AT&T and Verizon may be duking it out for carrier dominance, but AT&T just landed dead last for the third year in a row in an annual Consumer Reports reader survey ranking U.S. wireless service providers.

The publication surveyed 63,253 readers to determine the best carrier in the nation, scoring Verizon at the top of the major carriers. Big Red was beat out by Consumer Cellular, U.S. Cellular and Credo Mobile.

Sprint and T-Mobile finished behind Verizon, but ahead of Ma Bell.

Unfortunately for Numbers 1-6, being the top dog may not mean all that much, with Consumer Reports noting that cell phone companies in general continue to be grouped among the lowest-rated service providers.

4G to the rescue

The January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports will feature the full results of the survey, which looked at 23 metropolitan areas and revealed that service can vary dramatically based on geography.

Despite Consumer Reports readers rating AT&T the worst, there is one bright spot moving forward: customers love the carrier's 4G LTE network and actually reported far fewer problems with that service than other carriers.

"While delivering an even better customer experience is a never-ending job, we're pleased that our customers rate their 4G experience as best of any carrier," AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly told TechRadar.

"We've invested significantly to deliver unique advantages, including offering the nation's largest 4G network, which enables the fastest iPhone 5 downloads and simultaneous talk and surf."

For AT&T, there's always next year: Even as Verizon is winding down its 4G LTE expansion, AT&T is keeping its foot on the gas with plans to cover 300 million people by the end of 2014.

Via Engadget