"Fewest Dropped Calls" Somewhere Else:

On my usual route home from work, I pass a Cingular billboard on I-271 south (just before exit 23) proclaiming Cingular has the "fewest dropped calls" of any cell carrier in the nation. This claim might or might not be true. Either way, I find the billboard's placement quite amusing, as Cingular's cell coverage is spotty on that stretch of 271, and my phone drops calls there all of the time. I would have thought Cingular would be more careful not to advertise where its ad claims would be so inconsistent with consumer experience.

My wife recently took over a Cingular phone from my college-age daughter, for use in a cross-country road trip. She was told by Cingular that they had "nationwide" service. She soon discovered that there was no Cingular service between Spokane, Washington, and somewhere in Iowa, even along Interstate 90. After I joined her in Chicago, we found no service from Kansas City to Denver, and then from Colorado Springs back to our home town of Portland, except for a brief spot in Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, or 25 cents per minute Virgin phone had service most everywhere.

When we saw the "fewest dropped calls" billboards on our trip, our joke was "that's because they have no service in this area to begin with."

P.S.: I shoudl note that Cingular did have "roaming" service in some of the "no service" spots. But we don't choose to pay $2.00 per minute for our phone conversations.
8.10.2006 1:57pm
David (mail):
I took both of my kids off of Cingular and put them on Verizon for that very reason.

My house is located on a well traveled Interstate, but because it faces other houses located at slightly higher elevations, Cingular service is non existant.

When I called the carrier to complain he stated that if I lived a block down I would have had service !!! What arrogance !
8.10.2006 2:20pm
As a followup, from my wife's hotel room in Chicago, one block off of Michigan Avenue, she had direct service from the living room, and "roaming" service from the bedroom.
8.10.2006 2:38pm
My company phone is on the Cingular network. I live less than 10 miles from downtown in a city of over a million people. If I use my company phone at home, EVERY CALL DROPS off after about 2 minutes. EVERY CALL.
8.10.2006 2:38pm
Frank J. (mail) (www):
Only people who already have Cingular would find the sign ironic, so that's not a problem.
8.10.2006 2:39pm
blog fiend (mail) (www):
There's one of those billboards on I-65 heading south into Birmingham, and, true-to-form, my call gets dropped there all the time.

Maybe Verizon or some other competitor is secretly installing jammers on these billboards??? Maybe???
8.10.2006 2:59pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Why does it matter where they put the boards. After all they are trying to convince people who DON'T have their phones to buy their phones. Moreover, this sort of advertiseing will only be effective on people who don't have good knowledge of cingular receoption (either good or bad) so it is totally irrelevant where they place it.
8.10.2006 4:01pm
BobH (mail):
"Cingular" is just a variant spelling of "sucks."
8.10.2006 5:47pm
Au contraire, logicnazi. Perhaps Cingular KNOWS its coverage sucks in those precise areas, and its signs are essentially messages to Cingular customers: "Yeah, we just dropped your call. But we still drop less calls than any other company, so don't even think about switching."
8.10.2006 6:17pm
MDM (mail) (www):
There is pending litigation about the claim, which a diligent person with a PACER search could track down...
8.11.2006 12:41am

P.S.: I shoudl note that Cingular did have "roaming" service in some of the "no service" spots. But we don't choose to pay $2.00 per minute for our phone conversations.

I'm wondering if you had a go phone(which does not cover all of the places that regular contracted cell phone service does)...because Cingular doesn't have any roaming charges on its contracted service...but hey people always wanna complain about something I've had the service for years and never had any problems..
8.11.2006 11:31am
WHOI Jacket:
As a poor starving graduate student, I'm still amazed that more people don't opt for the "No Roaming, No Long Distance" plans.

When my friend is visiting from San Francisco, we have to use my cell phone to contact her, otherwise, my other friend's phones have to make a long distance call to her SanFran #, even if she's just wandered away in the mall.
8.11.2006 12:00pm
Wheelsee: Admittedly, my wife throws around nickels like the proverbial manhole covers. The service was originally sold to us by AT&T for college students, and we inherited the phone when the student left college. It expires this month, and we don't intend to renew it.

So it will be back to our Virgin Mobile - cell phones to be used only for brief calls or in emergencies. And that's fine with us. And much better coverage.
8.11.2006 12:44pm
At least one of the claims made in these cell ads on TV has a huge disclaimer in the fine type on the screen. IIRC, the claim is for "most reliable service" or something similar. If you read the fine print on the bottom of the screen (one use of a DVR with single frame stepping) it says that "most reliable service" is a goal of the company.
8.11.2006 3:40pm
Hey there. I popped by via a hyperlink from the Consumerist website. I spent nearly 3 years as an AT&T Wireless/Cingular rep in a call centre and still know people who work there. I thought I could shed some light on the dropped call claim.

The claim is technically correct. Problem is, the commercial defines the Cingular network differently than normal people define it. A third party surveyed the Cingular network as defined before the merger between Cingular and AT&T Wireless (AWS) and limited itself to the GSM part of the network. (The survey occurred after the merger, but it limited itself to towers that were operating in the same way as they were before the merger.)

So a full disclosure version would be "The GSM part of the Cingular network that existed previous to the merger with AT&T Wireless had fewer dropped calls to a statistically significant degree." The integration with the AWS network caused many changes and much shifting around: turn this tower off, make this one GSM, network these two computers that did not talk to each other previously, etc. The network referred to in the commercials, for all practical intents and purposes, no longer exists. This new badly, but throughly, integrated network is the one you folks are using to place calls.
8.12.2006 5:28am