Consumer Reports has named T-Mobile the top wireless carrier in the nation, beating former champion Verizon for the first time in the five-year history of the survey. Verizon came in second this year, followed closely behind by AT&T and Sprint.
The difference between the nation's four biggest wireless carriers wasn't very significant, however. T-Mobile led the pack with an overall score of 73, with Verizon now in second place with 70 points. AT&T received a total of 68 points, with Sprint just shy of breaking out of 4th place this year with a score of 67.
It appears the main feature that took T-Mobile to the top was value. T-Mobile has introduced various money-saving and cost-cutting plans intended to entice consumers away from its rivals, and these plans appear to be working, certainly in terms of overall customer perception of the network.
Rankings included scores aggregated from various elements of wireless carrier service, including value, voice quality, texting services, web problems, data speeds and customer support. T-Mobile topped the list in value and customer support.
Verizon, however, has had a longstanding reputation as the best wireless network, and both Verizon and AT&T still beat out T-Mobile in network quality standings.
The most recent RootMetrics survey also found the company maintaining the top position.
Chuck Hamby, spokesman for Verizon, downplayed the Consumer Reports rankings.
"We've always said that the most accurate performance measurement comes from scientific-based testing, not from crowd-sourced or survey data," Hamby stated. "Verizon will remain focused on providing the best wireless network and experience possible for our customers, not on accolades."
Interestingly, it was smaller and regional wireless carriers that stole the show in this year's rankings, with Consumer Cellular coming out tops overall on the survey, followed by Ting, Jitterbug, Credo, Virgin Mobile and U.S. Cellular.
Sprint may have come in last of the four major carriers by a hair, but the network has the biggest overall improvement in score, adding eight points to its score of 59 from last year's Consumer Reports survey.
All of the big four showed improvements in the past year, which can be attributed at least in part to a perception of greater value. Networks have introduced more affordable plans to compete with winner T-Mobile's value-based initiatives, which led the company to top this year's survey.