Which wireless carrier is best? Many studies are undertaken every year, and while they are interesting and accurate, they often are not that useful in selecting the best carrier for you. Why? Simple. They are generic studies, but you are not a generic customer.
If wireless performance were the same for every customer in every location, then the studies would be helpful. However, that's not the case. Every network has stronger and weaker spots, faster and slower spots -- better and worse spots.
For example, let's say a carrier advertises the best quality and fastest speed. Now let's say your home or office is in a weak spot -- or worse, a dead spot -- in that network. Is that network best for you? Obviously not. So, you cannot count on advertising to determine the best carrier for you.
The best network overall actually could be the worst network for you. What counts is which carrier offers the strongest signal, fastest connection and best quality where you -- not your friend or coworker -- spend the most time. Period.
The claims every wireless carrier makes in its advertising and marketing are only one slice of the pie. You should consider the other slices.
I can almost guarantee that wherever you spend time, one carrier will be best for you -- and it may or may not be the one that advertises the best quality, reliability, speed, or whatever you are most interested in. Users often are surprised.
Yet advertising is important. It's partially responsible for the strong growth Sprint and T-Mobile are showing. They obviously are impacting Verizon Wireless enough that it hired Jamie Foxx to counterpunch in its own advertising.
The advertising wars are good to see, as they reflect a healthy and growing industry. However, ads should not be your only influence in deciding which carrier is best for you.
The top four wireless carriers -- AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile -- own roughly 85-90 percent of the marketplace today. However, each has different strengths and weaknesses, depending on location.
A few short years ago, AT&T and Verizon had the largest, best-quality, most reliable and fastest networks. A few years ago, Sprint and T-Mobile were struggling with customer satisfaction. A lot has changed since then.
T-Mobile recently started to rebuild and recover, and today it is showing strong growth. During the last year or two, Sprint also began to rebuild and recover, and it has shown dramatic improvement as well.
While AT&T and Verizon are maintaining their leads in market share, quality, reliability and speed, Sprint and T-Mobile are offering low prices that many customers simply cannot pass up. They still have a long way to go, but they are heading in the right direction.
The most improved carrier in 2016 was Sprint. The jump it has shown in customer satisfaction during the last 12 months has been remarkable. I expect it to continue. That means all four carriers are worth a look, depending on what you need and where you are located. I could not have said this a few years ago.
So, the bottom line is, AT&T and Verizon have an advantage in the marketplace. At the same time, Sprint and T-Mobile are recovering, and their low prices are attracting more market share quarter after quarter. So, the marketplace is becoming segmented into slices. It's up to you to choose the slice you want.
All four wireless carriers are worth a look. You simply have to choose the best carrier for you based on connectivity, reliability, quality, speed and price in the location where you spend the most time.
That's not something you can learn from a television commercial or advertising. That's something you can determine only on your own.
It's great to see the increase in market competition. During the next several years, I expect to see further transformations in the wireless world. Companies like Google, Comcast, Charter and others will enter the wireless marketplace. You'll soon have more choices to consider when determining which is the best carrier for you.
Signal strength and reliability where you spend the most time should come first. After that, you can choose the right carrier based on other things you find important, such as price. You may not end up with "the best carrier," but you'll end up with the best carrier for you.