How Every Mobile Operator Claims Its Network Is The Best

from the it's-all-in-the-wording dept

A general rule of thumb around here when it comes to press releases (not that we pay attention to many press releases), is that any press release that calls the company in question a "leading" company in some market automatically gets trashed. We will not read beyond "leading" or "leader" because the press release is obviously a bunch of bogus, useless and self-promotional statements. This pretty much takes about 99% of the press releases we receive right out of the inbox (if you hadn't figured this out yet, this means don't send us press releases -- though, since it appears most of the PR people who bombard us on a daily basis clearly don't read the site, it's unlikely this will have much of an impact). Of course, these types of claims aren't limited to just press releases. They show up in advertising all the time as well -- particularly in the mobile operator space. Last week, there was some discussion over at Engadget over how Alltel could possibly get away with claiming it had the largest network, when unlike the "big four" competitors, Alltel isn't a nationwide operator. Meanwhile, the NY Times looks into the fact that Verizon Wireless, Sprint and Cingular all put various spins on the idea that they each offer the "best" network. For Verizon Wireless, it's the "most reliable," Sprint says "most powerful" and Cingular claims "fewest dropped calls." All, of course, claim independent studies back up their claims... but all are pretty clearly picking and choosing numbers to support the advertising campaign -- and the use of such generic claims don't inspire much confidence. Of course, in the end the real question should be whether or not anyone actually cares? It seems most people know better than to even remotely care about claims like that -- and are more concerned with (a) how much service costs (b) what kind of phones can be used on the service and (c) does it work in the few places they're likely to be.

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  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 3 May 2006 @ 3:40am

    Work From Home?

    Meanwhile, most people should really concern themselves with these three coverage points: - Does the network cover my home? - Does the network cover my workplace? - Does the network cover my commute? Because that's where people do almost ALL of their calling. The rest is gravy. I'm not saying wide coverage isn't important when traveling, etc. But a network is pretty useless when it doesn't cover where you live.

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  • identicon
    TriZz, 3 May 2006 @ 5:01am


    I've used all the providers above - and they all have their strong and weak points. Network coverage is a minute details since it all depends on where you live.

    I live in the Washington DC area, so we're pretty saturated out here by all the "big four". However, someone in Bumfxck, Iowa - might be stuck using T-Mobile simply because it's the only service that works in their area.

    Calling plans, I think Sprint is the fairest - since acquiring Nextel - they've adopted Nextel's "free incoming" plans. That's the way all providers are everywhere else but in the US. Spring also has some really nifty data service. They used to be a leader in cool phones, but have declined in the past year.

    Verizon has the most people - and free calling/texting to Verizon customers - which means good stuff.

    T-Mobile has cool phones and great deals on plans - but they're not really known for excellent service so you're limited there.

    Cingular/ATT - I can't really think of anything nice. I suppose they compare to Verizon, being the 2nd largest network.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2006 @ 10:31am

      Re: Connected.

      Actually, in Bumfxck, Iowa, we have a pretty good selection of providers (T-Mobile, US Cellular, Sprint/Nextel, Verizon Wireless, some others too, I'm sure)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mike, 9 Oct 2007 @ 6:01am

      Re: Connected.

      What's nice about Cingular/ATT is rollover minutes. I go out of the country for 1 month per year and still have to pay my account but thanks to rollover minutes that means I basically have unlimited minutes the rest of the year.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ctyankee, 3 May 2006 @ 5:06am

    Nothing new

    Marketing hype is what it is.

    Can't remember the source but I read where a court refused to award damages against marketing claims with the judge ruling that marketing hyperbole was the nature of the business. Great legal mind there, seemingly 'it's fine because it goes on all the time.'

    But we've all seen it, how many golf ball ads state that their ball is the farthest, straightest, most boring throught the wind etc. etc.?

    Nothing new here.

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  • identicon
    mkam, 3 May 2006 @ 5:14am

    Too much credit?

    If 1/3 of the people in the United States cannot point out Louisiana on a map, then do you honestly believe that,

    'most people know better than to even remotely care about claims like that (best network ever!).'

    I would love to have more faith in people but I am constantly let down.

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  • identicon
    shane, 3 May 2006 @ 5:22am

    different view

    some of the service provider in louisiana are a bit shady in billing and my friends and i try going with the least shady. but over all i believe nextel and cingular(orange) dominate. verizon has been know to have some odd charges.
    t mobil has some pretty big empty spots here too.
    it's all personal choice. buy what you want, don't want it don't buy it and don't bitch about it.

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  • identicon
    thecaptain, 3 May 2006 @ 5:42am

    Marketing makes the language meaningless

    How does this surprise you?

    Marketing has become the art of lying without lying.

    Words have been used by marketers in such contexts for so long that they no longer hold ANY meaning at all.

    "New and IMPROVED!"
    "We're the best"
    "We're 50% better than the leading product"

    There are too many loopholes and fine print on everything that basically these asses can claim ANYTHING about ANY product along the lines above and NEVER get called on it. We may have truth in advertising laws, but I don't see them working, too many nuances in language to ever be effective.

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  • identicon
    Andrew Pollack, 3 May 2006 @ 6:10am

    Good related points from Freakanomics

    Levitt and Dubner point out in their book "Freakanomics" using purely rational statistical methods, that these tactics have the opposite effect -- at least when applied to real estate. The use of nonspecific positive adjectives, capital letters, exclamation points, and similar tactics not only tend to drive a price lower, but are a kind of code used when there isn't anything specifically good to say but you don't want to piss off your customer by having a short boring ad.

    (I f you haven't read this, you shoud, its a fun read, and fascinating.)

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  • identicon
    DM/Diddy, 3 May 2006 @ 6:57am


    Complaints to the FCC against each national carrier per 100,000 customers

    Cingular - 4.6
    T-Mobile USA - 4.3
    Sprint - 3.6
    Nextel - 2.3
    Verizon Wireless - 1.4

    And from

    ConsumerAffairs.Com Cell Phone Complaints

    Cingular/AT&T - 534
    Sprint - 216
    T-Mobile - 195
    Verizon - 170
    Nextel - 108

    Myself, I dumped Cingular for T-Mobile. I had great reception with Cingular at home and work, then I moved 1/2 mile into a new condo. There was a 2 square block dead spot at the new place (in the middle of Minneapolis) and Cingular refused to fix it or allow me to cancel my service. I plan on filing a complaint with the FCC very soon.

    BTW, I get a strong signal from T-Mobile now. I guess you really just go with the provider that gives you the best reception in the places you frequent the most. Also, has great prices on T-Mobile phones that the stores and kiosks can't come near.


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  • identicon
    Alex Hagen, 3 May 2006 @ 9:00am


    Meanwhile, in other countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the cell phone service costs a tenth of the price and is 10 times more reliable. The mobile phone industry in America is in the dark ages compared to most other countries.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2006 @ 9:04am

    You lucky bastards. I live in Wrong Turn, North Carolina. And out here the only carrier we have is US Cellular. One of the things that bothers me is that with US Cellular you cant even look up your account information(much less pay a bill) on their website. Weird. That means for someone like me who lives 1hr away from the nearest store has to use the customer service line to pay a bill. And US Cellular aint eactly well known for its customer servie. Lets just say that suffering a dropped call at the hands of customer service is not cool.

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  • identicon
    Richard Cutts, 25 Jan 2007 @ 10:12pm


    International nursing agency offering permanent and temporary jobs for nurses in various countries like USA, UK, Australia, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dax, 1 May 2007 @ 9:11am

    The Networks really don't care.

    The worst thing about all the claims these cellular networks make is that when it comes down to it - none of them really care about the cellular reception individual customers experience. Cellular amplifiers that improve cell signal have been around for years now but due to FCC regulations concerning the licensing of wireless spectrum - the Networks are prohibited from manfacturing these devices.

    See here: Why don't the cell networks offer cell phone repeaters?

    The fact is that if the cell networks stood to gain from these then no doubt the situation would be like in South Korea where these repeaters are on every street corner. But with the cell networks prevented from prospering from these, it is left to small third party start ups to promote them who cannot compete with the resources of the large multi national cell companies.

    The truth is, if the Networks really cared they would altruistically promote these third party products to their customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Russell, 20 Jun 2007 @ 5:44am

    Cingular is dead wrong!

    What gets me is that Cingular, now AT&T, have nothing to back up their claims. They didn't test their own network, they didn't contract with a company to do a drive-along, they purchased some garbage, outdated numbers from some unknown outfit. Shorty after this whole thing came out, Sprint was told by another company that they had the fewest dropped calls. What did Sprint do? Nothing. They didn't buy into the numbers. these thrid-party companies will sell you anything you need. You want to have the highest rated data speeds, there is a company that will claim it for you. The fewest dropped calls? Sure! Pay them and they will make anything up. If you read the Cingular stats, which is so hard to find; the company claimed Cingular had the fewest dropped calls, based on data from some market, at some points in time. And that the fewest dropped calls were only statistical. And when Cingular made the claim on TV, the company said that they had no idea how Cingular came up with those numbers. The company that sold Cingular the claims in the first place wouldn't even back them up. And these numbers were based on tests from 2004. It is 2007 now, where are the updated numbers? How long is Cingular going to make this claim? Are we going to hear about this for the next 20 years. Well after Cingular's network falls apart. Cingular has not won any awards, from any testing companies in years. So how can they win this time? They paid for it. Cold hard cash rated their network best.

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  • identicon
    Brice, 5 May 2008 @ 12:02pm


    I just switched from Verizon to at&t and let me just say, wow! I was told by my verizon rep for years that verizon had better coverage that att, boy was that a lie. I get way better reception with att, and i travel alot nationally, but also international. I now have 70 million mobile to mobile where as with verizon i only had 30 million, i am finding out that this is helping me not go over my minutes since most of who i call has att cell phones, plus on my att unity plan i can call over 120 million people for free because I am able to include att land lines in my mobile to mobile calling network. hey, yo verizon! wheres the rool over at? this feature is great, instead of going over, or my unused minutes just going away, I actually get to keep them. att gives me an employer discount, which verizon wouldnt do. I have to say after switching from sprint to verizon and now to att, i dont see myself switching again, the difference in coverage is extremely apparent when you travel all over the world and always get reception. I will say that I could have gotten better customer service at some of the cor stores, maybe they were just too busy, but i have found that i am better off going to some of the smaller retailers like parrot or something... any ways hope this is helpful to someone, don't get sweet talked like i did by all the other salesman out there selling small service, go with the big dog, its a little more expensive, but way worth it!

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  • identicon
    Mobiles Club, 28 Jan 2009 @ 10:11pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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