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AT&T rated 2011's worst cell phone carrier

For the second consecutive year, AT&T has finished last in Consumer Reports' annual customer satisfaction survey.

Among the biggest consumer complaints: poor voice service and phone-based customer care.

Consumer Reports' survey, which takes into account a company's voice, data, and text-messaging service, as well as the quality of its customer care, rated AT&T even lower this year than it did in 2010.

The top name was Consumer Cellular, a company that uses AT&T's network and focuses on senior citizens. U.S. Cellular finished second. The survey was based upon responses from over 6,000 subscribers of Consumer Reports with carrier ratings for 22 metropolitan markets. The participants in the poll were asked to rate service and the customer support experience with both standard and no-contract cell phone providers.

"Our survey indicates that subscribers to prepaid and smaller standard-service providers are happiest overall with their cell-phone service," Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "However, these carriers aren't for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smartphones."

For the second year in a row, Verizon Wireless was rated best among the big carriers. It was followed by Sprint and T-Mobile.

AT&T treated the survey in stride, maintaining that its investments are leading to improved services.

"While we'll of course evaluate and learn from the Consumer Reports survey, we made significant progress in our network in 2011 including a 25 percent improvement 3G dropped call performance, 48,000 network improvements (more capacity, new cell sites, faster data speeds, and better connections), and many billions of dollars in capital investment to continue to improve our network," the company said in a statement to AllThingsD.

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