New report: The best cell phone providers in America

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Consumer Cellular has been named the best cell phone provider for customer satisfaction, beating Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and a number of smaller carriers.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) June 2019 report, mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) including Consumer Cellular scored higher than the major wireless providers like the Big 4.

ACSI report: Low-cost cell phone provider is #1 for customer satisfaction

An MVNO is a cell phone carrier that partners with one or more networks, but it doesn’t own any towers. Here’s an example…

Consumer Cellular is an MVNO that has relationships with AT&T and T-Mobile. Customers get access to one of those networks for talk, text and data. So, Consumer Cellular may be a good option if AT&T and T-Mobile provide reliable coverage in your area.

The ACSI report covers three categories of wireless telephone service providers:

Both categories of MVNOs are doing a good job keeping customers happy, while MNOs have room for improvement. Here’s a category-by-category breakdown of the latest ACSI rankings on a 100-point scale…

Mobile network operators 

Key takeaway: This is the lowest-performing category in the wireless industry and includes the biggest brands. T-Mobile ranks #1 for customer satisfaction for its value and ease of billing, while Sprint finishes last. T-Mobile is in the process of merging with Sprint to better compete against Verizon and AT&T.

Mobile network operators

Category average: 73 

Company  ACSI score 
T-Mobile 76
U.S. Cellular 74
Verizon Wireless 74
AT&T 73
Sprint 65

Full-service mobile virtual network operators

Key takeaway: Full-service MVNOs rank much higher than the Big 4. The report found that AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless is the best full-service MVNO for customer satisfaction, followed by Metro by T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile. These prepaid carriers get high praise for ease of billing, mobile apps and in-person customer service.

Full-service mobile virtual network operators

Category average: 77 

Company  ACSI score 
Cricket Wireless (AT&T) 79
Metro by T-Mobile (T-Mobile) 76
Virgin Mobile (Sprint) 76
Boost Mobile (Sprint) 74

Value mobile virtual network operators

Key takeaway: Customer satisfaction with value MVNOs is the highest among the wireless categories, with an average ACSI score of 81. Top-ranked Consumer Cellular stands out for its ease of billing. Subscribers also like its discounts for AARP members and no-contract, postpaid service.

Value mobile virtual network operators 

Category average: 81

Company  ACSI score 
Consumer Cellular 85
Straight Talk Wireless 80
TracFone Wireless 77

Final thought 

MVNOs offer cheaper cell phone plans compared to the Big 4 wireless providers, which is probably why they scored so much higher in this ACSI report.

If you currently have Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint, you may want to consider switching to an MVNO to save money. Like your network? Start by looking for MVNOs that partner with your existing network and use the same towers.

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Here’s a partial list of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint alternatives, including links to reviews from Team Clark:

Which carriers use Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint’s networks?

Verizon AT&T T-Mobile Sprint 
Visible Cricket Wireless (Review) Metro by T-Mobile Boost Mobile
Total Wireless (Review) h2o Wireless Mint Mobile (Review) Tello Mobile
Xfinity Mobile (Review) Unreal Mobile (Review) Republic Wireless (Review) Virgin Mobile
TracFone, Straight Talk (Review), Net10 Wireless and Red Pocket Mobile (Review) partner with all four networks

The ACSI Wireless Service and Cellular Telephone Report 2018-2019 is based on interviews with more than 19,000 customers. You can download the report to learn more about the findings by clicking here.

To compare your options, read Team Clark’s guide to the best cell phone plans and deals!

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