Observations about cellular carriers in the US, broken down by performance based on location, and reported by state. This information is gathered either from personal experience or from reports by contributors in the field.
Verizon Wireless is available in most parts of the state with excellent 4G-LTE coverage. Viaero Wireless is the rural coverage leader in Nebraska and northwestern Kansas. For a large part of both states, US Cellular is a top choice with only the panhandle of the state uncovered. AT&T has no service of their own in Nebraska other than around Omaha and in the Nebraska panhandle. T-Mobile and Sprint provide almost no service in Nebraska outside of Omaha. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices across most of the state.
There is a big difference between urban and rural Nevada cellular service. Verizon Wireless now has the overall lead in the state for coverage. If you live in rural Nevada, you would do well with Choice Wireless in the western half of the state, and AT&T in the eastern half. AT&T also provides excellent urban coverage. Sprint is next in line for coverage across the state due to good in-town and highway coverage, and being able to roam in some rural areas. T-Mobile does well in Las Vegas and is usable along I-15 and I-80, but there is almost no other coverage in the state. TracFone and Straight Talk are available over most of the state.
Our top choice in New Hampshire is US Cellular with a slight coverage advantage and consumer-friendly policies. Since US Cellular isn't available in the entire state, Verizon Wireless gets the top honors elsewhere. AT&T is generally a step below except in the mountain areas. Sprint has adequate coverage on their own network in most towns and along major highway corridors but not in rural areas. TracFone and Straight Talk are also good choices over most of New England. We have no reports on T-Mobile in the northeast although we expect some improvements with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage in populated areas.
Verizon Wireless gets credit for the best cell phone coverage over most of New Jersey, but as you travel eastward the others are just as good. AT&T has made improvements that have fixed most of their problems putting them in first or second place depending on location. As you move closer to the coast, Sprint and T-Mobile are strong choices. TracFone and Straight Talk work well in the the entire area.
Verizon Wireless dominates the state with coverage in virtually every county although not necessarily with the best coverage. They have a surprising number of coverage "holes", even along I-25. Following closely is Sprint who has some strategically-located cell sites in urban areas. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage offers excellent service across most of New Mexico with the exception of a few remote rural areas in the western third of the state. The southeast part of the state is well-served by NMobile with good prices and excellent coverage. AT&T has had poor coverage in New Mexico but has improved in rural areas with their acquisition of the Alltel and Plateau networks, however, they still have surprising gaps in some urban areas. Choice Wireless serves several rural areas and small towns in the state with good coverage and competitive plans. If you spend time in the Navajo Nation, Choice has the best broadband coverage but Cellular One of Northeast Arizona has the best overall coverage favoring Talk and Text. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices across most areas of the state.
Verizon Wireless has covered the western part of New York a bit better than the others, but as you travel east, the other carriers do their best to serve as much of New York and surrounding areas as possible. AT&T has made improvements that has put them in first or second place depending on location. Sprint and T-Mobile are strong competitors, but they don't do as well toward the northern part of the state. TracFone and StraightTalk work well in the the entire area.
In most locations, there's little difference between AT&T and Verizon Wireless for the best cell phone coverage North Carolina. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, offers excellent service across most of the region with the exception of the western part of the state. Sprint also does well along highways and the cities but has large rural areas without coverage. Look for US Cellular as the top choice in eastern North Carolina and around Ashville. In the western part of the state, Carolina West Wireless tries hard to serve their home market better than the others. TracFone and StraightTalk work well in the the entire area. Coverage in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is quite variable. Public records indicate good service near the entrances to the park but signals within the park are unrelaible.
AT&T now has a slight edge in the area with Verizon Wireless a close second. There are often significant local differences between the two. T-Mobile has introduced their "Extended" coverage into large parts of the eastern parts of the state which works very well. Sprint appears in Fargo and Grand Forks and no where else. Standing Rock Wireless has been built to serve the Standing Rock Reservation along the North and South Dakota border and even the major carriers admit Standing Rock serves the area better than anyone. TracFone and Straight Talk do well in most areas.
Verizon Wireless has several coverage and frequency advantages for our choice with the best cell phone coverage through most of Ohio. AT&T is the leader in south and southeast Ohio, but they suffer in several urban areas including Cleveland and Akron, and off-highway areas of the north. Sprint performs slightly better than AT&T in many urban areas of the state, but they suffer in rural areas. T-Mobile, has added to their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage and offers excellent service across many, but not all, parts of the state. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices across Ohio.
The area from I-35 eastward is served best by US Cellular with good coverage and a customer-friendly experience. AT&T serves most of the state very well. Verizon Wireless has some big holes in the southeast and northwest parts of the state, and Oklahoma City is not their best urban market. T-Mobile offers good service in most populated areas of the state and has some of their 4G LTE "Extended" coverage in the extreme southeast part of the state. Sprint covers most populated areas, but the western third of the state is served well by Pioneer Cellular, a Sprint affiliate. The panhandle is best covered by Verizon Wireless and PTCI. Oklahoma is one state that has several rural areas served with cellular from the local co-op telephone company. One of the most well-established of them is Bravado Wireless who has added more phones to their selection and simplified their plans after the recent name change. Most of Oklahoma is also covered by TracFone and StraightTalk.
Seattle is the former home of AT&T Wireless and that may have contributed to their superior coverage in Oregon. Verizon has expanded to a strong second choice in the state, especially in rural areas. T-Mobile was also based in the area (as Voicestream) and covers the cities and major highways well, but has little rural service. Sprint offers acceptable coverage in the populated parts of the state but has poor coverage along some highways and little in rural areas. US Cellular does a great job in rural areas and, if they're available near you, are a preferred choice. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices over the entire region.
Verizon Wireless has been the coverage leader in Pennsylvania with AT&T making significant improvements, especially around Philadelphia that have fixed most of their capacity and coverage problems. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, offers excellent service across both urban and many rural areas. Sprint works well along the eastern edge of the state, adequate along highways and urban areas with many uncovered rural areas elsewhere. Check out Blue Wireless if you live in north central Pennsylvania and the other carriers don't perform well where you live and travel. Another carrier across several counties of northern Pennsylvania is Indigo Wireless with excellent coverage and econmical plans if you don't mind a 3G-only network. TracFone and Straight Talk work well in the the entire area.
Claro leads with more coverage over the island than others. AT&T provides nearly as good coverage but at higher prices. Sprint and T-Mobile have adequate coverage in the area but T-Mobile gets extra credit for tailoring their product to more reflect a Puerto Rico lifestyle. Open Mobile offers an even more "local" product but we have no coverage reports. Open Mobile and Sprint have agreed to a joint operating agreement in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands which should help both carriers when the deal is finalized. Keep in mind, wireless in Puerto Rico is governed by the FCC which means mainland US phones should be compatible in Puerto Rico if your plan allows, and vice versa.
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