The third biggest wireless carrier in the U.S., Sprint, is lagging behind its competitors and has received "dismal marks" in a survey conducted by Consumer Reports. Based on results released, Thursday, Sprint is the last among the pack of major cellphone service providers compared to its second place performance in the same survey in 2012.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center's survey asked 58,399 subscribers in 23 urban areas. Verizon Wireless bagged the top spot with T-Mobile and AT&T gaining the second and third spot, respectively. Sprint came last with low marks in terms of value, text messaging, voice, 4G reliability, and value.

"Our latest cell service satisfaction survey revealed a somewhat precipitous decline by Sprint that shuffled the rankings of the major standard service providers. And smaller, no-frills, no-contract and prepaid service providers continue to do a better job of satisfying customers, and provide an increasingly viable alternative to some of the expensive, long-term contracts that many consumers find themselves locked into," said Consumer Reports electronics  content development team leader Glenn Derene in an interview.

After Softbank Corporation's acquisition of Sprint, the carrier shut down its Nextel network in June that resulted to subscribers moving to other providers. Sprint is currently upgrading its network but the transition is slow and had a big impact on its performance. It reported Q3 earnings of $8.68 billion and missed the expected mark of analysts.

"We've asked customers during the past year to 'pardon our dust' as we build out and upgrade our network. We're working to deliver an advanced wireless network that we believe over time will deliver unmatched speed and performance to our customers. The findings in the Consumer Reports' survey indicate we still have work to do and only serve to make us even more committed to providing outstanding wireless service to our customers," a Sprint spokesperson said in a statement.

While telco giants like Verizon and AT&T stayed ahead, smaller providers such as Consumer Cellular, which operates using the AT&T network, appealed well to consumers. Smaller providers also offer prepaid and no-contract plans that consumers tend to grab.

The survey also found out that most consumers although not very satisfied, stay with their carriers for over two years, the standard length of lock-in contract.

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