What Are the Best Cellphone Providers According to Acsi?

Consumers in the United States are generally satisfied with the level of cellphone service they receive, though there can be some considerable gaps between brands. Interestingly, customers often report higher levels of satisfaction with less expensive plans offered by mobile virtual network operators than the big, full-service network operators.

Cellphone bills can be a significant monthly expense. That's why it's important to do some solid research before signing on with a cell phone provider. Fortunately, there are a lot of options in the United States, offering cell phone service at a range of price points and service levels. Depending on your needs, and those of your family, you should be able to find an affordable plan, and device, that meets your needs.

What Is the ACSI?

The American Consumer Satisfaction Index surveys consumers about their experiences with cellphone providers and publishes its findings each year. It groups providers into three categories: Mobile network operators, full-service wireless phone service providers, and value wireless phone service providers. The ACSI surveys take into consideration a variety of factors, including the stability of the wireless networks themselves, as well as the quality of customer service, retail store service, mobile apps, and data speeds.

It should be noted that there was a small drop in most customer satisfaction metrics for mobile phone providers between 2020 and 2021. This may have been due to the stresses placed on cellphone services and systems during the global health crisis. It remains to be seen whether service satisfaction will rebound during the next year.

Mobile Network Operators

There are four mobile network operators in the United States. Each of these companies operates a cellphone network, and also provides cellphone service.

  1. AT&T
  2. Verizon
  3. T-Mobile
  4. U.S. Cellular

In general, consumers are reasonably happy with the four mobile network operators in the United States, though there is a five percent difference in the consumer satisfaction levels between AT&T and U.S. Cellular. In general, consumers are happy with mobile network operators' mobile apps, websites, and in-store service. It is clear, however, that consumers remain unhappy with the service provided by the network operators' phone centers.

Mobile Virtual Network Operators

Not all cell phone companies operate their own mobile networks. Instead, these mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), piggyback on the networks operated by companies like AT&T and T-Mobile. In some cases, the mobile network operators have a share in the MVNOs that they support.

The biggest advantage to working with an MVNO instead of a standard mobile network operator is that the MVNOs tend to offer significantly cheaper rates. Because their devices are full cost, they are unlocked, making it easy for you to transfer your service if need be. In addition, bringing your own device is no problem. For budget-conscious consumers, an MVNO may be the best option.

There are drawbacks, however. The first is service quality. While the geographic coverage is the same as the parent provider, data speeds may be significantly slower, and you may experience more dropped calls. In addition, you may have difficulty finding local retail stores associated with these carriers that can provide you with technical support or customer service.

Top 5 Full-Service Wireless Phone Service Providers

Full-service mobile virtual network operators tender offer a significant range of devices and service plans. In addition, you may find that they offer extended hours and options for connecting with customer service.

  1. Xfinity Mobile
  2. Cricket Wireless
  3. Spectrum Mobile
  4. Metro by T-Mobile
  5. Boost Mobile

The ACNI survey indicated that users of these services were, in fact, generally more satisfied with them than those who receive cell service through mobile network operators. Another surprising revelation is that users of MVNOs are happier with the clarity of their monthly billing statements. Still, users of MVNOs remain less enthused with the quality of call center customer service, which appears to be an issue throughout the entire telecommunications industry.

Top 5 Value Wireless Phone Service Providers

Value wireless phone service providers offer a low-cost alternative to both standard operators and full-service MVNOs. Their plans can be significantly cheaper if you are willing to accept the trade-off for slower service, lower data caps, and more limited customer service:

  1. Consumer Cellular
  2. Straight Talk Wireless
  3. Tracfone
  4. SafeLink Wireless
  5. Simple Mobile

In general, consumers who use a value wireless phone service provider are satisfied with the service they receive. Like those who use full-service MVNOs, customers of value plans are happy with how easy it is to understand their bills. In addition, these customers are happy with retail store service and call strength. Their main complaint has to do with the service provided by call centers.

The Lifeline Program

Consumers who are facing financial challenges may qualify for the lifeline program. This is a federal program that provides discounts on cell phone service, landline phone service and broadband Internet. Many cell phone companies participate in the lifeline program. Each company has its own offer, but many of the value wireless plans offer free, or close to free, service, which often includes a free or very low-cost mobile device. The same is often not true of full-service MVNOs and network operators, which might offer a modest discount on a monthly plan.

Which Option Is Best?

As with any consumer purchase, it's important to consider your household needs, your budget and the services offered by a cellphone provider. For many consumers, it is worth it to work with a major mobile network provider to ensure call quality and easily access to customer service. Individuals who travel a lot may be particularly concerned about being able to use their phone no matter where they are. In addition, most of the major network operators have physical retail stores around the country. This can be helpful if you are on the road and need help with your phone or phone plan.

On the other hand, those who wish to save money may opt for an MVNO. The cost savings are considerable, and for those who don't travel often, or who are often at home and use Wi-Fi calling while there, the MVNO plan, even a budget plan, may work just fine, particularly if the customer already has an unlocked device or is able to purchase one second-hand. In addition, value MVNOs offer the best deals to Lifeline Program participants.

Another consideration that many don't think about is that of bundled services. Some cellphone providers, such as Spectrum, AT&T, Verizon and Xfinity, are connected to major telecommunication companies that provide Internet and cable television. It may be possible to bundle your cellphone with your other services for lower rates. In addition, you may also appreciate having a one-stop shop for your telecommunications needs.

Finally, there is the issue of data plans. If you regularly use your phone as a mobile hotspot, you may find it necessary to work with a provider that offers fast data, high data caps and the option of purchasing additional data as you need it. It should also be noted, however, that you may benefit from purchasing a stand-alone mobile hotspot device that you can take with you when you are not at home. The device can be a good stand-in if your regular Internet service goes down at home.

Final Word

Review customer satisfaction surveys, talk to family and friends, and consider the plans offered by cellphone providers. You may also want to visit retail stores in your area to talk to staff about what their plan has to offer. Don't be afraid to leave a store and go talk to another brand's representatives before making a decision.

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Asked 10 days ago
Updated 10 days ago
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Verizon Wireless
Consumer Cellular
Straight Talk Wireless
Tracfone
SafeLink Wireless
Simple Mobile
AT&T
Verizon
T-Mobile
U.S. Cellular
Xfinity Mobile

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