently have AT&T only because of the iPhone. I switched from a previous carrier which I was relatively happy with and am just amazed with how dissatisfied I am with AT&T’s coverage in the New York City area. The frequent dropped calls are only part of the problem. Sadly I have another year left in this contract and can not wait to switch providers.

  36. newfenoix says:

    I live the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and have NO problems with AT&T at all. Nor do I have any problems with them when I visited my dad in Arkansas. Used to have Sprint and it was a total NIGHTMARE.