AT&T Ranked Worst: What Does It Mean To You?

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A Consumer Reports survey confirms what many people have asserted for years--AT&T is officially the worst wireless provider in America. Well, it ranked last in the Consumer Reports survey, but there are more things to consider when choosing a wireless service than what Consumer Reports has to say.

AT&T scored a 60 out of a possible 100 on the survey, which not only places it in last place, but is also a significant drop from its 2009 score of 66. AT&T is the second-largest wireless provider in the US based on total subscribers, and it claims to have the fastest 3G network, but it is consistently derided by customers for poor performance and customer service.

It is worth noting, however, that more than half of the responding AT&T customers are iPhone users, and that among non-iPhone smartphone owners AT&T fared better. Perhaps, much of the AT&T network woes are as much--or more-- a function of the iPhone as they are of the AT&T network itself.

In fact, Paul Reynolds, Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports is quoted in a blog post stating, "Our survey suggests that an iPhone from Verizon Wireless, which is rumored, could indeed be good news for iPhone fans." However, perhaps a Verizon iPhone will actually be vindicating for AT&T if the Verizon network coincidentally starts having more issues after the iPhone is introduced.

Still--assuming that the AT&T network and customer service complaints are legitimate, is the Consumer Reports survey reason enough for customers to jump ship and seek an alternate wireless provider? Well, no. There are more factors to consider than Consumer Reports opinion on the matter.

First of all, network performance is variable and subjective. Variable because all wireless providers have weak zones and dead spots, and subjective because if you live in a Verizon dead zone with a strong AT&T signal it doesn't really matter what Consumer Reports readers think.

Money is another factor. Granted, you're paying for service and you don't want to waste money for poor performance and bad customer service. But, if you're in the middle of an AT&T contract you have to consider very seriously if you are frustrated enough with the service to pay the early termination fee to make a switch. The rollover minutes programs offered by AT&T, and the group plans also offer some unique cost benefits that other providers might not be able to match.

Depending on the area your home or office is in, AT&T might also offer additional incentives in terms of service bundling with Internet service, cable TV, and wired/VoIP phone service. Verizon has similar deals, but if it doesn't provide service in your area, there might be benefits to sticking with AT&T.

AT&T has some work to do. Whether real or perceived, its network has issues and AT&T needs to invest in both infrastructure and marketing to repair its reputation. In the meantime, though, make sure you weigh all of the factors--not just a Consumer Reports survey--before defecting to a different wireless provider.

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