Wireless call quality has ceased to improve due to shifts in usage, including growing use of smartphones and texting, and an increase in mobile phone usage inside homes and buildings, according to Volume 1 of J.D. Power & Associates’ semiannual “U.S. 2011 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study.”

The percentage of wireless calls made indoors, which causes problems, has increased to an average 56% in 2011 from 40% in 2003, J.D. Power found. Calls from homes increased most: they increased from an average 25% in 2003 to an average 35% in 2011. In contrast, calls in vehicles have decreased to an average 20% in 2011 from an average 37% in 2003.

Problems are also higher among wireless customers using data-intensive devices, such as smartphones, and for those who text a lot. Smartphone problem rates averaged 14 problems per 100 calls (PP/100), JD Power found, while problem rates among heavy texters averaged 14 PP 100.

The performance gap has definitely lessened between indoor and outdoor calls, and the increase in frequency of calls placed indoors suggests that many customers today are quite confident in their carrier’s wireless network,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates. It’s going to be critical for wireless carriers to improve indoor coverage if the trend continues, he added.

Regarding call quality among carriers across the US, Verizon Wireless ranked highest in the Northeast region for the 13th consecutive period, as well as ranking highest in the  Southeast, Southwest, West regions, and tied AT&T for the MidAtlantic Region. US Cellular took top ranking in the North Central region for an 11th consecutive reporting period.

Geographically across the 27 largest US markets PP 100 scores are lowest in the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh metro areas (6 PP 100) and highest in the Washington DC metro area (18 PP 100).

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