3 steps to change mobile service provider

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If your smartphone has been dropping more calls or taking longer to download web pages or emails, it might be time to start thinking about switching mobile carriers to get better service.

It turns out that a lot of people are in that position. More than a quarter of small and medium-sized business customers interrogates by JD Power & Associates reported issues with dropped or disconnected calls on their business cell phones between last October and February – a 30% increase over the same period the previous year. About one in five people said they had experienced a mobile internet or email outage, up from nearly 50%.

All of the major US carriers, and even some smaller discount carriers, are aggressively touting their faster 4G data networks, which are supposed to solve many data speed issues and bottlenecks. While JD Power found that more than half of all US business mobile users now have at least one 4G-enabled device, customers report being slightly less satisfied with performance and reliability.

The survey found that business customers who encounter wireless connectivity issues of any kind are more than three times more likely to say they plan to switch carriers in the next year.

If you’re having these issues and are considering switching mobile carriers, here are the three steps you should take:

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1. Document service issues and compare connection quality.
If you want to find the carrier that offers the best wireless network coverage in your area, don’t rely on their own coverage maps on their websites. Try to go to Rootmetrics.com for its independently collected data on the quality of 3G and 4G network services provided by major carriers in your postcode. Color-coded maps show average signal strength and data network speed for specific areas, down to block level in most cases.

You can also collect your own data. Install for free Rootmetrics app on your iPhone or Android phone to test and track your current wireless carrier’s signal strength and data network speed. Otherwise, mark MobileSpeedTest.com in your phone’s web browser. Periodically run its data network speed test and note the results.

If you think your data network is slow or spotty, try performing data upload and download speed tests both when your connection is good and when it seems bad. To get accurate results, be sure to turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi connection each time you run connection speed tests. Keep detailed notes of when and where your phone drops calls and your web connection slows down.

2. Research other carrier options.
Before negotiating with your current carrier, put yourself in a stronger negotiating position by researching the competition.

Small businesses surveyed by JD Power gave Verizon the highest ratings for coverage on average nationwide, followed closely by Sprint and T-Mobile. AT&T fell to last place by a significant margin.

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But wireless coverage is a local, if not hyperlocal, problem. If the Rootmetrics data for your specific locations or routes indicates that another carrier offers better or at least comparable coverage, check with that carrier and get details on what they might offer you in terms of phones and plans.

3. Claim and negotiate with your current operator.
Armed with your mobile test data and information on at least one competing plan, visit or call your current carrier to complain about the service and threaten to switch. Even if other local carriers only offer comparable or slightly better coverage, threatening to switch can help get your provider’s attention.

If you or your business are a long-time customer, you’ll likely have more bargaining power. You can also get leverage if your current wireless contract is nearing completion or has already expired. Sometimes mobile service providers will make network improvements if enough local customers complain. Your carrier may also offer a one-time or ongoing bill discount.

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If connectivity is an issue in a specific location like your home or office, the carrier may provide an amplifier – often called a microcell or network extender – to increase signal strength. If the signal problem isn’t because you’re working in a basement, tap to get this booster for free.

Also consider the business value of your connectivity. If your business loses sales or has other problems when your mobile connection fails, you could get away with paying early termination fees and switching carriers. Your provider may even waive early termination fees if you show that your coverage has consistently been catastrophic.

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