Which cell carrier will save your day?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

For our readers, staying in touch is a major priority. We surveyed readers back in August, asking, “Which cell phone service do you use?” Before we get to the breakdown, here’s one interesting factoid: NOBODY checked the option “None.” Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by that, but somehow, you’d think that among those 3,600-plus respondents, there’d be at least one so-called Luddite (person opposed to new technology).

In case you missed the results, a whopping 53 percent were Verizon users; 22 percent were AT&T customers; 15 percent said they used “other” carriers; 6 percent were with T-Mobile; Sprint pulled up the rear with 4 percent reporting use.

The comments readers left us indicated that some folks did indeed have cellular service from more than one carrier. We asked respondents who used more than one carrier to tell us the carrier they used most. Typical was this comment left by Ron: “I have not found one service that covered all areas. Verizon was best that I’ve tried so far, but did leave us without service for a week in [West Texas]. We will be retired (I am already) completely end of this year, so now have AT&T + Verizon + Verizon hotspot to cover everything. Would be nice to have cheap service, but need to be connected more than saving money.”


“Good coverage” was the watchword for many who commented. The more your travels take you through diverse areas of the country, the more you may find areas where your carrier of choice leaves you “high and dry” when it comes to a usable signal. Are you trip planning and concerned about your carrier? Are you shopping for a new carrier and wonder just which one will do the job? We found a great website that puts together coverage maps for four major carriers: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. It’s on WhistleOut.com, and it’s easy to use.

Point your browser to the coverage map page and you’ll initially see a map showing the Lower 48 states. Below the map is a pull-down menu that lets you choose your carrier. Then you can toggle off or on your choice of 3G or 4G coverage, or both. Move around on the map and zoom in the area you want coverage information on. If the map detail is purple, there’s coverage as you’ve chosen. White showing? No coverage.

It’s wise to really zoom down close to ensure there’s coverage where you’ll need it. Even the difference of a city block or two (or countryside equivalent) can at times make a big difference. We’re including a coverage map for Quartzsite, Arizona, for Sprint coverage. The purple area shows coverage – if you’re out in the BLM Long Term areas south of town, you’re in the purple “covered” area. But get into one of the big RV parks in town? Suddenly, you’re “out of business.”

We know – we mistakenly took out a contract with the company with promises of great coverage in town. At the time, there were no coverage maps and we spent many, many hours on the phone with Sprint’s customer service people, who finally got so tired of us they let us out of our two-year contract at the end of the first month.

Beware, though, the map doesn’t differentiate between a “blow off your headphones” strong signal and the kind where you have to turn around in a circle and stand still. Still, it’s a great major jumping off point in seeing which carrier will fill your needs.

##RVT863

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badwolfe
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badwolfe

I added a cell booster from Wilson Electronics. It picks up a tower some 50 miles away(?) I have had multiple times we have needed cell service while remote like this and only the use of the booster helped.
Of course I call it a mini-cell tower though…. Just sounds better to me….

Phil Smith
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Phil Smith

There are other apps you can use to check on service in specific areas. This one is based on actual data from users’ phones, and is as “real” as it gets: Opensignal

Check it out – I use it all the time

Paul Lindstrom
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Paul Lindstrom

I too find west Texas in areas with no service. Just remember where you are, middle of no where, very few residences, few towns and much, much less road traffic.

This is using Verizon. Several years ago I was once in a small town in Colorado and was on the internet using my phone for a hot spot and my SIL had T-Mobile and he commented to our daughter, I can not get service and your dad is over there on the internet.

Tommy Molnar
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Tommy Molnar

I don’t put too much stock in coverage maps either. I think they’re more of an ‘average service’ guess. On the Quartzsite discussion, we’ve found that service down there blows the service we have at home (Carson City, NV) out of the water! I WISH we had Quartzsite service here. We spent quite a bit of time out on Plomosa Rd earlier this year and the service was superb. But, this was NOT during the ‘Big Tent’ affair. It was several weeks later. I hear that service suffers when there are 30,000 of our best friends camped down that way… Read more »

Roy
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Roy

As a back-up, we got a second service for our travels through Alaska, Canada and the upper US 48 this summer.

Whatever you do …forget MetroPCS … a piece of garbage system that mainly gives you service if you in the middle of a metropolitan area. You’ll spend hours online with customer service to get absolutely nowhere, and they will lie without a conscience.

Just say ‘NO’ to MetroPCS … !! We don’t have ‘contract’ service, but over 3 years of monthly service our Cricket phone has worked the best.

STEPHEN P MALOCHLEB
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STEPHEN P MALOCHLEB

Cricket is a sub of AT&T which I am finding has poor service lately in my area.