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Verizon sweeps JD Power wireless survey for third straight year

Verizon vs T-Mobile best unlimited network

Every year, JD Power surveys nearly 40,000 customers from across the US on the perceived quality of their wireless network provider. And for the last three years, the result has been consistent: When asking customers about their own personal experience with a wireless provider, Verizon blows away the competition.

For the third year running, Verizon ranked the highest in the six regions JD Power surveys, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, North Central, Southwest and West. Its customers reported the highest satisfaction with their wireless network experience, and the lowest number of problems per customer. The only region where it wasn’t the outright winner was North Central, where it tied with US Cellular.

The survey is a big win for Verizon, which has long traded on the quality and consistency of its wireless network. But it’s also worth remembering that JD Power’s survey is quite different to other measures of network quality. Rather than directly or indirectly testing the network itself, like RootMetrics or OpenSignal, JD Power surveys customers about their own perception of their wireless network. Think of it as asking people how reliable they “think” their car is, rather than looking at receipts for repairs.

That doesn’t mean the data is irrelevant — after all, people aren’t going to wax lyrical about a network that isn’t the best! — but it’s worth bearing in mind when you’re trying to decide which network is “best.” Other comparisons of wireless network quality return a more mixed batch of findings, depending on the particular study and methodology.

“The consistent recognition of our network superiority, based on all types of testing including customer experience surveys and scientific drive testing, doesn’t happen by chance,” said Verizon network VP Mike Haberman. “It’s the result of careful year-round planning, investment in the latest technologies and engineering for an experience that exceeds our customers’ expectations. Delivering the largest 4G LTE coverage, consistently fast speeds and undeniable reliability is what matters to our customers.”

JD Power’s survey does throw out two other interesting findings in addition to the network comparisons, as well. Firstly, it shows something that we’ve long suspected: Unlimited data plans, which have seen widespread adoption in the last 12 months, are popular with customers and lead to fewer perceived problems with the network.

The other is that bring-your-own-device policies, the alternative to traditional carrier device upgrade problems, are encouraging consumers to hang onto devices for longer, which in turns creates problems with network quality. That’s not surprising — newer phones generally support more advanced LTE technology that makes for faster and more efficient networks — but it’s likely to be a problem for networks moving forward.