AT&T’s advertising says that they are the carrier with the ‘most’ coverage and ‘strongest’ network…yet the competition between carriers to be the best network is fierce. Unfortunately, three out of four networks all claim to be the best. Where does AT&T fit? We reveal the answer in this guide to AT&T’s coverage.
AT&T’s wireless coverage is very solid – it has to be. Along with Verizon, AT&T has millions of premium business customers – and these premium customers would not suffer a sub-par network. Notably, AT&T’s 3G coverage is the widest of all carriers, but their 4G LTE footprint is not as wide as either Verizon’s or T-Mobile’s.
Three carriers all claim to have the best network. AT&T HAs the Widest 3G Network in THE LOWER 48 STATES
The question is…is the AT&T network the best, the strongest, the largest?
There are many answers to this question, depending on where you look for help and in backing up their claims AT&T only use one source. T-Mobile consistently claims that their speeds are fastest based on user data and Verizon has been awarded best network titles from the industry’s most authoritative testing service, RootMetrics.
In fact, the AT&T network has dropped a spot to position #3 in terms of 4G LTE area covered in the lower 48 states.
AT&T sit comfortably at either position 2 or position 3, depending on the test or the comparison point. However, if you’re mind is already made up you want to get a new AT&T plan, you can compare their latest plans here or their latest deals here
US National Wireless Networks
There are four major cell phone networks in the United States, powering over 30 different carriers. These major networks are:
Many smaller carriers also use one of these four networks to offer their services. These smaller carriers (called MVNOs — essentially a mobile carrier using another carrier’s network) can offer you AT&T coverage at a cheaper price. We’ve listed those MVNOs below, or check out this page for the full list of carriers which operate on the AT&T network.
Our comparison information is based on the coverage maps provided by the networks on their own coverage pages.
There are over 30 carriers in the US but only 4 national wireless networks. Smaller carriers effectively rent space from the big networks.
Based on the coverage maps supplied by all carriers on their websites and analysis of the areas covered, AT&T’s coverage is third widest in terms of pure geographical area covered for 4G LTE. More importantly, T-Mobile’s 600Mhz spectrum has been instrumental in T-Mobile catching AT&T on coverage areas and only a few of the more recent phones are 600MHz compatible.
AT&T Coverage Compared
AT&T’s 3G Network has the largest geographical coverage in the US at 70% based on the analysis of their coverage map and miles covered.
There are two main connection types used by AT&T – 4G LTE and 3G HSPA.
When it comes to 4G LTE, Verizon’s national 4G network beats out AT&T’s by a significant margin; however, AT&T has the most 3G coverage area of any carrier in the US.
In terms of 4G LTE, Verizon’s coverage is wider and AT&T and T-Mobile are relatively neck and neck and are within 1% of each other. T-Mobile’s newly added 600 MHz network is responsible for the tighter competition and growth in coverage footprint over the past few years.
Based on the Carrier’s own coverage maps, the following geographical coverage areas have been measured.
Coverage Comparison (4G / 3G) in Square Miles Covered in 2018
4G LTE Coverage (Square Miles)
Lower 48 states as per carrier’s own coverage maps
- Verizon: 70% 4G coverage
- T-Mobile: 59% 4G coverage
- AT&T: 58% 4G coverage
- Sprint: 27% 4G coverage
While AT&T ‘s 4G network is third-widest in terms of coverage area, the carrier’s 3G network is superior to all the others in terms of area covered. Although 3G coverage isn’t the fastest, it is the network type that your phone will drop back to in the absence of a 4G signal. Accordingly, AT&T offers equal service to Verizon in terms of square miles covered with 70% of the country covered.
3G Coverage (Square Miles)
Lower 48 states as per carrier’s own coverage maps
- AT&T: 70% 3G coverage
- Verizon: 62% 3G coverage
- Sprint: 25% 3G coverage
- T-Mobile: 22% 3G coverage
AT&T’s Coverage Map Compared
The interactive map below shows you exactly how much of the country AT&T covers. Combined, the carrier’s 3G and 4G networks span much of the United States. That said, AT&T does have a few dead zones. Parts of Montana, Arizona, Wyoming, and a few other western areas aren’t 100% covered. AT&T has roaming agreements with local networks in those areas.
The coverage map shows the AT&T coverage in square miles across the lower 48 states and does not match the advertising claims of 99% coverage. However, the key to these coverage claims is that 99% of the population and where the population resides is covered, not 99% of the country.
When a network advertises 99% coverage, it refers to homes covered and not geography
All carriers tend to refer to their coverage in ‘pops’ which means population covered.
AT&T’s Coverage: Best and Worst States
Some states have exceptional AT&T coverage whilst others are weaker.
AT&T’s Top Ten States for Coverage
The East Coast and Midwest are virtually blanketed with coverage, as are metro areas on the west coast.
|State||Percentage Covered||Mile Covered (mi²)|
|Rhode Island||100.00%||1,106 mi²|
|New Jersey||99.89%||7,759 mi²|
AT&T Top Ten States with the Least Coverage
AT&T’s network is somewhat lacking in parts of Maine, Nebraska, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, and Idaho.
|State||AT&T Coverage Area||Area|
|West Virginia||92.61%||22,426 mi²|
Checking Coverage in Your Area
To see AT&T coverage in your area (or coverage from any carrier) check out our comparison engine. Type your address in the “Coverage Check” box and all networks and carriers will be compared.
After you search, look in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. You will see two buttons, click the one that says “Map.” This map will show you if AT&T covers your area, and allow you to compare 3G and 4G coverage from the networks.
What the Awards Say
The data used in this article is based on the coverage actually reported by carriers on their own coverage maps and the geographical areas covered. We’ve measured and mapped all of the coverage mathematically, based on mapping software. In terms of quality, there is no universal answer as to the quality of the network as this is subjective. Some user-based studies are used as the benchmarks in advertising claims, whereas other testing services use drive tests where coverage is tested by phones as cars drive through an area. In terms of real-life user experience, the most important thing is the phone used as that the most modern phones before much faster with more antennas and wireless network specs than older phones. Here’s what the other reports say.
Ookla runs a speed test app where users can run a speed test from their phones. In the Ookla Q1-Q2 speed test they measured over 4.1 million unique mobile devices in over 11.5 million sessions. They found that AT&T has the fastest download speeds followed by T-Mobile, Verizon, and lastly, Sprint.
- AT&T with an average download speed of 32.91Mbps
- T-Mobile with an average download speed of 30.94
- Verizon with an average download speed of 29.43Mbps
- Sprint with an average download speed of 28.15 Mbps
RootMetrics does drive by testing across all 50 states with a fleet of phones running tests both indoors and outdoors to provide real-world experiences. Their 2018 report is here
Best Overall Network from RootMetrics
Fastest Carriers from RootMetrics
AT&T’s Unlimited Plans & Prices
So, what does it cost to get access to the AT&T network? AT&T’s Unlimited Plan options are included below. AT&T’s plans are typically some of the more expensive plans in the market, positioning themselves as a premium carrier. However, if price is an issue, see below for some cheaper ways to get AT&T coverage from an MVNO.
A Less Expensive Way to Access the AT&T Network
If you want to be on AT&T’s network but avoid the carrier’s high prices, it’s worth taking a look at MVNOs which operate on the AT&T network. Cricket Wireless offers AT&T coverage and is actually 100% owned by AT&T. FreeUp and Straight Talk are smaller carriers that run on AT&T’s network, offering the same coverage, but generally lower prices. You can find the best MVNO plans by using our comparison engine where you can find carriers which run on the AT&T network. This will give you the most options from the AT&T network and allow you to filter to your needs.
The following carriers all operate on the AT&T network