There are four main cell phone providers known as the “Big Four”: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Of the four, there’s no question that Verizon covers the most area of the United States. But that doesn’t mean Verizon is the best for you. This guide will walk you through who has the leading service, and the pros and cons of each.
Sprint Coverage Map
Of the four majors, Sprint covers the least amount of territory with their 4G network— 27% of the country. Their 3G service isn’t any better, as it only covers 25% of the nation.
Sprint may not have the best overall nationwide coverage, but the carrier is great in a few regions. For instance, Michigan and the surrounding states have comprehensive service, as do many states along the east coast.
AT&T Coverage Map
AT&T’s network comes in at number three, covering 58% of the U.S. AT&T’s network includes a few dead zones in western states like Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, and Arizona. But compared to Sprint these dead zones are minimal.
One thing that gives AT&T a boost over the other carriers is their stellar 3G network. Their 3G service covers 70% of the country and picks up where 4G drops. AT&T is only in third place by a small margin, as T-Mobile beats them by 1%.
T-Mobile Coverage Map
Starting in 2015, T-Mobile stepped up their game and tripled their network size, allowing the carrier to rise to the “second-best” network in the country. Their 4G service covers 59% of the nation.
It’s important to note that T-Mobile’s 4G coverage comes with a catch. Not every phone can connect to it. Part of their 4G network runs on the 600 MHz spectrum, and only newer phones can access it.
Verizon Coverage Map
Coming in at number one in the coverage department is Verizon, whose network covers 70% of the United States. No matter how you slice it, Verizon is number one in most categories. Not only is their 4G service excellent, so is their 3G (which covers 62% of the country).
The only thing that may be a drawback for Verizon users is the cost of their plans—the great network comes at a price. If you’re looking for a less expensive one, it may be a better idea to check out the other three carriers or look at Verizon mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). MVNOs are smaller carriers that piggyback off the networks of the “Big Four.” Generally, MVNOs are less expensive and offer the same coverage.
Best Cell Phone Coverage in Your Area
Before you decide on a carrier, you’ll need to see if they have coverage in your area. Use our Let’s Talk comparison engine to get detailed coverage information. As you’re searching for a better phone plan, be sure to input your address in the “Coverage Check” box. On the following page, there will be two buttons in the upper right-hand corner. Click on the button that says “Map,” and it will show if you’re covered. It will also show if the coverage is 3G or 4G.
Let’s Talk Tip:
If you’re willing to pay top dollar, Verizon is your best option. With their network covering 70% of the country, you won’t be without service often. If you live or travel to remote areas, Verizon is your friend.
AT&T is another excellent option if you want a reliable network. With solid 4G coverage and stellar 3G service, you can’t go wrong with AT&T. Plus, most phone models connect with AT&T no problem.
If you have a new phone and don’t want to pay top dollar, T-Mobile is for you. With their recent expansion of 4G across the country, their network is better than it’s ever been.
Sprint is not your best option if getting reliable coverage in more places is important to you. However, in the areas where there is service, it’s generally reliable. Sprint also has many affordable plans with MVNOs like Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile. Overall, you will save money with Sprint but will be sacrificing stable service.