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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
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
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
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
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.