Having the latest and greatest cell phone only matters when a person has a cellular network that can back it up. A new phone that is on a network that has minimal coverage areas isn't doing anyone any good at all. Coverage should be a person's major priority when picking a phone provider as they want to be able to text, stream, watch, and call from their regular usage area. Which cell phone carrier has the best coverage in your area? Click the carrier logos below to launch their coverage maps. Then, use our tool below to compare the price and features of each carrier’s plans. Smaller carriers and MVNOs typically run on the networks of one of the big four carriers you see below.
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So what provider has the best coverage? It can be quite confusing at times because all the major cellular providers like to boast about how much better their coverage is. Just because a company boasts their coverage is two times better than it previously was, doesn't mean it has the best coverage out of all the cellular providers.
To quickly summarize, Verizon has the top spot when it comes to best nationwide coverage. Following them in respective order are AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. This is all based on independent tests. However, it's important to realize that just because these brands has good nationwide coverage, doesn't mean they have the best coverage in each city.
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In fact, many city-to-city tests show other carriers having more reliable coverage than the nationwide leaders. If one don't plan on traveling often, a local carrier may be a better option for coverage in their area. You can click or tap on a carrier logo at the top of this page to launch that carrier's coverage map and check coverage in your area. Let's look at some other factors to consider below.
The Device Can Alter The Signal Strength
The carrier network is not the only factor that comes into play when determining how reliable the service is. The device being used determines the signal strength of a call. Some older phones are just not capable of receiving high levels of coverage and speed.
This means that part of getting the best cell phone coverage is having an up-to-date phone. As technology advances so does a device's capability to tap into a radio frequency to pick up cellular signals. Certain phones are not compatible to receive the 4G LTE coverage offered by many network carriers. Upgrading to a new phone every few years is recommended to ensure an individual is always setting them self up for the best chance of receiving coverage.
When new network coverage updates get released, such as the anticipated 5G LTE, it's important for a phone user to verify whether their current device is capable. In some cases, a device can simply use an automatic update to the software. In other cases, the device will need to be replaced to a new one.
Blackout Zones Do Exist With All Networks
Everyone who has ever owned a cellular device has dealt with a blackout zone or dead spot. In fact, many individuals can name the exact spots where service cuts out in their local town or city. Each major cellular provider has mapped out their coverage areas to help consumers better recognize where these dead spots lie. You can find these maps on the major carrier websites or through a simple Google search.
Before opting for any particular cellular provider, one would be wise to check the coverage charts from the major cellular providers in their area. If their particular town is recorded as a dead spot by a specific network provider, then it doesn't make sense to opt for a plan through that network. One should only consider networks that have proven coverage in their area. Once you know the carrier with the best coverage in your area, you can compare cell phone plans with Wirefly to find the best plan at the best price.
In some cases, blackout zones can be fixed with network extenders. For example, a homeowner or business can install network extenders that boost at provider's signal or WiFi signal. Most phones can make outgoing calls using a WiFi connection as long as it is strong enough.
Major vs. Minor Cell Phone Carriers
Major cell phone providers continue to seek the best coverage to outrun their competitors. The minor cell phone carriers are helping to bring more affordable network coverage to persons in specific areas. These smaller networks typically buy network service from the major providers, such as Verizon, at a retail price.
These minor carriers are called Mobile Virtual Network Operators or MVNOs for short. Due to the fact they're able to purchase service at a wholesale rate, these carriers are then able to resell the service for a price that is typically below what the major providers charge their consumers.
It is definitely worth an individual's time to assess the cost of the MVNOs in their area. It's likely they will discover a cheaper priced cellular plan that still provides the same coverage as the major network providers. A few examples of these MVNOs are Boost Mobile and FreedomPop for Sprint, C-Spire and GreatCall for Verizon, H2O Wireless and Cricket for AT&T, and Mint SIM and NET10 for T-Mobile.
Let's Compare The Coverage of The Top Four Major Cell Phone Carriers
As we discussed earlier, when it comes to nationwide coverage reliability the top providers are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. However, not all of these providers offer coverage in every city or town. Every single city or town is a bit different in the amount of coverage that a provider offers.
For example, T-Mobile is the premiere provider for coverage in Des Moines, Buffalo, and Kansas City. Sprint is more reliable in Ogden, Santa Rosa, and Spokane. AT&T is more reliable in San Antonio, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Austin.
Depending on the specific city that one lives in, the best phone coverage carrier could be different than the next city over. Just because these top performers boast about their nationwide coverage, they don't always perform great in smaller towns. Again, this is where viewing a potential provider's coverage map comes into importance when making the ultimate decision on who to choose.
While T-Mobile hasn't always had the best reputation when it comes to reliable coverage, their purchase of the U.S. Telecom Outfits has drastically changed that. T-Mobile's LTE coverage is very strong in the urban areas across the United States. With their growing network, T-Mobile just may overtake the bigger name brands in coverage shortly in the future.
This carrier, however, struggles when it comes to reliable coverage in rural America. There are plans to improve their coverage in the rural regions of the country, mainly the western and southeastern parts of the country. The future will tell if this fast-growing company will improve their service area nationwide.
Sprint is becoming known for their ultra fast data speeds. Their LTE Plus network is comprised of a two-channel aggregation. This allows them to send more speed, or simply put, allows them to widen the road for more traffic to flow. Sprint is working on a three-channel aggregation that will hit top data speeds of 300 megabits per second. This quick data speed is available on over 22 different Sprint devices.
Sprint tends to have the same coverage issues as T-Mobile. They are very prominent in the populous city areas, however, they lack reliable coverage in the rural areas. Sprint doesn't trail far behind AT&T or Verizon as far as nationwide coverage goes. Hopefully, the are able to improve their rural dead spot coverage areas in the near future.
Verizon's 4G LTE network has proven itself time and time again as the most reliable carrier by many United States independent tests. With over 150 million customers, Verizon continues to persevere by reaching more and more cities and towns each year. There simply is no other network that can provide reliable coverage in as many areas across the nation as Verizon can.
While their data speed is fast, they have been outshined by Sprint and T-Mobile in speed. Their LTE Advanced network is made up of two and three aggregate systems. In the works is a 5G network that will be much faster than any other existing network. Verizon is expected to continue it's reputation of improving coverage across the nation while enhancing data speed for better device utilization far into the future.
AT&T is nipping at the heels of Verizon in their nationwide coverage reliability. This company is a very reliable option for those in more rural areas. Just like Verizon, AT&T is also focused on expanding their coverage network by building thousands of new cell sites. They utilize the two and three aggregation over their 4G LTE network.
Currently there are 26 AT&T devices that can receive this LTE coverage. AT&T has paired up with Verizon to test the capabilities of 5G LTE. This testing is still in its early stages as only select customers are trying it out. This 5G upgraded network is set to be released to the general public in 2020.
After reading this guide, it becomes clear that the best cell phone carrier that has the most reliable coverage depends on where one lives. As of right now, there are no networks that are available in every single part of the country. The leading companies we spoke about above are going to be a person's best bet in searching for reliable coverage in their specific area.
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