Before you sign up for a new cell phone plan, you'll need to be sure that the provider has adequate coverage in your area. The best deal in the world is useless if your calls don't connect and downloads take forever. However, when it comes to cell phone provider coverage, there is a lot more to consider than the splotchy coverage maps that providers like to show in their commercials.
First, you have to consider your specific area. One cell phone provider might serve your neighborhood better than another. This can be hard to determine but there are ways to get an idea of what sort of coverage you might be facing. Check to see if there are towers in your area or check local coverage maps. You can ask friends or check local user reviews to hear from people in your area that actually use the service.
Today, there is more than just one type of coverage to choose from. There are 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE networks to consider and each one has a different web of national coverage. However, there are certain providers that have generally better coverage than others. Which one is right for you?
Verizon has been the uncontested coverage king for a long time. They have the most wide-ranging coverage in the US in both 3G and 4G LTE.
Their 3G network reaches about 98% of all Americans, making it the most inclusive network that is available. Verizon's 4G network is completely LTE which is the fastest type of network. Plus, 4G LTE coverage is getting closer and closer to the same level of coverage as their 3G network, serving 95% of Americans.
According to the company's website, Verizon also covers "over 200 countries" in their Global Services plan. The covered countries may have access to 3G or 2G data or voice and messaging only.
AT&T is right behind Verizon in several categories including coverage. Still, their 3G and 4G networks are wide reaching. Of course, the further you get from populated cites, the greater the likelihood of spotty coverage.
AT&T's 3G network is wide reaching and most areas of the country will have access to some quality of their coverage, although rural areas will have poor coverage. The 4G coverage is also exceptional and their LTE coverage boast fast download speeds and streaming capabilities. AT&T also offers plans that include international talk, text and data.
T-Mobile's performance has grown leaps and bounds in the past year. They have always had good plans and deals but now their speeds are making them even better. They spent 2013 rolling out their new 4G LTE network and their speeds are now incredibly fast. In fact, they now have the fastest download speeds in the industry. However, their nationwide coverage is still not as good as other services like AT&T and Verizon.
Sprint sets itself apart from the crowd with its truly unlimited data plans. This means they would slow down your download speeds after a certain amount of data each month. This is a practice that many other companies with supposedly "unlimited data" employ in their plans. However, in terms of coverage and overall data speeds they are behind the rest. Their coverage is spotty even in some cities and they have slow 4G LTE speeds compared to the rest.
Before you sign up for a cell phone plan, consider other factors like pricing, plans and available devices before making a final decision. Overall, Sprint has the best nationwide coverage but that doesn't mean they have the best coverage in your specific area. Check your local coverage before signing up.