What Consumers Want From Their Cellphones: Spam Prevention and Even Faster Service

Consumers are largely satisfied with wireless carrier options and their own plans, though rolling out faster service and fighting spam should be priorities for telecom companies, writes tech analyst Jordan Marlatt
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Khanh Pham
June 01, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Most consumers are satisfied with their wireless plans (79%) and their choices in wireless carriers (73%), a win for an ever-consolidating industry as regulation takes center stage this year.

  • As wireless carriers look to the future, speed is a much more appealing proposition for consumers than AI integrations.

  • Spam is also still a problem: The majority of consumers continue to report increased volume of spam calls and texts, and most think telecom companies should be the ones fixing the problem.

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When T-Mobile completed its merger with Sprint in 2020, it left consumers with just three choices for major wireless carriers: Verizon, AT&T and the new T-Mobile. The merger took two years to complete, mainly due to the Federal Communications Commission’s understandable antitrust and consumer choice concerns. Three years later, consumers seem at peace with the options they have in wireless carriers, and sizable shares are even “very satisfied” with coverage, speed, value and most of the things people look for in a wireless plan. 

As carriers look to the future of their relationships with their customers, priorities should include more speed and taking care of spam, but maybe not artificial intelligence integrations — yet.

People are generally satisfied with their wireless carriers

In an industry controlled by so few companies, consumers are generally satisfied with their options for carriers and plans. Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) U.S. adults said they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their own wireless carrier, and 73% said the same about the wireless carrier options available to them. Just 7% said they are dissatisfied with their options. 

Within individual plans, wireless coverage and reliability were among the top aspects consumers were satisfied with (80% and 78%, respectively). Even in rural areas, where it has been a policy priority for the FCC, lawmakers and trade associations to improve speed and coverage, around three-quarters of respondents said they were satisfied with wireless coverage and reliability.

Satisfaction With Wireless Plan Features Is High

Share of U.S. adults who are satisfied or dissatisfied with the following aspects of their wireless plan:
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Survey conducted May 20-21, 2023, among 2,148 U.S. mobile phone owners, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

These overwhelmingly positive satisfaction levels are no doubt good news for carriers, especially as mergers and acquisitions continue (such as T-Mobile’s acquisition of Mint Mobile). Companies win, but so do their customers at a time when there’s notable appetite for antitrust action. While the focus has largely been on major technology companies, social media and AI, nearly a third (32%) of consumers said in April that they support more regulation of wireless carriers, indicating that while satisfaction with their services might be high, there are still many who would like to see carriers’ influence reined in. 

Speed is more important than AI integrations

That high level of consumer satisfaction is also a moving target as data needs increase, technology advances and people seek additional value from their plans. 

The latest trend in tech is AI, and for companies worrying about being perceived as less than innovative, the safest advice may be simply to wait. 

Technologies such as 6G and even 10G that are still being developed, but are teased in press releases and articles all the same, have more appeal to consumers than AI integrations, even if they would improve people’s wireless service. More than half (51%) of U.S. adults said they would be likely to switch to a plan that offered 10G speeds, and a similar share (49%) said the same about 6G. Both 6G and 10G are particularly appealing to millennial consumers, while 10G is even more enticing to Gen Z than 6G is.

Consumers Say They Would Sign Up for 6G or 10G Plans

Share of respondents who said whether they would be likely to sign up for a new wireless plan that included the following:
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Survey conducted May 20-21, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,203 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

AI, however, does not inspire the same levels of excitement in the context of wireless service. Morning Consult research has shown that consumer sentiment around AI can be best characterized as a cautious optimism; people are excited by the potential applications in search and smart home tech, but they also have deep concerns and support regulation of AI companies. For companies looking to integrate AI into their products and services, it makes sense to do so when there is a clear benefit to consumers. For wireless service, that benefit is not yet clear — and not as enticing as the idea of faster speeds.

Spam calls and texts are still an issue for most

Last year, Morning Consult reported that consumers expected telecommunications companies to step up their efforts to combat rising spam calls and robotexts that affect millions of Americans. The Federal Trade Commision said in its annual Do Not Call report that robocall complaints fell from roughly 3.4 million in 2021 to 1.8 million in 2022. 

At face value, this is an indicator that new rules instituted by the FCC to clamp down on spam calls may be having a positive impact. All the same, more than half of consumers said they received more spam or scam robocalls (53%) or robotexts (51%) over the past six months. 

Consumers Report Receiving More Unwanted Calls and Texts

Share of respondents who said they received more or less of the following over the past six months:
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Survey conducted May 20-21, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,203 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. “Neither more nor less” responses not shown.

Consumers still largely put the onus of mitigating spam calls and texts on telecom companies themselves (71%), more so than on Congress (63%) or the current administration (59%). Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have each touted the number of spam calls their various filtering services have helped block for their customers, but despite companies’ efforts, new FCC rulemaking and the implementation of the TRACED Act, the problem persists. It’s not just a public policy issue — consumers still expect more from telecom companies to help fight spam.

Consumers Say Telecom Companies Should Address Scam Calls and Texts

Share of respondents who said the following should be “very” or “somewhat” responsible for protecting them from scam calls and texts:
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Surveys conducted May 26-28, 2022, and May 20-21, 2023, among representative samples of roughly 2,200 U.S. adults each, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points.

For wireless carriers (and telecom companies more broadly), the key to maintaining already high levels of satisfaction with their services will be less about experimental technologies like AI and more about focusing on making service faster and safer by rolling out 6G and combating spam. 

A headshot photograph of Jordan Marlatt
Jordan Marlatt
Lead Tech Analyst

Jordan Marlatt previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead tech analyst.

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