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General Colorado Observations:
Verizon Wireless dominates the state with native service in the largest number of counties. AT&T is almost as good as Verizon in urban areas and has improved rural coverage with their acquisition of the Alltel network. AT&T is weakest in the northwest quadrant of the state. For rural residents, Viaero is an excellent choice east of I-25, and Union Wireless for the northwest part of the state. Sprint gives you good coverage and features in urban areas and along most major highways, but not in rural areas. T-Mobile has very good urban coverage but has not yet added their "Extended" service in rural areas. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices over most of the state. Rocky Mountain National Park has some usable coverage along the main road through the park due to its high altitude. Move away from those high spots and there is no service other than near park entrances. A huge percentage of Colorado is covered by National Forest lands which generally do not permit cellular sites.
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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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 Smart phones 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 LifeLine service. There is no relationship between this Choice Wireless and the Choice Wireless in northern Texas.
NNTC Wireless is part of the Nucla-Naturita Telephone Company in western Colorado. Home coverage is available on several other independent rural systems in CO, UT, OR, ID and WY. They have Local, Unlimited, National and Business plans. Their wireless plans are overpriced but they provide service in some areas where there is no coverage from other carriers. Some features like Voice Mail and Data are charged extra. Their Unlimited Voice plan works in the entire Home area but does not include Long Distance or roaming charges. There are also a number of customer un-friendly fees such as charges for downgrading your plan. They have a small selection of phones, none of which are 4G-capable, and customer service is below average. They offer 3G coverage in most of their service area and there are plans to upgrade to 4G, someday. Nationwide roaming is available which is included in the Nationwide plans or as an extra add-on. You can choose whether or not to have a contract. NNTC offers Fixed Wireless and Lifeline plans but does not offer wireless bundle pricing with their other communications services.
Click Here for NNTC's Extended Local Coverage Map.
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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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.
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.
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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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.