(CNN) -- Sprint tumbled to last place in this year's Consumer Reports rankings for U.S. wireless service providers, based on a survey of users.
Although it trailed only first-place Verizon in overall customer satisfaction among major carriers, Sprint got what Consumer Reports called "dismal marks" for value, voice, text and 4G reliability.
"Our latest cell service satisfaction survey revealed a somewhat precipitous decline by Sprint that shuffled the rankings of the major standard service providers," said Glenn Derene, electronics content development team leader for Consumer Reports. "And smaller, no-frills, no-contract and prepaid service providers continue to do a better job of satisfying customers, and provide an increasingly viable alternative to some of the expensive, long-term contracts that many consumers find themselves locked into."
The rankings, released Thursday, were based on a survey of 58,399 wireless subscribers.
Sprint said the slip likely is due to improvements the company is making to its network.
"We've asked customers during the past year to 'pardon our dust' as we build out and upgrade our network," Sprint said in a statement. "We're working to deliver an advanced wireless network that we believe over time will deliver unmatched speed and performance to our customers."
The statement said that, in markets where the work is complete, the company is seeing higher customer satisfaction. It noted an American Customer Satisfaction Index report this year that ranked Sprint as the most-improved company across 47 industries during the past five years.
"The findings in the Consumer Reports' survey indicate we still have work to do and only serve to make us even more committed to providing outstanding wireless service to our customers," the statement said.
Small providers scored well with Consumer Reports, beating out the nation's major players. Consumer Cellular was the overall leader, gaining high scores across the board even though, as Consumer Reports pointed out, it uses the same network as AT&T, which ranked lower.
Many small carriers offer no-contract and prepaid plans that some consumers prefer.
AT&T, which along with T-Mobile finished in the middle of the field among major carriers, was the only company to receive the highest ranking for the reliability of its 4G service.
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According to the Consumer Reports survey, 38% of respondents who had data plans that set limits on usage used only half, or less, of their monthly allotment. That, the group said, may mean many customers paid for wireless service they didn't need.
More detailed survey results are expected to be posted Thursday on the Consumer Reports website.