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Monday, December 04, 2006

Cingular, Sprint Poor Performers in Consumer Reports Service Ratings

Cingular and Sprint were among the lower-rated performers in Consumer Reports' latest annual survey of cell phone users. The survey was conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center and included almost 43,000 subscribers in 20 major metropolitan areas across the United States.

Results also show that while Verizon came out at or near the top in all the cities surveyed, Alltel was a top performer in Cleveland, Phoenix, and Tampa, the three metro areas where it was rated. Alltel is a relatively small carrier that primarily serves the midsection of the country.

Cell service remains one of the lowest rated services that Consumer Reports tracks. Readers gave cell service an overall satisfaction rate of 66 out of 100, which puts cell service among the ranks of cable TV and computer tech support.

Call quality remains an aggravation for many cell phone users, Consumer Reports' survey shows. In fact, 54 percent of respondents who switched carriers during the past three years attributed their decision to poor phone service. By contrast, 33 percent were motivated to switch by the promise of a better price.

Difficulty Reaching 911

A separate online survey, also conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, found that 1 in 25 wireless callers never successfully connected or communicated with 911. (In the Consumer Reports survey of cell-phone buyers, 29 percent said they bought the phone for emergencies.)

Five percent of survey respondents on a regular landline had some difficulty or never connected to 911. That number jumps to 12 percent for voice over Internet (VoIP) users and 16 percent for cell phone users.

Additionally, Consumer Reports notes that 10 years after the Federal Communications Commission began mandating wireless "enhanced 911"-or E911-services, including transmission of phone numbers and locations, nearly half of the U.S. territory is still without 911 centers that can find wireless callers. And the National Emergency Number Association, which tracks telephone services, reports that 109 counties in the U.S. still have no 911 or E911 service at all.

9ll Calls: What Consumers Can Do

Consumer Reports notes that consumers should not hang up too soon. Several unanswered rings might not mean that an operator won't answer. An overloaded 911 call center might be switching calls to another location.

Consumer Reports suggests the following tips:

-- Try 911 again - For callers who get a busy signal, dropped call, or poor voice quality, CR suggests trying again using the same phone at the same location or someplace else. Or have someone else call. Those strategies were effective for most of the callers who tried them in CR's survey.
-- Know your location - Once connected with a 911 operator, callers should expect to be asked for their address. This could be more of a problem for cell-phone callers than landline users, who are less likely to be in unfamiliar surroundings.
-- Be concise - Just over half of the wireless 911 callers in CR's survey said they phoned after seeing an emergency. With several wireless users often reporting the same incident, it's important to give accurate, succinct information for responders.


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