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  1. #1
    MrPepper11
    Guest
    March 29, 2005
    How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints
    Cingular Tops FCC List With Most Gripes Per Customer; Dropped Calls,
    Billing Errors
    By LI YUAN and JESSE DRUCKER
    Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    When Cingular Wireless completed its acquisition of AT&T Wireless
    Services Inc. in October, it created the nation's largest
    cellular-service provider.

    It also created the wireless carrier with the country's highest
    customer-complaint rate.

    The new Cingular Wireless, boasting of expanded coverage from two
    networks, has been adding new subscribers at fast clip. It now serves
    more than 50 million customers.

    But Cingular's rate of complaints -- on everything from billing,
    marketing to service quality -- was consistently higher than
    competitors in the fourth quarter, the first quarter as a combined
    company, according to complaints received by the Federal Communications
    Commission and obtained by The Wall Street Journal through a Freedom of
    Information Act request.

    Cingular Wireless had a rate of 4.6 complaints per 100,000 customers.
    The rate of complaints for T-Mobile USA Inc., a unit of Deutsche
    Telekom AG, was next highest at 4.3 per 100,000 customers. Sprint Corp.
    and Nextel Communications Inc. -- which announced plans to merge in
    December -- posted complaint rates of 3.6 and 2.3 per 100,000
    customers, respectively. By comparison, Verizon Wireless, a joint
    venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC of the
    U.K., and the nation's second-largest cellphone operator, had the
    lowest rate of complaints, with 1.4 per 100,000 customers. Verizon
    declined to comment.

    Both T-Mobile and Sprint declined to comment on the FCC complaint
    figure, but both said they will focus on customer satisfaction. A
    Nextel spokesman said, "We're always looking to improve service of our
    customers."

    By the end of 2004, Cingular had 49.1 million customers. Verizon
    Wireless had 43.8 million. Sprint, including its affiliates, had 21
    million. Nextel had 15 million. T-Mobile had 17.3 million.

    The FCC provided the total complaint figures, but the rate was
    calculated by the Journal. (The rate for Sprint was calculated
    including its affiliates.) The FCC cautioned that the existence of a
    complaint doesn't necessarily indicate wrongdoing by a carrier.

    At the time the Cingular/AT&T Wireless merger was announced last year,
    Cingular Chief Executive Stan Sigman said the deal "will mean better
    coverage, improved reliability, enhanced call quality and a wide array"
    of new services.

    But with the two large companies just starting to merge operations,
    networks and customer databases, some Cingular customers had to undergo
    the pain and the costs of the merger. Cingular officials maintain that
    the problems are few and far between given how many customers receive
    their service.

    "While we take each complaint very seriously and are always striving
    for improvement, the number of complaints represents an infinitesimally
    small portion of our customer base," Cingular spokesman Ritch Blasi
    said. He acknowledged that there could be some engineering problems
    during the process of combining the two systems that may cause worse
    coverage for some customers, but emphasized that the issue isn't
    widespread.

    Despite a multibillion-dollar investment by the wireless industry on
    network upgrades and advertisements trumpeting the latest features,
    many consumers remain frustrated with their cellphone service. Spotty
    service coverage and incomprehensible bills are still the bane of many
    subscribers.

    Dropped calls and dead zones can result from a variety of factors:
    insufficient investment in the network; heavy calling traffic at busy
    times of the day; and complicated zoning laws that make it difficult to
    place cellphone towers in areas that would lead to better coverage.

    For the industry as a whole, complaints in all of 2004 were up nearly
    38% from 2003, according to the Consumers Union, a consumer-advocacy
    group that released a study on cellphone complaints yesterday. That
    increase outpaced the rate of U.S. subscriber growth, which increased
    roughly 14% to 180.5 million users in 2004, according to the Cellular
    Telecommunications and Internet Association.

    Cellular service has lower levels of overall customer satisfaction than
    for most other services the Consumers Union measures, such as hotels,
    retail outlets and insurance. In its annual cellular-subscriber survey
    conducted last fall in 17 major cities, the group found that nearly 60%
    of those who use a cellphone frequently said they had a bad connection.

    Some industry analysts say that the high complaint rate at Cingular
    could be related to the complexity of merging two carriers' networks.
    However, the most complaints arose from billing problems as things like
    roaming charges and complex fees make cellular bills incomprehensible
    to many customers.

    The complaint rate at both Cingular and AT&T Wireless was higher than
    competitors even before the merger, the FCC data show.

    Given the size of the wireless market, the number of FCC complaints is
    relatively small, as few consumers take the trouble of actually filing
    a complaint to a federal government agency. Many consumers instead
    register their displeasure with Web sites such as planetfeedback.com or
    escapecellhell.org by the Consumers Union.

    For Gary Myers and his wife, Nancy, of McMinniville, Ore., their AT&T
    Wireless service worked fine until last winter, about the time of the
    merger.

    By mid-March, Mr. Myers couldn't get a signal in some parts of his
    28,000-population town. When he called AT&T Wireless customer service,
    a representative told him that the Myerses need to get new Cingular GSM
    phones to get better coverage. Though the phones are free after a
    rebate, the Myerses will be charged for $18 activation fees for each
    line and their contract will be extended for another term. "I'm done
    with both of them," Mr. Myers said.

    Mr. Blasi of Cingular confirmed that the company charges a fee to move
    AT&T Wireless customers over to the Cingular network. Current AT&T
    Wireless customers will get better coverage by upgrading their phones,
    he said, and many people are making the move to get slicker handsets.

    In areas where Cingular has redundant coverage capacity, the carrier is
    planning to remove 8,000 cell sites, or 18% of the total, by June 2006
    and install them in areas where AT&T Wireless and Cingular didn't have
    any coverage before, Mr. Blasi said.

    Mr. Blasi adds that in very few cases customers may experience worse
    coverage than before because their phones are connected to a cell site
    that may be farther away than where their original cell site was. He
    said the problems will be solved once Cingular finished the integration
    of two networks by June 2006.

    Before the merger, both Cingular and AT&T Wireless were in the process
    of upgrading their networks from an older technology, called TDMA, to a
    new technology called GSM. Plus, most major carriers have started or
    announced plans to upgrade their networks yet again to accommodate
    higher speed, so-called third generation, or 3G, wireless services,
    such as wireless Web browsing.

    Cingular is investing $6 billion to enhance its networks in 2005, and
    the overwhelming majority of that will be spent on the GSM network,
    said Mr. Blasi of Cingular. About 80% of minutes of use for all
    Cingular customers go to GSM network while the rest go to TDMA network.
    Mr. Blasi insists that Cingular will continue maintaining the TDMA
    network. But industry analysts believe that Cingular is investing close
    to nothing on it because it is more cost effective to maintain one
    network rather than two.

    With two networks AT&T Wireless and Cingular customers may not
    experience as many dead spots, but removing cell sites can be tricky,
    said Jonathan Atkin of RBC Capital Markets.

    DROPPED CALLS

    Here are the rates of complaints made in the fourth quarter to the FCC
    as calculated by the Journal:

    ∑ Cingular Wireless had 4.6 complaints per 100,000 customers.

    ∑ T-Mobile USA Inc. was next at 4.3 complaints.

    ∑ Merging partners Sprint PCS and Nextel Communications Inc. had
    rates of 3.6 and 2.3, respectively.

    ∑ Verizon Wireless had the fewest with 1.4 complaints.




    See More: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints




  2. #2
    DoctorZ
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints


    Sounds like you were in a non cdma area and using AMPS. Same complaints
    are true using Cingular in nonGSM areas.

    Problem with trying Cingular for 30 day is when they just cut services
    in areas with no notice. I used Cingular /BSM for 10+ yrs and they just
    turn off service in a Verizon only State.




  3. #3
    Steve Sobol
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    DoctorZ wrote:
    > Sounds like you were in a non cdma area and using AMPS. Same complaints
    > are true using Cingular in nonGSM areas.
    >
    > Problem with trying Cingular for 30 day is when they just cut services
    > in areas with no notice. I used Cingular /BSM for 10+ yrs and they just
    > turn off service in a Verizon only State.


    Where, if I may ask? (Just curious. See, "just turning off" cellular service in
    an entire state seems like it would get Cingular into a ton of trouble.)



    --
    JustThe.net - Apple Valley, CA - http://JustThe.net/ - 888.480.4NET (4638)
    Steven J. Sobol, Geek In Charge / [email protected] / PGP: 0xE3AE35ED

    "The wisdom of a fool won't set you free"
    --New Order, "Bizarre Love Triangle"



  4. #4
    Tropical Haven
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    > Sounds like you were in a non cdma area and using AMPS. Same complaints
    > are true using Cingular in nonGSM areas.
    >
    > Problem with trying Cingular for 30 day is when they just cut services
    > in areas with no notice. I used Cingular /BSM for 10+ yrs and they just
    > turn off service in a Verizon only State.


    If it's a Verizon only state, maybe Verizon made the decision to not
    allow Cingular roamers on the network after a roaming agreement expired?




  5. #5
    Jack Zwick
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    In article <[email protected]>,
    Tropical Haven <[email protected]> wrote:

    > > Sounds like you were in a non cdma area and using AMPS. Same complaints
    > > are true using Cingular in nonGSM areas.
    > >
    > > Problem with trying Cingular for 30 day is when they just cut services
    > > in areas with no notice. I used Cingular /BSM for 10+ yrs and they just
    > > turn off service in a Verizon only State.

    >
    > If it's a Verizon only state, maybe Verizon made the decision to not
    > allow Cingular roamers on the network after a roaming agreement expired?


    Or maybe Cingular decided to save a buck and not renew the roaming
    agreement?



  6. #6
    Wordsmith
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    I wonder how Tracphone ranks.


    W : )




  7. #7
    Tropical Haven
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints



    Jack Zwick wrote:
    > In article <[email protected]>,
    > Tropical Haven <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >
    >>>Sounds like you were in a non cdma area and using AMPS. Same complaints
    >>>are true using Cingular in nonGSM areas.
    >>>
    >>>Problem with trying Cingular for 30 day is when they just cut services
    >>>in areas with no notice. I used Cingular /BSM for 10+ yrs and they just
    >>>turn off service in a Verizon only State.

    >>
    >>If it's a Verizon only state, maybe Verizon made the decision to not
    >>allow Cingular roamers on the network after a roaming agreement expired?

    >
    >
    > Or maybe Cingular decided to save a buck and not renew the roaming
    > agreement?


    If it's a roaming agreement, that's most likely not the case. Since
    Cingular doesn't do CDMA and Verizon Wireless does neither GSM nor TDMA,
    raoming agreements between the two are minimal.

    tH




  8. #8
    Jack Zwick
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    In article <[email protected]>,
    Tropical Haven <[email protected]> wrote:

    >
    >
    > Jack Zwick wrote:
    > > In article <[email protected]>,
    > > Tropical Haven <[email protected]> wrote:
    > >
    > >
    > >>>Sounds like you were in a non cdma area and using AMPS. Same complaints
    > >>>are true using Cingular in nonGSM areas.
    > >>>
    > >>>Problem with trying Cingular for 30 day is when they just cut services
    > >>>in areas with no notice. I used Cingular /BSM for 10+ yrs and they just
    > >>>turn off service in a Verizon only State.
    > >>
    > >>If it's a Verizon only state, maybe Verizon made the decision to not
    > >>allow Cingular roamers on the network after a roaming agreement expired?

    > >
    > >
    > > Or maybe Cingular decided to save a buck and not renew the roaming
    > > agreement?

    >
    > If it's a roaming agreement, that's most likely not the case. Since
    > Cingular doesn't do CDMA and Verizon Wireless does neither GSM nor TDMA,
    > raoming agreements between the two are minimal.


    Duh, how come you "accidently" forgot analog???



  9. #9
    Jerome Zelinske
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    What do you mean by a verizon only state? I do not think that any
    state has only one wireless carrier. Are you saying that cingular was
    operating, doing business, in a state and then went out of business in
    that state? Did they have a cellular or PCS license there? What
    happened to that license?



  10. #10
    DoctorZ
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints


    Cingular is in trouble. Highest complaint rate for 2004 and from my
    personal experience 2005 will be much worse. Any person that has
    started a business will tell you word of mouth makes or kills your
    business.

    You are right I am sure there are some small pockets of coverage in NC,
    although Cingular 2nd level support told me the nearest area with
    coverage was GA. I checked with the store and its still GSM only phones
    offered in Atlanta, which makes them useless for customers requiring
    national coverage.




  11. #11
    DoctorZ
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    There was Wall Street Journal story a year or so ago talking about
    using a notebook on the train at dsl speeds. That is not crap
    technology.

    People have called me a liar enough so I am going to assume you had
    this experience. I am always interested in cell phone failures and
    would like an explanation. Certainly Verizon has a very strong offering
    in DC, but I was a BellSouth mobility customer my last trip and have
    not experience Verizon service in DC. Which quad where you in?




  12. #12
    DoctorZ
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    Then what use is Cingular for people requiring national access?

    Someone suggested the roaming cost was too high (I have reason to
    believe this was the case); however,
    Would you expect an airline to cancel a return flight from vacation, if
    fuel prices jumped up?




  13. #13
    wkearney99
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    > Cingular is in trouble. Highest complaint rate for 2004 and from my
    > personal experience 2005 will be much worse. Any person that has
    > started a business will tell you word of mouth makes or kills your
    > business.


    But volume of non-complaining customers often more than makes up for the
    complainers.




  14. #14
    wkearney99
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    > Duh, how come you "accidently" forgot analog???

    Who's dumb enough to still be using analog?



  15. #15
    Chuck Drake
    Guest

    Re: How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints

    Bottom line: your mileage may vary. Try providers before committing.
    Every provider offers 15 to 30 day trial period. Use it to fully
    evaluate the coverage, sound quality, consistency and quality of
    equipment.

    I did try cingular for like 4 days, decided it wasn't going to work for me
    and cancelled, then got a 191 dollar bill..complained and they adjust to 37
    bucks for what I used in those 90 hours I had cingular... Well this month
    they sent me another bill for 77 bucks..and I cancelled it march 1st. So in
    this case trying cingular has turned into a small nightmare.
    So I can see why cingular rates as worst.

    "Andrew White" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    > "MrPepper11" <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >>March 29, 2005
    >>How Cellular Services Rank On Complaints
    >>Cingular Tops FCC List With Most Gripes Per Customer; Dropped Calls,
    >>Billing Errors
    >>By LI YUAN and JESSE DRUCKER
    >>Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    >>
    >>When Cingular Wireless completed its acquisition of AT&T Wireless
    >>Services Inc. in October, it created the nation's largest
    >>cellular-service provider.
    >>
    >>It also created the wireless carrier with the country's highest
    >>customer-complaint rate.
    >>
    >>The new Cingular Wireless, boasting of expanded coverage from two
    >>networks, has been adding new subscribers at fast clip. It now serves
    >>more than 50 million customers.
    >>
    >>But Cingular's rate of complaints -- on everything from billing,
    >>marketing to service quality -- was consistently higher than
    >>competitors in the fourth quarter, the first quarter as a combined
    >>company, according to complaints received by the Federal Communications
    >>Commission and obtained by The Wall Street Journal through a Freedom of
    >>Information Act request.
    >>
    >>Cingular Wireless had a rate of 4.6 complaints per 100,000 customers.

    >
    > The thing about the cell phone market is that the averages mean even
    > less than in other markets. I've been with AT&T/Cingular and with
    > Verizon - two carriers that keep getting rated at the opposite sides
    > of the satisfaction scale. However, my experiences with the two have
    > been quite the opposite.
    >
    > I absolutely hated Verizon after a year with them and couldn't wait
    > for my contract to be over. I had one of their most popular phones -
    > LG 4400 - and hated its terrible battery life. The sound quality of
    > Verizon CDMA is awful compared to AT&T TDMA or Cingular GSM. I had a
    > tremendous number of dropped calls, something that I've never
    > experienced with TDMA before Verizon or with Cingular GSM after I
    > dropped Verizon. AND I had to call Verizon with one billing problem or
    > another almost every single month!!!
    >
    > Bottom line: your mileage may vary. Try providers before committing.
    > Every provider offers 15 to 30 day trial period. Use it to fully
    > evaluate the coverage, sound quality, consistency and quality of
    > equipment.






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