ChangeWave: Many AT&T customers looking to leave

It’s the 64 million subscriber question: now that the iPhone is available on Verizon, how many folks will jump ship from their current carrier? ChangeWave Research conducted a survey on this very issue in December, not long before the actual announcement took place.

Of the 4050 consumers surveyed, 10 percent said they were planning on switching carriers in the next 90 days, the highest overall churn rate in the past year and a half. But the story gets more interesting when you examine what that 10 percent looks like when you break it down. While only 4 percent of current Verizon customers said they were very or somewhat likely to switch providers in the next three months, 15 percent of both T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s subscribers reported they were likely to bid their carrier adieu.

That’s the worst churn rate for AT&T since ChangeWave has been tracking this statistic, and marks a sizable 5 point leap from the previous survey in September 2010. As for the reasons those AT&T customers are so eager to depart, 42 percent said it was due to poor reception or coverage, 27 percent pointed to dropped calls, and 17 percent were concerned about the cost.

But what’s really weakened their resolve appears to be the Verizon iPhone. Of current AT&T customers who were asked if they would would switch if Verizon offered the iPhone, 16 percent answered to the affirmative, and another 23 percent said they didn’t know. Of current iPhone owners, a hefty 26 percent said they would go to Verizon.

When is this mass exodus taking place? According to ChangeWave, 41 percent of AT&T subcribers who are looking to leave said they would go within three months after the Verzon iPhone’s release, with an additional 31 percent saying within the first year.

It’s worth noting, however, that the news isn’t all grim for AT&T. Surveyed subscribers said they’d begun to experience fewer dropped calls from the network, with the number of dropped calls in the past 90 days going from 6 percent to 4.7 percent. But it may be too little too late for disgruntled subscribers.

Granted, these are all answers given before the actual Verizon iPhone announcement, and people are notoriously fickle. It may come to pass that some of them reconsider now and, as we’ve yet to find out all the details on the Verizon iPhone—including the cost of data plans—others may change their minds in the future. But it’s apparent that AT&T customers—especially iPhone owners—are not feeling particularly friendly towards their carrier, and that could mean a lot of potential new customers for Verizon.

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