According to the latest J.D. Power and Associates wireless call quality performance study, the much-ballyhooed acquisition of AT&T Wireless
J.D. Power's survey focused on technical problems (such as bad connections and failures to connect as opposed to, for example, customer service) with the service provided by the various cell phone providers operating in six regions of the U.S. And the results of the survey should strike fear in the hearts of SBC and BellSouth investors wherever they live: In each of the six regions, AT&T Wireless scored below the average quality rating for the region; in five regions, Cingular was right down there with its new acquisition. In three of the regions (Northeast, North Central, and Mid-Atlantic), Cingular scored dead last out of six to eight competitors. In the other three regions (Southwest, Southeast, and West), AT&T Wireless had the "honor" of scoring last.
I have to add my own two cents to this discussion, though, because I live in one of the regions where Cingular and AT&T Wireless are reportedly providing such lousy service (surprise -- so do you!). And while I admit to having never used the services of Cingular's rivals -- Deutsche Telekom's
Sure, each company has had its problems. While AT&T Wireless offers pretty good reception (so long as there are no trees or buildings around), its "customer service" department does nothing of the sort. Cingular, on the other hand, has good customer service, by today's standards.
But in recent months, AT&T Wireless has begun migrating its services from TDMA to GSM, and the resulting boost in technical performance in crowded terrain has been dramatic. With luck, after acquiring AT&T Wireless, Cingular can raise the former's customer service to its own level. Combine that with the improved technical performance at AT&T Wireless and the expanded coverage that will result from merging the two companies' networks, and this combination of two "wrong" companies could work out all right for the ultimate owners of the merged company: SBC's and BellSouth's shareholders.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article .