UrbanUrban areas with high densities of young, heavy network users continue to pose challenges for wireless services providers, according to the second semi-annual installment of the J.D. Power 2016 Wireless Network Quality Performance Study. Released Aug. 25, the results indicate wireless carriers need to continue investing in urban infrastructure as the use of 4G LTE smartphones grows and customers expect faster network speed, according to a news release.

J.D. Power’s semi-annual studies assess wireless network quality performance along 10 problem areas, including dropped calls, unconnected calls, audio issues, and failed/late voicemails. Results are measured in problems per 100 (PP100) connections with lower scores translating into higher quality, fewer problems and better performance.

Urban residents experience the greatest number of network problems overall, according to J.D. Power’s latest study – 15 PP100 as compared to 12 PP100 on average for rural residents and 10 PP100 for those living in suburban areas.

That extends across all 10 wireless network problem criteria.

Wireless Network Quality Comparisons
Urban wireless network customers experience more calling problems than their suburban or rural counterparts, for example – 19 PP100 vs. 13 PP100, respectively. That goes for messaging problems (8 PP100 vs. 5 PP100) and data problems (20 PP100 vs. 15 PP100) as well.

The comparatively high density of younger wireless network customers living in urban areas contributes to the problem, according to J.D. Power. Problem rates are higher among those 18-34 (17 PP100) as compared to those 35 years old and up (10 PP100).

Customers 18-34 also use wireless networks more heavily. On average they received 39 text messages during a 48-hour period as compared to 14 for those 35 or older. Similarly, 18-34 year-olds on average connected to a mobile app 15 times as compared to seven for their older counterparts.

Customer Retention
Wireless carriers can boost customer loyalty substantially by improving network performance, especially in densely populated urban areas, said Kirk Parsons, J.D. Power senior director and technology, media & telecom practice leader. “This can be accomplished by improving bandwidth efficiency, data connection speeds and reliability.

¨To retain customers, carriers need to proactively expand and upgrade networks to align with the latest generation of services and devices, particularly those that rely on data speed and consistent connections, such as broadband devices.”

Furthermore, J.D. Power found that urban wireless customers are more likely to switch providers when they experience a lot of network problems. More than one-third (37%) of those that experienced more than 12 PP100 problems said they would definitely switch carriers in the ensuing 12 months. That compares to 17% among suburban and 21% among rural customers.

J.D. Power also highlighted the following:

  • Overall Wireless Network Quality Remains Steady: Overall wireless network quality problem incidence is 12 PP100, which is on par with the incidence measured six months ago in the 2016 Vol. 1 Study.
  • Data Quality Varies by Device: On average, wireless customers experience the highest number of data quality problems when using a mobile broadband device (30 PP100), followed by a tablet (19 PP100) and phone (11 PP100).
  • Incidence of 4G-Enabled Devices Increasing: More than eight in 10 (81%) smartphone owners indicate using a 4G-enabled device, compared with 59% just two years ago.
  • Customers Becoming Less Tolerant: Nearly one-fourth (24%) of customers who experienced overall network problems at an incidence of more than 12 PP100 say they “definitely will” switch carriers vs. 21% last volume.

Regarding wireless network quality performance results across metro service areas, J.D. Power determined that Charlotte, N.C., Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, Hartford, Connecticut had the fewest network quality problems. All tied with an overall 23 PP100. San Jose, California had the highest number at 23 PP100.

Turning to wireless carriers, Verizon Wireless ranked highest in five of the six regions covered in the study and generally scored better than the regional averages in call quality, messaging quality and data quality. U.S. Cellular took top honors in the North Central region, and scored high in most network problem areas, call quality and data quality in particular.

Image courtesy of flickr user Kevin Zolkiewicz.

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