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& Tennessee Cellular Carrier Reviews
General Kentucky & Tennessee Observations: AT&T has the best coverage in Kentucky and is tied for first in Tennessee. Verizon Wireless serves Tennessee well but only about half of Kentucky. US Cellular, one of our highest-rated carriers, serves most of eastern Tennessee, and if that includes your neighborhood, give them serious consideration. T-Mobile, with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, offers excellent service across most of Kentucky with less coverage in rural Tennessee. Sprint has adequate coverage in populated areas and along major highways. The eastern part of Kentucky is particularly challenging with no winners or recommendations available. We do know that TracFone and StraightTalk work in some of those areas, as well as the rest of both states, with the ability to choose whichever carrier is available. There are a few small carriers that get good marks for serving their home area quite well. 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 unreliable.
Appalachian has good coverage along the Kentucky - Virginia border with a good selection of CDMA phones, including several Smart phones and data cards. They have a wide variety of a la carte plans that are priced above average. They charge extra for most Calling Features. Their Prepaid plans are expensive for so few features and they have misleading names: the "3G" plan is actually a "3GB" plan. It caught our eye when they claimed a "5G" plan. Since you can only order service on the phone or at the store we're sure there will be no confusion. They have upgraded much of their network to 4G LTE.
As one of the Top 4 networks in the US, most of us know much about AT&T. They are generally considered second overall 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 most urban markets and will upgrade most of the network in the near future. AT&T in some markets is among those with the top data download speeds, but not all. AT&T now offers plans that gives customers a better value when you bring your own wireless device and no-contract pricing. AT&T has acquired wireless networks in Mexico and will soon be able to 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 under the GoPhone and Cricket Wireless brands.
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. No-contract plans gives you a better value over the long term.
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.
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Bluegrass Cellular is located in central Kentucky and is operated by a combination of 5 rural Kentucky telephone co-ops. They have a large selection of CDMA phones and devices including Smart phones. They have very good coverage across their own network, which is all 4G LTE, and they offer a number of generous plans. Their Data plans are generous including plans for Home Internet and tablets. As part of the local telephone cooperatives, they have better than average customer service. They often offer several customer appreciation benefits.
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.
Located east of Nashville, DTC has good coverage and is operated by locals as part of the local telephone cooperative. They have National, Senior, Prepaid, Data and Unlimited plans most of which are priced well above average. They have a modest selection of GSM phones with a few Smart phones and older iPhones. Their Prepaid plans are limited and overpriced, except for their "Unlimited" plan which includes Calls, Texts and Data within their Local calling area.. They support Fixed Wireless service for your home phone. We think most, if not all, of their network offers 4G LTE coverage. Their Data plans are pricey and overages incur per-usage charges instead of download slowdowns.
Serving several areas of rural Tennessee as well as some of extreme western Kentucky, MobileNation offers a Wireless "Club" you join that gets you discounts on travel, computers, movies, tickets and food. Their plans are all "Unlimited", both Home and Roaming, and are reasonably priced. Their plans include Unlimited Talk, Text and fairly large buckets of Data. They have a good selection of CDMA phones including Smart phones and older iPhones. Some roaming networks are included as your "Home" coverage area, so unlimited is available around most major cities and highways. It appears as though Sprint is their only roaming partner outside of their home region. Their network is about half 3G and half 4G. Lifeline plans are available, some Free.
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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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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