Network performance has narrowed between Telstra and Vodafone Hutchison Australia this year, according to a report by J.D. Power and Associates.
The gap between the highest and lowest-ranking carriers decreased in 2013 to seven problems per 100 network connections, down from 11 problems per 100 connections in 2012, the research firm said.
Telstra had the fewest customer-reported problems at nine problems per 100 network connections. It also had the fewest problems in 2012 when J.D. Power and Associates first did the study.
Vodafone came in last with 16 problems per 100 connections, while Optus was in the middle with 11 problems per 100 connections. The network performance rankings match the telcos' market rankings.
The study measures usage activities in calling, messaging and data and assesses performance based on the number of dropped calls, audio issues, SMS failures, slow downloads, connection errors and other network problems. J.D. Power and Associates surveyed 2000 wireless customers across Australia in February.
"As carriers continue to invest heavily in infrastructure upgrades and improvements, the differences in their network performance has truly resonated with customers," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates.
Customers around the world have experienced fewer problems on 4G networks than they did on 3G networks, the research firm said. On Australia 4G networks, there were 12 problems per 100 connections this year, compared to 13 on 3G networks. On average, there were 17 data problems per 100 connections on 4G, compared to 21 on 3G, it said.
Telstra and Optus have begun to roll out 4G networks. Vodafone plans to start its 4G deployment this June.
"With the network advantages of using 4G technology, in terms of spectrum efficiencies and increases in data connection speeds and reliability, it's not unexpected that wireless carriers are rushing to expand and upgrade their networks to align with this latest generation of service," Parsons said.
The number of network problems also varied by state, the research firm said. Average problem rates were lowest among wireless users in South Australia and Queensland (9 problems per 100 connections) and highest among wireless customers in Western Australia (13 problems per 100 connections).