California & Nevada Cellular Network Reports
General California Observations: It's too large and varied a state to declare a top cellular carrier but there are some indicators of what to expect. We believe T-Mobile has one of the best networks in the state, and with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, now offers excellent service in rural parts of the state as well. Verizon has maintained good coverage that rises above the others when traveling outside of urban areas. Sprint invested heavily to become the leader in coastal California and comes close to that goal. AT&T has been slow but more recently aggressive in adding coverage and features. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices across most of the state. Get a more detailed report on California carriers on our Local Reports Page
General Nevada Observations: 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. Get a more detailed report on Nevada carriers on our Local Reports Page
As one of the Top 4 networks in the US, most of us know much about AT&T. They are generally considered second nationally in coverage and numbers of subscribers. In some areas AT&T has the best coverage, and in others they can be in third place. With GSM technology, AT&T roams more readily internationally, but there are areas in the US with no GSM coverage. AT&T's takeover of other cellular networks has improved their service in some areas already, including Alaska. AT&T offers a large selection of GSM phones. AT&T gets credit for competing with products and price. Most network improvements are being made in their new markets and are increasing data capacity instead of adding cell sites in older areas. They have added 4G and LTE coverage in almost all markets. AT&T in some markets is among those with the top data download speeds, but not all. AT&T has acquired wireless networks in Mexico and offer seamless, nationwide wireless service on both sides of the US/Mexico border with big benefits for traveling AT&T customers and users with family in both countries. AT&T offers Prepaid and also operates Cricket Wireless.
AT&T Pros & Cons
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AT&T Prepaid Review
Choice serves rural and small-town customers in 9 western US states. They offer mostly National "Unlimited" plans at a fixed price, starting at $20 a month, $30 with some data included. They use CDMA phones, they have excellent coverage, and their plans have a simplified structure that includes a certain amount of US roaming minutes. They have a moderate number of phone models including smartphones and they allow you to bring your own phone from another CDMA carrier. All plans are prepaid so there are no contracts, and they offer monthly, pay-as-you-go and pay-per-day plans, and an Unlimited Data plan. Most areas support 3G broadband and 4G-LTE in the Navajo Nation. They offer wireless Internet devices which could give you the fastest broadband service available in a rural area. Choice supports Free or low-cost LifeLineservice. Choice Wireless operates their own network so when you are in your "home" area, you are not using another company's network. There is no relationship between this Choice Wireless and the Choice Wireless in northern Texas.
Cleartalk, a CDMA carrier in small communities in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, has been acquired by Boost Mobile as of February 28th, 2018, which means if you have a Cleartalk phone, it will act like a Sprint phone and will use the nationwide Sprint network. It is not clear whether Cleartalk will turn off their own cell sites. Cleartalk stores become Boost Mobile stores.
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
Sprint Prepaid Review
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
US Cellular Prepaid Review
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
Verizon Prepaid Review