*The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of  Cellphonesetc.

AT&T is ranked as the U.S.'s worst cell phone provider AGAIN, as reported by Consumer Reports.

According to the respected and impartial publication, AT&T struggled in all ten categories of customer satisfaction, achieving a score of 60, far behind T-Mobile's second-to-last score of 69. attnewlogo

Here's what I don't understand: with all the resources and human capital wrapped up in this monolithic cellular provider, one would think that some high-ranking CEO would stop someone in the hall, at some point and to some degree,  and say, "Hey, I realize our ads are misleading, our merger was awkward, and our consumer product mix needs serious work, but can we at least take care of the customers we have?" No, mister CEO,  you apparently cannot.

I have been a customer of both AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and while I can only offer anecdotes, those anecdotes point to very real and frequent dropped AT&T calls (calls both made and received), redundant text messages (or the proverbial text that was surely sent and charged for but never reached the intended recipient), an infuriating echo-on-the-line sound effect that goes back to the days of Motorola's Startac flips, and a less than stellar customer service experience where errors on my bill were fixed, true, but never with an appropriate explanation as to why they occurred in the first place and, wait for it......ultimately occurred again.

As a ranking cellular geek and writer of the industry, I humbly ask that you allow me a moment to theorize why AT&T is suffering so badly even while being the sole purveyor of the cell phone Holy Grail: the Apple iPhone. It goes back to circa 2001 - 2004 when AT&T was buying up smaller cellular companies in an effort to add an ever  larger customer base. In some cases it was just plain bizarre, like when AT&T bought an independent IDEN network, a completely non-compatible technology alliance. Still they bought and bought, feverishly.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless was spending millions of its own money enhancing their existing network, less concerned about other companies than in strengthening its own.

At every turn, Verizon scored better grades in all meaningful metrics than AT&T, even though technically AT&T was the largest carrier (because of it's Death Star buyout of so many companies, not by winning over one customer at a time).

Remember the "Can you hear me now?" Verizon ad campaign?  That wasn't just a popular catch-phrase; that was an ad built to reflect a fleet of high-tech vehicles (valued at over $100,000 each), commissioned by Verizon to travel the highways of the United States for the sole purpose of constantly checking the quality of their network. But Verizon didn't stop there. They hired a private company to conduct independent network quality checks/signal strength checks,  in order to be certain that they, in fact, had a superior network.

verizon_wireless_logoAt the end of the day end users know. They just do. You can run all the slick ads you want, professing to be the fastest network, but the problem is people talk. In fact, I recently challenged my AT&T friend with his Apple iPhone to a speed test with my Verizon Wireless Droid X. We chose a website and on the count of three hit "enter"; my page loaded considerably faster. At some point mountains of anecdotal evidence grow high enough to create a convincing argument. And indeed, Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone to readers, highlighting continued reception problems and citing Apple's September, 2010 decision to not give away free cases that would have helped solve the much reported signal-strength issue.

My prediction: In Q1 of 2011 you will see a mass exodus of AT&T iPhone customers moving over to the Verizon Wireless solution for all the reasons mentioned above. Sadly, perhaps pathetically, the AT&T iPhone experience has been so bad a monopoly that I predict customers will even be willing to buy the damn phone  at retail, if only to escape the absurd limitations placed on such a powerful device by the network holding it hostage. (AT&T iPhone users will recall that they only recently have been able to send MMS, a feature that has been available to iPhone users everywhere else in the world almost since the phone's introduction).

AT&T, get your act together. Being in last place year after year may show dedication, but it's decidedly misdirected.

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