In recent years, the competition in the US wireless industry has really begun to heat up. And 2015 was no different. Largely with T-Mobile and Sprint leading the charge for rate plans dropping in price and adding new features, but also Verizon and T-Mobile leading the charge in investing in their network to keep it strong while still adding tons of new customers. T-Mobile have continued their Uncarrier strategy in 2015 and has added millions more customers in 2015. However, AT&T and Verizon have also found ways to continue to add around 2 million connections each quarter. While Sprint has managed to stop losing customers and start gaining some, and now they are looking to bring their customers back from their competitors and onto their network.
Our yearly award for the best carrier is limited to just the national carriers in the US, so that includes AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon. And were decided not just on what they've done to their rate plans but also their network. As the network is just as important as the features and prices that the carrier offer.
3rd Place - Cricket
Prepaid carriers have really begun to pick up in recent years. With T-Mobile taking the crown for the top prepaid brand from Sprint's Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile, and now Cricket really heating up the competition. Cricket is owned and operated by AT&T and they also use AT&T's network. Cricket offers plans as low as $35 per month and also will pay your switching fees. Something that no other prepaid carrier is currently doing. Cricket has also enhanced the number of devices available in their portfolio. Something that really needed to change in 2015, and it certainly did. Since Cricket is using AT&T's network they do have a great network backing up their great prices and great device selection.
Cricket has been competing pretty heavily with T-Mobile and their prepaid brand MetroPCS. With them both being GSM networks, they are the only two prepaid carriers that allow you to bring over any unlocked device. That includes the Xperia M4 Aqua which isn't a carrier branded device. While Cricket doesn't offer unlimited data like MetroPCS does, they do offer you up to 10GB of high speed data for just $55, which is an offer that is unmatched right now in the wireless industry. By any postpaid or prepaid carrier.
2nd Place - Verizon
Verizon has been dead set against competing with the price war that's currently happening with Sprint and T-Mobile. And for the most part, they've stuck to that. This year, Verizon did get rid of contracts however, which is a step in the right direction for big red. While getting rid of contracts, they are still around, sorta. So now you'll have to either buy the device outright or finance it through Verizon Edge. Data plans are now in five sizes, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large and XXL. Ranging from 1GB for $30 up to 18GB for $100. Verizon's prices have actually come down a bit, surprisingly, and are almost competitive with what Sprint and T-Mobile have.
On the network side of things. Verizon has continued to invest in their network. Adding more small cells in populated areas to help add more coverage in densely populated areas. Verizon has also begun working on 5G which they will have live at their campus in January 2016 and available in a few key markets by the end of 2016. Verizon has also continued to spend the most on their network, when compared to their competitors. Which is important, to keep the network going strong when you are adding a million or two new connections each quarter. Verizon has had a great 2015, and we can't wait to see how their 2016 turns out.
1st Place Tie - AT&T and T-Mobile
First place ended up being a tie between AT&T and T-Mobile. AT&T has had a pretty okay year. Nothing really big happened with them. But they have continued to improve their network, even though spending has died down a bit in the second half of the year, that is expected to increase come January. AT&T was the first carrier to release NumberSync, which effectively allows you to use the same phone number on multiple devices. The first compatible device is the Samsung Gear S2 which you can take phone calls on with the same number that is registered to your smartphone. Pretty innovative when you think about it. AT&T has continually added more and more connections to their network. A large number of that being cars through their OnStar 4G LTE agreement with GM. They are adding around 1 million new cars to their network each quarter.
T-Mobile landed in first with AT&T because of the continuation of their Uncarrier strategy as well as their improving network. T-Mobile began rolling out their 700MHz spectrum for LTE this year and has it available in a number of markets now, and speeds from the addition of that spectrum have drastically increased, especially inside. T-Mobile has also added a good number of perks to those on their Simple Choice plans. Including Binge On which allows customers to use their smartphones to watch loads of video without hitting their data cap. Meaning their data cap goes that much further. Additionally they enhanced their global roaming feature. So now customers can go to Mexico and Canada and get the same LTE network they'd get here in the States. On top of all of that, T-Mobile has added a total of 6.2 million connections to their network through the first three quarters of the year, allowing them to overtake Sprint and become the third largest carrier in the country.
T-Mobile and AT&T have gotten first place honors for largely different reasons. T-Mobile drastically improving, and AT&T staying put as a great carrier at a great price with a fantastic network.