You may know that Verizon and AT&T are the two largest wireless carriers in the nation.
But do you know which one has the best coverage in your area? Or how much of the time you'll get a 4G LTE connection on each network?
In this guide, you'll get the answers to both those questions, along with valuable tips on saving over 50% on your cell phone bill. I'll show you the Verizon vs AT&T coverage maps and tell you how to get the best prices on your calling, texting, and data.
All of the major carriers claim they have the best wireless coverage. Here's the truth: it really only matters how good the network coverage is in the area where you spend the most time, and any areas to which you travel regularly.
The other important truth is that all of the networks offer 4G LTE service across most of the nation. The difference between the four big guys is a few percentage points. So the fact is you only need to decide which network is best for your personal needs in terms of features and plan costs.
The Verizon network is known for its high data speeds and extensive LTE coverage throughout urban areas. Verizon offers service not only across more than 98% of populated areas of the United States but also in more remote areas through its LTE in Rural America Program.
That said, every carrier does have dead zones. Most of these are in rural areas where there are few or no people.
Weak/No Coverage Areas:
- Most of Alaska
- Scattered spots throughout the South and Northeast
- Areas throughout the western US and along the west coast
The AT&T LTE network offers strong coverage across most of the U.S. The carrier also moved up in texting reliability in the past year, landing a spot in a three-way tie with Verizon and Sprint in the 2017 mobile performance assessment by RootMetrics.
Some of AT&T's weak spots are dead zones and some are covered by 3G speeds or a third-party roaming partner.
Weak/No Coverage Areas:
- Large areas of Nebraska, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, and Montana
- Northern and eastern Arizona
- Minor areas of Utah
- Central western New Mexico
- Spotty areas throughout California, Oregon, and Washington
- Spotty areas in Maine
For the most part, these areas are minor and largely unpopulated. Still, it's important to examine the areas where you'll need to use your cellphone on a regular basis.
How fast is Verizon Wireless vs AT&T? OpenSignal looks at just that in its State of the Mobile Network report:
Average 4G download speeds:
- Verizon - 17.77 Mbps
- AT&T - 13.27 Mbps
Finally, how often will you get 4G reception on both of these networks?
Percentage of time with 4G signal:
- Verizon - 92.7%
- AT&T - 87%
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How to Switch to a Big Network without Paying Big Prices
I promised to tell you how to save a ton on your cell phone service and now is the time. There's no longer any reason to pay up to $90 a month per line.
If you spend any time on the internet at all, you no doubt have seen ads for smaller carriers called MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators). These companies, like Mint Mobile and Tello, use the big four carriers' networks to provide you with cheaper cell service.
How can they do this? Easily. Alternative carriers don't have high overhead and marketing costs like the big guys, so they pass the savings along to the customer. You get the same solid service without the bank-breaking plan costs of, say, the AT&T family plan or Verizon Unlimited.
Benefits of MVNOs:
- Cheaper rates. Save as much as 50% or more.
- Nationwide coverage on the most reliable 4G networks.
- Custom no-contract plans. Pay only for what you actually need and use.
- Sign up quickly and easily - typically online.
- Keep your phone number and your device - just swap out SIM cards.
- Enjoy 7-day a week (sometimes 24-hours a day) customer support.
MVNOs are shaking up the competitive world of mobile service, to the consumer's advantage. Plus, many alternative providers offer discounts or special offers to first-time customers, saving you even more.
Verizon vs. AT&T Plan Comparison
Can you really get the plan you need for less money? Absolutely. We have produced guides to Verizon MVNOs and for AT&T MVNOs. Whether you need an Android or iPhone carrier, a single line or a family plan, unlimited data or the bare basics, you'll find a great deal on it.
Here's a look at just a few of the options.
Cheap Cellphone Plans
Keeping it basic means ultra affordable.
- Twigby (on the Verizon network): 500 minutes, unlimited texts, 500 MB of data - $12.75 per month for six months, $17 after that
- ROK Mobile (on the AT&T network): Unlimited calling and texts, 1 GB high-speed data - $20
If you prepay your plan costs you won't get caught unaware by overage fees or unexpected surcharges.
- US Mobile (Verizon): 500 minutes, 500 texts, 1 GB 4G data - $25
- ROK Mobile (AT&T): Unlimited talk, unlimited texting, 4 GB 4G LTE data - $30
Unlimited Data Plans
Yes, you can get unlimited data plans from MVNOs as well.
- US Mobile (Verizon): Unlimited calling, unlimited texting, unlimited data - $46 (you may experience throttled speeds after using 12 GB of LTE data)
- Cricket Wireless (AT&T): Unlimited talk, text, and 4G data - $40 (Cricket caps download speeds at 8 Mbps)
Before you jump on the unlimited plan bandwagon, use our data usage calculator to check the amount of data you actually need. The average smartphone user goes through less than 3 GB per month.
Need multiple lines? Buying additional lines of service from an alternative carrier can save you a bundle.
- US Mobile (Verizon): Four lines, each with 2000 minutes, 2000 texts, 3 GB high-speed data - $160
- ROK Mobile (AT&T): Four lines, each with unlimited talk and text and 8 GB LTE data - $160
Many times MVNO plans include the same perks you enjoy with the major carriers, like mobile hotspots with LTE hotspot data, international plans, and HD video streaming. Shop around to get all of your favorite extras.
According to Time, Americans spend about 43 days over a lifetime on hold, waiting for customer service to answer their phone call. No one likes to wait, and even worse, end up without their problem solved after all that waiting.
Customer support is vital to your satisfaction with a cellphone carrier. Uncertain of whether MVNOs can live up to your expectations when it comes to customer service? Rest easy - these smaller carriers are known for their superior attention to their customers.
In fact, according to Consumer Reports, MVNOs rate higher for customer satisfaction than any of the four major wireless networks.
MVNOs aren't the only way to save money on your cell phone costs. Bringing your own phone to your new mobile plan can put even more dollars back in your pocket.
Rather than pouring $400 to $1,000 into a new device payment plan every year or two, consider these money-saving options.
Keep Your Phone
Does your phone still work just fine to talk, text, and stream video and music? Why not bring it with you? Benefits of BYOP include:
- Reducing waste
- Saving up to $30 a month in device installments
- Changing carriers easily just by switching out SIM cards
You don't trade your television in every time a new, more expensive model comes out, so why do it with your smartphone?
You will need to make sure your phone is carrier unlocked before switching cell plans.
Buy a Used or Refurbished Smartphone
The truth is that even though new iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S models come out virtually every year, the changes to each model are small, and typically not worth the hundreds you'll put into the latest incarnation.
We make it easy to assess your refurbished phone options with our used phone comparison tool.
In the battle of the networks between AT&T vs Verizon, the best cell phone carrier for you is the one that offers the best 4G LTE coverage where you live and in the areas you visit regularly.
If you decide you want to see Sprint and T-Mobile coverage maps as well, we've got you covered there too with Who Has the Best Cell Phone Coverage?
Once you've decided on the best network for you, you will save money by switching to a MVNO on that network. It's a breeze to use our comparison tool to find a cheaper phone plan. Then, just enjoy the extra money in your pocket!