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Central US Cellular
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.
Pros: AT&T has a large network and covers much of the nation, usage is transparent whether on- or off-network, good digital and data services, good national plans, and they have a very good selection of phones. Improvements in coverage have been substantial in some areas, lacking in others. Excellent international roaming capabilities. Additions of multiple network purchases give AT&T substantial rural coverage improvements. AT&T now offers bundles with several different entertainment services.
Cons: AT&T has whittled down many of their downsides including improving Data capacities. What few Con's they have remaining are somewhat minor. They include most AT&T plans aren't as generous as some, customers can only access GSM networks which are not as universally available in the US as CDMA, customer service varies from above to below average, some markets have a large number of dropped calls caused by large data users or poor coverage design. Some customers who have been transferred from other networks have noticed substantial changes in coverage, mostly while roaming. There are few rural areas where AT&T still needs to upgrade their legacy cell sites which can get congested.
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Primarily offering service to people and businesses who operate in the Gulf of Mexico, Broadpoint operates a cellular network with coverage over 100,000 miles of the Gulf with voice, text and data services. They offer GSM service with nearly continuous on-water coverage along the coast and good roaming capabilities when you travel throughout the mainland US. Broadpoint is owned by Cellular One (MTPCS) which also operates cellular networks in Texas and Louisiana. Plans are expensive and they offer a moderate number of phone models for Voice, Text and Data. They offer a large number of professional data and communication services including satellite communications geared to petroleum installations. At last report broadband was offered at EDGE speeds which are normally less than 200 kb/s. 911 calls are directed to the US Coast Guard. We recommend using a T-Mobile phone if you want to use any mainland or broadband services, then Roam onto the Broadpoint Gulf network. Broadpoint operates what was formerly the Petrocom network.
Cellcom provides very good coverage in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Their plans are unnecessarily complicated, some of them are overpriced or limited in features, or at least we think so...it's complicated. They offer a good selection of CDMA phones including smartphones, the iPhone and home phone devices. They have upgraded much of their network to 4G. Their Prepaid charges are fairly high but can include Nationwide unlimited calls and reasonable Data add-ons. Their Lifeline plans are the most expensive we've seen the country which is sad for a plan that should be Free. Their Tribal Lifeline plans includes many more minutes and features at a slightly lower price.
CHARITON VALLEY WIRELESS
Chariton serves the north central part of Missouri. They offer Local, Regional, National, Unlimited and Lifeline plans. Most plans are reasonable, especially since most features are Unlimited. Their Prepaid plans are expensive, unless you use data, and their Lifeline plans are overpriced. They have 4G LTE coverage available on their own network as well as roaming where 4G is available, mostly on Verizon Wireless. Since they are part of the local telephone cooperative we expect customer service to be better than average if you can find the right person. They have a good selection of CDMA wireless devices including smartphones, iPhones, air cards and wireless home phones. Bundle discounts depend on where you are located.
Offering service in southwest Iowa, Chat Mobility offers generous plans with everything included, however, adding Data to their plans makes them somewhat overpriced. They have a moderate selection of CDMA phones including smartphones, iPhones and air cards. Coverage is adequate and they claim all 4G-LTE coverage. Off-network roaming is seamless and is included in their regular plans. They offer "Lifeline" service (based on support programs) but they are expensive, their Prepaid plans are reasonable.
C SPIRE WIRELESS
C Spire has very good coverage on their own network in Mississippi, greater Memphis, parts of Alabama and the Florida panhandle. They have several plans, all of which include Unlimited Talk & Text and nationwide roaming. Some plans are very reasonable for the amount of data they include and some of their features are very creative. Users report very good coverage and like the choice of plans. They offer a good selection of CDMA phones including the iPhone, and have good customer service. Most of their network is 4G - LTE. They also offer a unique batch of consumer-oriented benefits that help integrate wireless devices, plans and features for both customers and non-customers. Even though C Spire has only about 1 million subscribers, it is among the Top 10 US wireless companies, which gives them more clout in the industry.
ILLINOIS VALLEY CELLULAR
Illinois Valley serves a small rural area south and west of Chicago with very good coverage. They offer Local and National plans with a basic plan that includes Unlimited Talk, Text and Data with no overages or throttling plus a certain amount of Data is available while roaming. They have a moderate selection of CDMA phones including smartphones, the iPhone, and wireless Internet for the home. About half of their network has been upgraded to 4G-LTE and the rest is 3G, with no timetable for completion of the upgrade
iWireless, Iowa's affiliate of T-Mobile, has agreed to be acquired by T-Mobile. Customers should notice almost no difference in service. Their GSM coverage is very good in most of their service area. iWireless plans have been similar to T-Mobile's and their prepaid plans will improve under T-Mobile. They have a very good selection of phones and those parts of their network that are not already 4G - LTE will be upgraded, soon. Dealing with T-Mobile may be a bit more impersonal, but it's better than average, anyway. Get more details at T-Mobile.
NORTHWEST MISSOURI CELLULAR
Northwest Missouri Cellular has very good CDMA coverage in their 5-county home area and offers Local, National and Unlimited plans. They probably offer too many plans including Youth, Senior, Prepaid and Lifeline plans, some with too few minutes for too much money. Their plans with Data are reasonable but do not include Unlimited data. They have a fairly large number of phone models including smartphones, the iPhone, hotspots and wireless home phone units. They claim their network is all 4G LTE but advise you not to be surprised if you experience areas of 3G coverage.
Pace is the wireless division of the Kaplan Telephone Company of south Louisiana serving their 9 parish Home area. They offer plans with National coverage based on the number of lines. They offer various levels of data including 3G-only plans. Offshore coverage is not included. They offer a small selection of GSM Smart Phones and air cards. We have no reports of coverage. Their customer service is average although it seems their wireless services are less important to the overall company. They do not offer bundle discounts with wireless and their other communications services.
PINE BELT WIRELESS
Pine Belt is a CDMA carrier and a part of the Pine Belt Telephone Company. They have good coverage in the west central counties of Alabama. They now offer just 3 reasonably-priced plans starting as low as $20 (limited to persons over 50). They have a small selection of phones, very few Smart phones, and most of them are overpriced. They encourage you with discounts to bring your own phone, and, in some cases, they can activate phones with any technology. An unknown amount of their network has been upgraded to 3G, with no reports of 4G.
SouthernLINC uses iDEN phones which is a technology that has been abandoned by all other carriers. They have reasonable plans and good coverage across Alabama, Georgia, parts of Mississippi and the Florida panhandle. They have an efficient walkie-talkie feature. They have Unlimited plans that can be tailored to your usage based on different levels of Talk, Text and Push-To-Talk. They have a limited selection of phones and no Smart phones. They offer services and plans favorable mostly to businesses. Even though their coverage is good, they can provide "high-power" phones for really difficult situations. "Nationwide" roaming is available only as a Prepaid option requiring a special 'dual-SIM' phone and plan. Without the dual SIM phone, you should consider SouthernLINC for their "regional" coverage and local walkie-talkie services only.
As one of the Top 4 networks in the US, we know much about Sprint. In some areas Sprint has the best coverage, and in others they are 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. 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. Sprint has added some micro-cells to their network to beef up their signal in already-served areas but have added very few cell sites to expand into more rural areas.
Pros: Sprint gives you good value for your money, but is not necessarily the cheapest. Sprint covers every urban area in the US including coverage in a good number of small communities. They have local stores, their digital and data features work very well, and they have a good selection of phones. We get the fewest complaints about data capacity issues on the Sprint network. "Unlimited" data usage is available. International Roaming capabilities have been improved. While most Sprint plans do not allow roaming off the Sprint network, most plans do include a few roaming minutes to keep from being totally out of touch.
Cons: You might find a weak area right where you want coverage, some of their plans are not very competitive, customer service is a notch below average, Unlimited plans do not include unlimited usage while roaming except for some specific plans. There are large rural areas, even entire states, with no Sprint coverage.
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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.
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.
Pros: Their price plans are a good value, they have very good roaming capabilities, including Data roaming. US Cellular has upgraded to 4G LTE on most of their network, including areas ignored by other carriers. They have good customer service and resolve customer problems better than most. They maintain some 'customer-friendly' features. Their Data plans don't produce overages, they just drop to 2G speeds when you have exceeded your maximum.
Cons: While they still have a customer-friendly attitude they don't offer as many benefits as in previous years. Since US Cellular isn't national, much of their service is supplied by roaming partners, most of which have excellent coverage. There is a limit to how much roaming data is available. Roaming outside of the US is substantially limited and, where available, is relatively expensive.
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.
Pros: Verizon has superior coverage especially in very rural and very urban areas, excellent customer service and some 'customer-friendly' policies. With such a large coverage area of their own, little roaming is necessary, and their roaming partners normally have superior coverage. They offer a large variety of phones and devices. They have excellent data service including the largest coverage of faster high-speed connections.
Cons: Some Verizon plans are a more expensive, with odd combinations of charges for data-capable phones. Some of their data services are not available while roaming. CDMA phones roam in a limited number of foreign countries but Verizon now has phones that will roam in foreign countries. Verizon has been slow to match the competition.
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