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Surveying Cell Service

Everybody knows cell phone calls don't go through all the time. But that doesn't mean we don't count on them. If you're not happy with your cell phone service, Consumer Reports can help. Its just-released survey of more than 30-thousand cell-phone users reveals there are better choices for staying connected.

We love our cell phones. But they drive us crazy.

"I can't get service at all in my home."

"Losing calls. You know they'd drop out for no reason at all."

"Customer service was a little difficult to get through. You'd get on hold or voicemail jail and never get anybody to actually talk to."

Consumer Reports CEO Jim Guest says some cell phone companies deliver better service than others. Those findings are based on a ConsumerReports.org survey last fall of more than 31-thousand subscribers in twelve metropolitan areas.

"We asked if they'd run into problems with dead zones, overloaded circuits, dropped calls, static on the line. And we asked their overall .
Here's how the companies stacked up:

AT&T Wireless and Cingular had only so-so levels of customer satisfaction and problems with overloaded circuits. Sprint had problems with dropped calls and it had the worst customer support. And at T-Mobile customers complained of static during calls. Then there's Nextel. Its claim to fame is it can double as a walk-talkie.

"Okay Mike, I'll be here. See you in a little bit."

Nextel had fewer problems with call connections than many of the services in the survey. But it, too, had only so-so customer satisfaction.

As for Verizon, it had the highest level of customer satisfaction. And it was among the best for circuit availability.

"That sure doesn't mean Verizon is perfect. But it had fewer problems with phone service than the other major companies and it had better customer support."

Bottom line: Consumer Reports says if you're thinking about switching, Verizon could very well be your best option.

Consumer Reports says a big problem with picking a cell phone service is that the companies don't disclose where they have dead spots. So Consumer Reports recommends doing your own survey. Talk to your neighbors, friends and family who travel the same streets you do. That's just about the best way to find the company that delivers the best service in your calling area.

One last piece of advice from Consumer Reports — when you sign up with a new carrier, take advantage of the trial period to make sure the service works well where you're going to need it.

This report is based on an article in the current February issue of Consumer Reports, pages 14-16. It will be on newsstands until February 9th.

The Consumer Reports survey was conducted in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Stations in those markets may want to put in specific findings for your metropolitan area. You'll find those results on page 16 of the February 2004 issue. KUSA in Denver should mention in the O/C close that Consumer Reports says Qwest is also worth considering in the Denver area. Its customer service score was as high as Verizon's.

Additional Information Free Online:
Information on how to avoid hassles when moving your cell number to a new provider will be posted free at www.ConsumerReports.org on the homepage until February 9.

Media Contacts:
AT&T Wireless: (908) 696-4242 – Ritch Blasi, Director Media Relations
Cingular: (404) 236-6153 - Clay Owen, Sr. Director Media Relations
Sprint: (913) 794-2946 - Suzanne Lammers, Media Relations
T-Mobile: (503) 443-7138 - Brandy Bishop
Nextel : (301) 951-5741 - Audrey Schaefer, Senior Director Communications
Verizon: Wireless (908) 306-4834 - Brenda Raney, Corporate Communications


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