children on smartphoneWireless customers are relatively pleased with the quality of their networks and their legacy wireless devices, according to a new wireless customer satisfaction study from J.D. Power.

The research firm says that quality may not have actually improved, but customer perception of quality has due to the availability of unlimited data. Unlimited data plan customers reported an average of 11 overall network quality problems per 100 connections (PP100) vs. an average of 13 PP100 among customers with data allowances. They also experience a lower incidence of data problems (15 PP100 vs. 17PP100).

Wireless Customer Satisfaction Study
The research also found that phone age is not really a factor for most consumers. The average age of a phone brought to a carrier is 19 months vs. 14 months for phones that were purchased through the carrier. However, network quality does not necessarily decline with phone age. Phones less than a year and a half old are associated with 12 PP100 vs. 10 PP100 among phones 18 months or older, suggesting that some quality issues may be caused by network optimization issues and not the age of the phone.

Verizon Wireless ranks highest in all six regions covered in the study, with better PP100 scores than the regional averages in call quality, messaging quality and data quality.

But quality issues did arise when bring your own device (BYOD) customers were considered, the research added. Overall network quality for customers who brought their own device is 12 PP100 vs. 11 PP100 for those who paid their carrier in full or in installments for a device. This difference in overall network quality is driven by gaps in calling quality (14 PP100 among those who brought their own device vs. 13 PP100 among those who purchased a device from their carrier) and data quality (17 PP100 vs. 15 P100).

“Unlimited data plans continue to be associated with higher network quality for the second straight year, underscoring the huge importance wireless customers have placed on unlimited data usage,” said Peter Cunningham, J.D. Power technology, media and telecommunications practice lead, in a prepared statement, adding “bring your own device promotions that allow wireless customers to bring their existing device with them when they switch carriers have become a major trend as upgrade cycles lengthen, but they are having a negative effect on customer perception of network quality.”

Image courtesy of flickr user Kyle Mahaney.