Best Cell Phone Coverage
Mobile phones are so prevalent within the United States, to the point that 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone of some type, whereas 77 percent own a smartphone (referring to Pew Internet's Mobile Fact Sheet). Because of how these phones have been integrated into society, wireless coverage is important - so important that customers are willing to drop their provider if the provider's coverage is lackluster.
In fact, wireless coverage is becoming increasingly important to employees. According to eWeek back in early 2015, up to 74 percent expressed a willingness "to switch mobile operators to get better coverage at the office." So just which provider has the best wireless coverage? That is the question that will receive an answer by the end of this article.
You'll be able to review, from this point forward, our phone coverage maps to see for yourself which provider has the greatest cell phone coverage. However, I will research and analyze reliability and speed percentages among the four major carriers.
Verizon Coverage Map
Verizon currently sports the greatest coverage and network reliability among the four major carriers. Unfortunately, according to Bloomberg, the company is risking its quality coverage since it has unleashed its own unlimited data plan. According to Recon Analytics LLC analyst Roger Entner:
"An unlimited offer is dangerous. If they sign up a lot of people, it will congest the network, and they run the risk of people saying 'the network sucks'."
However, Verizon doesn't exactly have a choice in leaving out the unlimited data plan, considering the fact that its three rivals feature unlimited data plans.
Nevertheless and throughout 2016, Verizon remains the undisputed champion when it comes to coverage and network reliability, sitting at a 95.2 RootScore according to RootMetrics. This score includes metro, state, and national levels. In fact, Verizon has gone so far as to launch "LTE in Rural America," which covers potentially 2.7 million users over 225,000 miles within 169 rural counties.
In terms of coverage speed, according to RootMetrics, Verizon comes out on top, just ahead of AT&T and T-Mobile, who boast incredible speeds on their network. Even better is the fact that Verizon will be the first carrier to introduce the swift 5G network, though it is not expected to arrive for another couple of years (thanks, RCR Wireless News).
The company also boasts a network coverage of 98 percent, making it the best network in regards to coverage. However, its 4G coverage sat at 86.73 percent during 2016. Here, you'll see, with the Verizon wireless coverage map, of what I'm talking about:
Related: Verizon Cell Phone Plans
T-Mobile Coverage Map
T-Mobile phone coverage isn't the best, but it isn't the worst either. In fact, it's been touted as the least reliable major network, even to this day. With that being said, T-Mobile is known to perform better in metro areas compared to state or national areas.
In regards to coverage, T-Mobile's coverage remains a little shoddy in rural areas, though it is not as unreliable now compared to previous years. That is because T-Mobile has incorporated plenty of technological advancements, such as Nationwide VoLTE, Carrier Aggregation, 4x4 Multiple Input, and Multiple Output, so we should certainly see major improvements in 2017. With RootMetrics, it has secured an overall RootScore of 81.2 and a reliability RootScore of 82.5, falling behind Sprint and securing fourth place.
However, its 4G coverage percentage sat at 81.23 percent in 2016.
Related: T-Mobile Cell Phone Plans
Sprint Coverage Map
How good is the Sprint coverage? Well, according to sources, reliability sits at 93.42 percent, making it fourth place in terms of reliability. So while 93.42 percent isn't bad - far from it - it's a smaller percentage compared to its rivals. However, Sprint also sports a reliability RootScore of 88.6, which is just above T-Mobile, reliability score. Despite the differences in provider award placements, Sprint's claims of being within 1 percent of Verizon's network in terms of reliability doesn't seem to be completely true.
Sprint wireless coverage - 4G coverage, to be exact - also falls behind its rivals, as it sat at 70 percent last year. Sprint's coverage is quite strong in urban areas but weaker in rural areas, just like T-Mobile. Unfortunately, despite its advancements in technology, the provider still falls in fourth place in terms of speed, having been awarded a 72.3 RootScore.
You'll find all that there is to know in terms of Sprint cell phone coverage with our map below:
Related: Sprint Cell Phone Plans
AT&T Coverage Map
Verizon may feature strong metrics when it comes to coverage and reliability, but AT&T doesn't fall far behind. If you happen to live in a rural area, you cannot go wrong with AT&T. AT&T wireless coverage, when pertaining to 4G coverage, squeaks just ahead of T-Mobile while falling right behind Verizon as of 2016 with a coverage percentage of 82.63.
When it comes to reliability, RootMetrics provides AT&T with a RootScore of 92.4, falling just behind Verizon. The same goes for speed, and AT&T scored an 89.6. It makes sense, considering that AT&T issued the greatest amount of LTE spectrum among all carriers across the 125 metropolitan markets that were tested by RootMetrics throughout the second half of 2016. Because of this, AT&T's spectrum allocation provided the company with significantly higher median download speeds.
According to the AT&T blog, AT&T is also on the trail to implement a 5G network, with plans to unveil the network in around 2020.
So what is the AT&T wireless coverage map like? Below you'll find our coverage map of AT&T wireless.
Related: AT&T Cell Phone Plans
Who Has the Best Cell Phone Coverage?
Among the data I've come across issued by resources like RootMetrics and provider sites, I've come to discover that Verizon has the best cell phone coverage. Having supplied users with 98 percent of total coverage and 86.73 percent of 4G coverage, it's no wonder why people are still attached to the service. What falls in second place in terms of coverage and reliability is AT&T, trailing just behind Verizon as it provides sufficient coverage in rural areas.
What comes in third place is T-Mobile. While it features a strong network in metro areas and while its technology is constantly improving, its network in rural areas are still a little lackluster. Sprint trails last behind its competitors. While its network is generally strong in metro areas, the coverage and reliability in rural areas aren't so great.
Of course, coverage and reliability are constantly changing among the four carriers, and with the implementation of unlimited plans, we may see changes within the networks. Hopefully, if there are changes, they will be more positive, not negative.
If you're unsure of what provider to go with, even after taking a look at the coverage, then perhaps you should read our review of the best cell phone plans. If you're worried about how to switch cell phone carriers after you've found a new carrier with better coverage, we'll walk you through the steps.