SILVER STAR WIRELESS
This is a small system associated with the local wireline company south of the Jackson Hole, WY area. This is a mountainous and sparsely-populated area and their coverage can be spotty, but they may have the best coverage in some areas where other providers have dead spots. They offer a wide range of plans that include Local, Unlimited, Data, Prepaid and National minutes. Adding Data makes their plans rather expensive. They have a reasonable selection of CDMA phones including Smart phones. They claim 3G and 4G coverage but it is not known how much of that is on their own network.. They offer Fixed wireless service including home phone and Internet access. Most of their plans, including Unlimited, are Nationwide. They have some attractive promotions. While roaming is included with the National plans, you can use some of the neighboring carriers as local. Customer service seems to be above average.
SNAKE RIVER PCS
Snake River PCS is part of the Eagle Telephone Company of Richland, OR. Their own wireless network extends into nearby towns and along surrounding highways. Other areas are served by roaming partners which are available with "Travel Minutes". They have a small selection of phones and also offer some Smart phones. Their plans are priced the same as their wireline services and start with an economical "mini-plan" with a number of a la carte add-ons including additional National Travel Minutes. All plans include basic digital features. LifeLine plans are available. We have no reports on coverage or network technology. Eagle Telephone is small enough to have live people answer the phone and are quite helpful. [an error occurred while processing this directive]
As one of the Top 4 networks in the US, we know much about Sprint. They are generally considered tied for third place in the US in coverage and numbers of subscribers. In some areas Sprint has the best coverage, and in others they can be non-existent. Sprint has a national, feature-rich digital network. Their coverage is a little "fragile" in some areas, but where it's good, it's very good. Sprint has a good selection of phones. Most of their plans limit you to their own network, especially for data. In addition to acquiring a few networks, they have expanded their coverage and Data capabilities by creating operating agreements with several, smaller, regional networks. In some markets they use a separate network for 4G coverage. Therefore, having good local Sprint Voice/Text or 3G data coverage is no guarantee of adequate 4G coverage. They offer a large selection of wireless phones and devices and they rarely allow devices from other sources on their network. Sprint has added competitive International Value Roaming plans that provide up to 2G data speeds for free in parts of Asia, Europe and Latin America. Sprint also has a Wi-Fi Calling app that allows calling through a Wi-Fi connection from almost anywhere in the world and those calls can be completed in the US and US territories with no charge. Sprint offers prepaid under the Sprint Prepaid, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile brands. However, there may be clouds on Sprint's horizon. They have started an "upgrade" of their network that is based on moving their cell sites from their current towers and site locations to "cheaper" government land. This may change coverage for a large number of users and we believe there is little hope for anything other than coverage degradation. We downgraded Sprint's "MW Rating" as they move into this unknown cost-saving program. They're also planning to move to a microwave backhaul instead of phone company fiber which is not unusual and may save them some money.
Sprint Pros & Cons
SRT Wireless in Minot, ND and north central Montana has decided to discontinue cellular service as of July 15, 2017. They offer discounts to switch your phone to Verizon Wireless.
STANDING ROCK TELECOM
Standing Rock Telecom, also called Rock Wireless, provides CDMA cellular and fixed wireless voice, fax, data transmission and high-speed Internet services throughout the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on the border of North and South Dakota. Standing Rock is tribally-owned and offers the best, and sometimes only, wireless services in the area. They have competitively-priced plans that include US roaming, Unlimited minutes and a generous amount of roaming data. They offer discount bundles with their other telecommunications services. They offer a small number of phones including a few smartphones. Customer service is good but they're really small. Standing Rock claims the other carriers in the area admit to having poor coverage on the reservation and will help you switch to Standing Rock without an Early Termination Fee. They offer Lifeline plans which are available to anyone who actually lives on the reservation and meets income requirements.
The wireless division of Strata Networks covers northeastern Utah around Vernal and surrounding areas of Wyoming and Colorado. They offer included Local coverage in surrounding "Extended" areas. Their own CDMA cellular network has good coverage including 4G LTE Data. They have reduced the number of plans to just "Unlimited" plus the amount of Data you need. Their Prepaid plan is charged by the Day and works with a limited number of phones. They offer a large selection of phones including Smart phones, the iPhone and air cards. They are part of the local communications cooperative which usually means better customer service and bundle discounts.
Strata Network's Own Wireless Coverage Map
Strata Network's Extended Local Wireless Coverage Map.
TelAlaska serves several small Alaska communities with wireless and other communications products, with locations spread widely across the state from Nome, Fort Yukon and Seward, to the Aleutian Islands. Their GSM wireless network serves those communities with plans that are very affordable and include Local, Unlimited, Nationwide, Prepaid and LifeLine plans. They have a small selection of GSM phones including some very basic Smart phones. We do not know the quality of broadband technology offered. TelAlaska is the only wireless provider in many of their communities.
Thumb has very good coverage in the "thumb" area of eastern Michigan with plans that range from reasonable to overpriced. They offer mostly Unlimited Voice, Text and Data plans with fairly reasonable limitations on usage. There are few opportunities to get a really low-priced plan, including with prepaid. 4G LTE broadband is available. They have a moderate selection of CDMA phones, including Smart phones and a good number of local stores.
Triangle serves the northeast quarter of Montana. They have very good coverage and a good selection of phones. Their CDMA network is reported to be all 4G-LTE and they offer a good selection of phones including smartphones. Triangle is a telephone co-op which usually yields better than average customer service. While they offer bundle discounts with their various communications services, they may not offer a bundle discount with wireless.
Union serves Wyoming and adjacent areas of Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Montana. They have very good coverage, most of it has been upgraded to 4G LTE but several areas of 3G remain. In some locations they are the only game in town including parts of Yellowstone National Park. They use GSM technology and also offer 'fixed' wireless service for home or business use, but that service is limited to Colorado areas. They offer reasonable plans and their Unlimited Talk/Text/Data plan is priced above average but allows Unlimited downloads in areas both within and surrounding their home area. Most plans include Canada roaming. They offer business enterprise plans that include multiple communications services. Union Wireless is part of the local telephone co-op so their customer service is better than average, however, there are no bundle discounts available with wireless. They have more roaming agreements covering a bigger US footprint than some larger wireless carriers, with international roaming and calling to many foreign countries. They offer a very large selection of phone models including Smart phones and the iPhone. They operate the local wireline network within parts of their wireless footprint and offer special low-cost home-based wireless plans within those areas.
This CDMA carrier is the wireless part of the United Telephone Company in southwest Kansas. United offers a moderate number of phone models including smartphones, the iPhone and wireless Internet routers. Their plans are priced slightly less than average including plans with Data. Their Prepaid plans are also competitive. United coverage is very good and they offer mostly 4G - LTE broadband. They support Lifeline plans and wireless Internet for home access. While they offer nationwide roaming without extra charges, roaming outside of Kansas is mostly limited to major cities and highways, especially in states west of Kansas. As part of the local telephone co-op we expect customer service to be better than average.
US Cellular is the 5th largest wireless carrier in the US and operates their own CDMA network in 21 states, mostly in rural areas and smaller cities. They provide very good coverage, most of their network uses the superior 700 and 800 MHz frequency bands with 4G LTE available in 99% of their coverage areas including locations that have been ignored by larger carriers. They offer good plans with lots of features, and a large selection of CDMA phones including numerous Smart phones. They have very good domestic roaming capabilities but there is a limit of 400MB roaming Data off their network. Their plans are competitively priced and, while they still add taxes and fees, they don't add annoying surprise charges like activation or access fees. They offer numerous promotions both on phones and plans. Their prepaid plans have improved and now include Unlimited Calls, Text and Data, with Data limits outside their own coverage. Over the years they have been the most customer-friendly of the large carriers. Overall, they sit near the top of the Mountain Wireless Network Ratings. US Cellular has sold some of their spectrum and customers in the Midwest but has added more spectrum within and adjacent to their remaining operating areas. This has resulted in better service in US Cellular's own markets.
US Cellular Pros & Cons
As one of the Top 4 US carriers, Verizon has the largest wireless network, geographically, in the US. They are dominant in rural America. Their claim to fame is superior coverage on their CDMA network, especially in the west, and with excellent broadband capacity in the largest cities. In the few places where they don't have their own coverage, they have roaming agreements with carriers that have superior coverage. Therefore, their included coverage is about as close to "coast-to-coast" as you can get. Verizon's data costs are quite high but provide a very good online experience with extensive 4G LTE coverage in most areas. They have tried to simplify plans which are still overpriced compared to other options, and they are slow to match offers from the competition. Customer service is excellent but does not offer much flexibility in rates. Their phone selection is huge including Smart phones, wireless devices and wireless home phones. Verizon offers bundled discounts with other communications operators including their own wireline & video divisions as well as various local telephone companies. They offer their own Prepaid plans.
Verizon Wireless Pros & Cons
Viaero is a GSM carrier in rural Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and border areas of eastern Wyoming. Coverage in most areas is excellent with only a few holes in some very remote areas. Viaero covers many areas where other carriers serve only minimally. This company is run by people with a technical background so coverage and operations are top-notch, often better than the local land lines. They are rapidly widening their coverage footprint, sometimes into surprising locations like the San Luis Valley of Colorado and eastern Wyoming. If you live in their service area you can even request to have them build a cell site near you if you can come up with enough neighbors' signatures, but it shouldn't be necessary. They offer very reasonable on-network "Unlimited" plans, including several for fixed location (home or business) use for both voice and Internet access. They're a good substitute for a wireline in most areas. They have a large number of reasonable plans with National coverage. While their Data plans can be pricey, they are truly "Unlimited". They offer to pay the Early Termination Fee if you leave another carrier. Their phones will roam in Mexico and Canada and they offer discount International Long Distance add-ons. Viaero does not lock their GSM phones, making it possible to use your Viaero phone with a local SIM in foreign countries. They have discounts for people on various support programs. Viaero's network is almost all 4G with the goal of 100% as soon as technically possible.
Pros: They offer flexible, reasonably-priced plans with convenient price points, including Local, National and Unlimited plans. Very good to excellent coverage, good customer service, local stores, good nationwide roaming, good data service, 4G broadband available. They are an excellent substitute for wireline service. Theirs is the most responsive network in the country to network technical issues.
Cons: The network can be weak in extreme rural areas, but still beats the competition in most places, and you can ask them to add a tower! Most Unlimited and some promotional features are limited to their own network. Their customer service is usually good, when they're available, but there have been isolated problems especially with how products are marketed, but not with the performance of the network.
Viya is the new name for the combined networks of the former Choice Wireless and Innovative Mobile in the US Virgin Islands. An updated review is coming but the combination of the 2 networks now provides excellent coverage over the entire area. They have a large number of plans including Unlimited Data. Prices are above average and they have a large number of plan selections, including Text, which is extra, but plans can be tailored to just the type of usage you need. They offer a moderate number of phone models. Viya can bundle your wireless with their other communications services for additional savings.
VTel Wireless is operated by the Vermont Telephone Company. VTEL was created from funds provided by Sprint to help expand their broadband coverage into Vermont plus government funds to support broadband wireless service in small towns and rural areas of Vermont. As such, VTel's primary focus is on broadband in a fixed location, but service includes the ability to use your GSM Smart phone or tablet, including as a 'hot spot'. Coverage is very good and uses a mixture of frequency bands and the company intends to cover all inhabited areas of the state. VTel plans to offer voice services via VoLTE (Voice over LTE) as well as nationwide roaming sometime in the future. Since Sprint contributed to the construction of Vtel we will assume Sprint customers have access to broadband on the Vtel network.
WEST CENTRAL WIRELESS
Based in San Angelo and the Hill Country of Texas, West Central Wireless has good coverage and offers a large selection of plans, with reasonably-priced plans. Their data prices are reasonable. They have a good selection of phones including several advanced smartphones, the iPhone and air cards. They have a Senior plan for people 55 and over stating at $17/month. West Central also offers an economical prepaid wireless service under the name of Right Wireless which covers the 26-county West Central area with plans starting at around $25, or less than $1 a day and are also available at any of the West Central stores. West Central's has added 4G-LTE coverage to a certain amount of their own network with 3G still available in other areas. Data overages have been eliminated with 2G throttling occurring above your Data limit. West Central also offers Wireless home internet access.