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NPD: Network Speed Top Reason To Switch Smartphone Carriers

Port Washington, N.Y. – Getting faster cellular-data speeds is the top reason cited by consumers who are buying a smartphone and considering a change of cellular carriers, an NPD Group survey found.

 Network speed exceeded network reliability and better coverage for the first time as the top reasons for considering a carrier switch, the latest survey found.

  “With more data-hungry applications and content hitting smartphones, consumers need to make sure they have a network that’s fast enough to enhance their experience, no matter where they go,” said Brad Akyuz, NPD’s director of access practice. “Consumers are willing to break ties with a network that can’t support their data needs and are leaning towards carriers that can provide enhanced data networks.”

 The latest survey, taken in the fourth quarter of 2012, found that faster network speed was a consideration among 41 percent of smartphone purchasers mulling a change in carriers, up from a year-ago 25 percent (see table). Better network reliability and better network coverage were each cited by 39 percent. Both attributes were also cited by more potential switchers than in the year-ago survey, in which 34 percent cited network reliability and 32 percent cited better coverage.

 Consumers cited better customer service (17 percent), exclusive device availability (13 percent), and employer reimbursement (5 percent) less often as reasons for mulling a switch.

If network speed is the top consideration when smartphone users consider leaving their existing carrier, then Verizon Wireless is in the best position to benefit from that trend, NPD found. Smartphone users perceive Verizon as offering the best speeds, followed by AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in that order, NPD found. Perceptions of T-Mobile’s speeds, nonetheless, rose among consumers. It and Verizon were the only carriers whose data-speed perception by consumer grew in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the year-ago quarter, NPD found.

 “Overall, Verizon Wireless receives high marks from consumers for everything from pricing and reliability to speed and device selection, and that sentiment continues to grow,” said Akyuz. “Verizon operates the largest 4G network in the U.S. and has put a lot of marketing dollars behind its 4G LTE, which appears to be paying off.  T-Mobile has also made strides in how consumers perceive their network speed.”

 The study is based on a survey of 3,500 U.S. consumers.