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Which wireless providers are Canadians most satisfied with?

A woman holds a rose as she looks at her phone on Valentine's Day, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Canadians care about connectivity the most when it comes to their wireless network providers, according to a new report from J.D. Power.

The 2019 Wireless Network Quality Study looked at Canada’s wireless carriers and asked Canadians their level of satisfaction, and also their concerns. Taken into account were three areas of impact: calling, messaging and data connections.

“Data problems continue to drive the numbers we see and that’s where most of the problems are experienced,” says Adrian Chung of J.D. Power. “It’s shifted from call quality like a dropped call or missing a voicemail, which were once challenges. Now, it’s really around data and connectivity, and without it people do crazy things.”

Chung says network quality overall continues to improve, at least relating to this study, and there’s a “one point differentiation across the different regions so there’s consistent performance from a network standpoint,” he adds.

Telus Mobility ranked the highest across the board in both East and West regions as well as in Ontario. Bell Mobility came in second, tied with Bell MTS and SaskTel in the West, and tied with Videotron in the East. The study measured problems per 100 connections (PP100), with feedback from 13,900 respondents fielded in February and March 2019.

J.D. Power polled on “virtual operators” like Koodo, Fido and Virgin Mobile, but these were not ranked eligible because they don’t have their own network (rather piggyback their parent companies).

Telus had the fewest problems reported by their customers per 100 interactions, and while network quality overall received a good grade, Chung notes that consumer expectations are built on promises. Do people grasp whether they’re on 4G LTE or not? How about when 5G rolls out?

“With consumer perceptions we often don’t even know, or are lost in some cases,” explains Chung. “When people talk 5G it’s about the promises being made. Carriers are making promises and setting expectation that may be difficult for a consumer to actually measure. How fast is fast?”

It shouldn’t come as a shock that younger Canadians (Gen X, Y, Z) are bigger data hounds than older generations (Pre-Boomers and Boomers), or perhaps, that the number of apps used has nearly doubled with each generation through Gen Y, according to J.D. Power’s findings.

Gen Z customers sent and received an average of more than 90 text messages within a recent 48-hour span, compared to 12 text messages sent and received by Pre-Boomers. The most common apps used by Gen Y and Gen Z were instant messaging (72 per cent vs. 78 per cent, respectively), social networking (70 per cent vs. 75 per cent), listening to music (65 per cent vs. 81 per cent) and mobile payments (43 per cent vs. 46 per cent).

As for speed, among the Gen Z customers, 13 per cent said data speeds are higher than expected, followed by Gen Y (9 per cent), Gen X (7 per cent), Boomers (7 per cent) and Pre-Boomers (2 per cent). Improved technology and better hardware are factors to consider with this satisfaction.

Price also played a part in satisfaction: 40 per cent of Gen Z customers cited price as the main reason in ending a relationship with a carrier. Gen Y and Gen Z customers rated wireless providers reliability lower, too, in comparison to other generations.

“Lower ratings on network quality lead to greater likelihood to switch carriers,” says Chung.

J.D. Power defines generational groups as Pre-Boomers (born before 1946), Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1976), Gen Y (1977-1994) and Gen Z (1995-2004).

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