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Dropped calls prompt many to vow to switch carriers

Dropped cell phone calls have risen over the past six months, according to research, causing more customers to consider jumping ship to other carriers.

Mobile phone customers thinking of switching to a different carrier are pinning the blame on dropped calls, which have grown over the past six months, according to a new survey from J.D. Power and Associates.

For its survey, the market researcher questioned wireless customers across the U.S. to gauge the quality of cell phone calls. The study focused on different types of call problems, including dropped calls, static or interference, failed calls on the first attempt, voice distortion, no immediate voicemail notification, and no immediate text message notification.

Among those surveyed, 14 percent said they definitely or probably will switch to a different carrier in the next 12 months due to a high number of call-related problems. Those who said they definitely will switch reported four times the number of problems than people who said they definitely won't switch in the next year.

People looking to jump to a different carrier cited dropped calls over all other issues as the primary motivator. And the number of dropped calls among those who said they will definitely switch grew by 33 percent from J.D. Power's last survey six months ago. Those results could be a wake-up call for the mobile industry since the study also found that customers aiming to switch carriers spend a bit more money than those who plan to stay put.

"Improving network quality and, in turn, retaining the customers most likely to switch are beneficial financial incentives for wireless carriers, as customers who are more likely to switch tend to spend an average of $82 per month and make or receive 127 calls per month, while those who aren't considering switching spend $78 and make or receive 104 calls per month, on average," Kirk Parsons, J.D. Power's senior director of wireless services, said in a statement.

So which are the best mobile carriers across the country? It depends on where one lives.

For the 12th time in a row, Verizon Wireless was the top dog in the northeast, mid-Atlantic, and western states, and tied for first with Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile in the southeast states. Verizon customers in those states reported the fewest dropped calls and initial connection problems and the least interference, according to J.D. Power.

U.S. Cellular ranked the highest in the north central states, with its customers also reporting fewer dropped calls and failed initial connections and least interference. And in southwest states, T-Mobile was on the top with fewer call problems than the national average.

Who's on the bottom? In all the regions except two, AT&T came in last with its customers reporting the greatest number of dropped calls and other glitches. In northeast states, T-Mobile fared worst. And in north central states, AT&T performed better than Sprint and Verizon, whose customers complained of the greatest number of call issues.

For the survey, J.D. Power questioned 26,595 wireless customers between January and June.

Below is the breakout for western states:

J.D. Power