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Which Carrier Has the Best Coverage?

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Marketing is a pretty powerful thing and for your average customer, trying to decide which company and which network is best can be complicated. After all, they all boast that they have the “fastest” or “largest” or “most dependable” or even use “nationwide” in their advertisements. Easily the question I am asked the most–by people on both prepaid and postpaid plans–is, “Which network is the best?” And my answer is always the same: It’s complicated.

In my personal opinion, there are various things that each carrier is good for and good at, and as a customer you have to weigh all of those with your geographical location. But, where do you start?

Verizon is the best

On the surface–if you’re just talking straight numbers and square mileage–then I would have to say that Verizon is probably the best, with AT&T coming behind at a close second.

Verizon is one of the older companies and while its network IS the biggest, it is also the most expensive with the least responsive customer service. Now, experiences may vary, but I personally have had nothing but trouble with Verizon CS.  Regardless, there’s a pretty good chance that wherever you live, Verizon has some kind of signal. Check out our list of Verizon MVNOs to get started. Verizon is a CDMA network.

AT&T is the best

Personally, I am a huge fan of AT&T. Their coverage is second-best but the customer service has won tons of awards for being friendly and helpful. I find that with a good customer service, a lot of things are acceptable. AT&T is a little pricey, but not quite as bad as Verizon.

The downside is that AT&T has miles and miles of red tape for making changes for postpaid and basically doesn’t do anything for its prepaid companies. The best deal for AT&T prepaid is probably AT&T’s own Cricket Wireless, but that does mean dealing with AT&T policies. You can see a full list of AT&T MVNOs here. AT&T is a GSM network.

T-Mobile is the best

T-Mobile is definitely the trendsetter in the wireless world and is constantly the one featuring aggressive promotions. Its network is smaller, but is growing and in the areas where you get coverage, it can be pretty fast. Also, because T-Mobile is a little smaller the prices are pretty good.

The downside, of course, is that there are a lot of areas where you simply won’t have coverage. Even on a postpaid plan, I found my signal was incredibly spotty and pretty poor. The customer service isn’t too bad though. See the T-Mobile MVNO list here. T-Mobile is a GSM network.

Sprint is the best

Okay, now that you’re done laughing at that header, it has to be said that Sprint is definitely improving compared to where it was a few years ago. I have friends who swear by the signal they get with Sprint’s two prepaid companies, Boost and Virgin, and the company sure does have some pretty nice promotions.

That being said, Sprint’s coverage is easily the worst of the four main networks and it is very controlling as far as unlocking and using phones goes. Of course, Sprint also has the biggest number of MVNOs to choose from which could be good or bad. You can see the list here. Sprint is a CDMA network.

How do you decide which is best for you?

When it comes down to picking which company you want to throw your money to, the first thing I highly recommend is checking out the coverage maps for each with specific pinpoints at your location. But even that is really only a rough estimate.

Hands down, the best thing you can do is to talk to friends and family. If there’s one universal truth it’s that people love to complain about things. Ask them what company they are with and how their signal is, and I guarantee they will be all too happy to tell you about any potential problems with the network in your area.

So, tell me… how’s your service?