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A Short Guide to Getting the Best Cell Phone Coverage in Your Area

Posted on 08/17/20 by Nicholas Jones

Looking for the best cell phone coverage in your area can be a difficult proposition. Different cell phone networks might have stronger coverage in some areas than others, and their service can vary dramatically from state to state. There’s nothing more aggravating than discovering the holes in your carrier’s coverage when you need it most.

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the best choices for cell phone coverage, and how you can compensate to make sure you have top-quality coverage no matter where you live or what carrier you’re with.

young man holding a map

Which Carrier Has the Best Cell Service in My Area?

Cell phone coverage for both 3G and 4G networks varies between a small number of large carriers (especially Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular), and a wide range of smaller carriers, which in some cases offer attractive packages for more localized service. We’ll start this guide by focusing on the larger and better-known carriers to see how they stack up by comparing their coverage areas, download speeds, pricing, and service. After that, we’ll look at potential alternatives for getting the best cell phone coverage in your area.

1. Verizon

Verizon’s coverage map is the most comprehensive of any major carrier in the U.S., with its 4G coverage reaching 70% of the country and 3G coverage still nearly as extensive, reaching some 62% of America. Only in more rural areas in the western areas of the country are there pockets it doesn’t reach, and where it does, Verizon offers a high degree of reliability (close to 96% reliability of calls reported by customers) and excellent download speeds.

The caveat in all this is expense. Verizon plans get costly quickly, running to upwards of $160 per month for four lines if you want unlimited data; and truly unlimited data plans don’t really exist, just different daily caps and speeds as well as different access to high priority downloads during high-traffic time periods. Highest-priority access to the network can run you up to $240 per month. International data plans are much more limited, with international service available only at the highest tier of service, capped at 0.5 GB per day.

2. AT&T

AT&T’s coverage map is nearly as comprehensive as Verizon’s, reaching 68% of the country and with customers reporting slightly better than 92% reliability of calls and excellent download speeds. The major difference between the two carriers is that Verizon covers a few more remote rural areas than AT&T does.

AT&T’s so-called unlimited data plans are available for $80 per month for a single line and up to $160 per month for four lines, although they come with more stringent data caps than Verizon’s. International data is available for $10 daily passes or pay-as-you-go, which can quickly become a considerable expense.

3. T-Mobile

To a purely territorial extent, T-Mobile’s coverage map comes in third among the major carriers, with 4G coverage reaching 59% of the country. That leaves 41% of the U.S. outside its coverage, making it a less reliable carrier for rural areas in particular. Coverage for urban areas, however, is comparable to the other major carriers.

The reliability of its 4G network closely matches Verizon’s, with a 95.4% rate of reliability reported by its customers, and it offers the best upload speeds of any major carrier at 8.6 megabits per second (Mbps), making a major difference for people who upload content to Instagram, YouTube, Spotify and other platforms. T-Mobile plans are marginally cheaper on a monthly basis than AT&T’s, coming at $70 per month for one line and $140 per month for multiple lines, the latter coming bundled with Netflix.

4. Sprint

Recently having acquired T-Mobile, Sprint is not long set to exist as its own separate network and is no doubt due for a major upgrade in the near future. This is probably for the best, as on its own, Sprint didn’t stack up well compared to other major carriers. As it currently stands, Sprint’s appeal was originally that it offered the cheapest unlimited plan on the market, but that’s gone by the wayside since the merger.

Sprint’s coverage map is minimal, embracing only about 30% of the United States, less than a third of a country and largely neglecting most of the western states. With the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint in progress, that coverage area should increase substantially and Sprint’s prices should be expected to converge with (and perhaps go up from) the T-Mobile standard. There’s not a lot of detail to offer on this front until more concrete information becomes available.

5. U.S. Cellular

On the upside, U.S. Cellular has agreements with the other four major carriers to help ensure more consistent coverage wherever you are. However, this is necessary because its primary network only covers about 10% of the lower 48 United States, with the strongest coverage being in the Midwest, parts of the Pacific Northwest, New Hampshire, Maine, and North Carolina.

They have recently begun offering unlimited plans, and otherwise have plans with data caps up to 15GB (enough muscle for one person), though most of their plans are capped considerably lower and don’t allow overages, meaning download speeds can be expected to slow to 2G-style rates whenever you reach the limits. If you have a U.S. Cellular plan carried on another network, keep in mind that your usage is going to be relatively low-priority compared to primary users of that network.

U.S. Cellular offers both pre- and post-paid plans, and they are on the inexpensive side compared to other carriers. Some plans offer substantial monthly per-line rebates to customers who use 3GB or less data in a month.

Extending Your Coverage With MVNOs

One method of extending your cell phone coverage is using a multiple virtual network operator, or MVNO. These are alternative carriers that access other wireless networks in order to provide coverage. An MVNO provider can provide cheaper access to the coverage areas of major networks, but this is somewhat like getting access to seats further from the stage in a concert venue: priority of access and the best download and upload speeds will go to that carrier’s primary customers, making your service slower, especially in areas or time periods where wireless traffic is congested.

Enhancing Your Coverage With weBoost Signal Boosters

When tasking yourself finding the best cell phone coverage in your area, one powerful and versatile option that may not immediately come to mind is a cellular signal booster. As the pioneer of cell phone signal boosting technology, weBoost offers a variety of options including:

weBoost Installed Home Complete installation

Signal boosters are an inexpensive way to ensure you have solid coverage regardless of the variances that may come with your specific carrier.

What’s the Surefire Way to Get the Best Cell Phone Coverage in My Area?

Having a solid primary cell phone carrier certainly doesn’t hurt. MVNOs can help, but they’re an incomplete solution in themselves, with plenty of disadvantages. One of the most reliable ways to make sure you have the best coverage for any area to operate is to get in touch with weBoost online or by phone at 1-866-294-1660. Click below to find the ideal signal boosting option for you and make sure you never have to worry about poor cell phone signals again.

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