For the second year in a row, AT&T finds itself at the bottom of Consumer Reports' annual survey that measures consumer satisfaction with wireless carriers. Meanwhile, a relatively little-known provider called Consumer Cellular topped the ratings.

Of the four major wireless carriers, Verizon Wireless again scored the highest in this year's ratings, followed closely by Sprint. Survey respondents gave very good scores to Verizon for texting and data service satisfaction, as well as for staff knowledge.

T-Mobile was below Verizon and Sprint but continued to rate significantly better than the higher-priced AT&T.

"Our survey indicates that subscribers to prepaid and smaller standard-service providers are happiest overall with their cell phone service," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports.

While customers of smaller carriers might be happier, Reynolds stressed that regional and prepaid carriers tend to offer a smaller selection of smartphones. "The major carriers are still leading options for many consumers, and we found they ranged widely in how well they satisfied their customers," he noted.

Consumer Reports surveyed more than 66,000 of its subscribers about their service and customer support experience with both standard and no-contract providers. The full report has carrier ratings for 22 metropolitan markets and can be found in the January issue of Consumer Reports and online.