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Cellular Carrier Ratings
We rate each carrier based on our view of what is important and how each carrier performs in those areas. The higher the score, the better the Rating. The ratings are displayed on our Carrier Review Pages.

   How We Rate a Carrier:
  • For our "MW Ratings", we compare Coverage, Plans, Prices, Roaming Abilities, Customer Service, Device Selection and availability of Data and Features. We visit each carrier's web site, call their customer service, roam on their network, collect user data, and or interview company representatives.

  • Then we give a numeric score based on performance compared to other carriers, with overall ratings adjusted so there is at least one #1 and one #10 rated carrier, 10 being the Best. These Ratings are shown on our Carrier Review Pages.  In some cases, the rating shown for a carrier on one of our Local pages may be different than one shown on a different Local page, or on their overall, national rating.

  • From time to time we hear from these carriers to dispute their rating and we give them an opportunity to make their case.  In very few cases they have been able to convince us that they deserve an improvement of one step in their rating, however, the next time we review their performance compared to similar carriers, they could return to their former position. 

  • Our Ratings are indeed opinionated, but do not reflect any payment or compensation (we wish!), and we address our relationships with these carriers on our Disclaimer page.

  • The top 4 national carriers rarely make it to the top of our ratings. We find much better treatment of customers among the small, regional carriers.  What they lack in purchasing power for devices, they make up in customer service and technical awareness.  Our top-rated carriers, Viaero Wireless and C Spire Wireless are not perfect, but are more pleasant to deal with than the Top 4.  Among the larger cellular carriers, US Cellular normally rates the highest at a 9.

  • The bottom of the list is usually held by companies that can't afford to maintain their network or just don't care about their wireless operation, probably hoping for a takeover from a larger company.  One such carrier is CTC Wireless of Cambridge, Idaho.  They took wireless off their web site, appear to have stopped upgrading their network beyond 3G, and have a spotty record of supporting their wireless devices.  CTC may not deserve the bottom of the barrel, but they have done nothing to prove differently.

How Carriers Get a Better Score
We consider the following attributes that can move a carrier's rating up, or down if they don't have them:
  • Coverage:
    The better a carrier saturates their service area, the better the score.
  • Broadband Speeds:
    Some small carriers still offer no data, others have 3G service, and the best offer 4G-LTE.  For many users, a robust 3G network is enough, but a carrier that upgrades to 4G gets credit for providing what customers want, which often means they do well in other areas as well.
  • Phone Selection:
    Many of us still depend on our carrier to provide the latest phones.  Some companies offer a large selection of phones and the better ones also offer promotions and discounts, and creative ways to pay for your phone.  Those that can't afford to sell many models get credit for allowing you to bring your own device.
  • Customer Service:
    Employees respond well when they're treated well and the better carriers create an environment that's fun to work in, resulting in a service that's fun to do business with.
  • Plans:
    Carriers that offer competitive plans get better ratings but also do better if those plans are simpler and involve fewer extra fees and charges.
  • Local Awareness:
    Some small carriers will really work for your business because you're a neighbor, others may be associated with the local telecom co-op which often owned by the customers, and others will bend over backwards to make their customers happy in their retail stores.  Others just unlock the door and hope someone walks in.
  • Retail Stores:
    A real store can make a big difference when a customer has problems or concerns.  Putting a face on your service goes a long way to make you feel better about being a customer.
  • Roaming Contracts:
    Some small carriers sign a roaming agreement with only one carrier.  A company that gives you the opportunity to roam on more networks, especially outside the US, is more worthy of our consideration.

  • Our Ratings are indeed subjective, especially when assigning a number. To determine a Rating, we decided there should be a #1 and #10. Even if a carrier isn't perfect, a Rating at the top or bottom of this scale indicates that you just can't get any better (or worse). Then we look at relative positions: Is AT&T really better than Sprint? In some markets yes, in others, no. We compare coverage, features, prices, customer service and more. We need to eventually assign a number, and in a few instances, we need to 'punt'. We are ready to defend our decisions and invite you to challenge us on our Wireless Noise Discussion Page. Often we discover features offered by a carrier that were unknown to us, sometimes allowing for an improved Rating, but we won't do it just because someone complains. Since we base our opinion on our own experience, those of other wireless customers, or by checking each carrier's web site, there's a good chance we won't find the whole story. Our opinion is not influenced by any compensation or advertising relationship with any carrier.
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