|Home | Network Reviews | Carrier Pros & Cons | Local Reports | Carrier Archives | Noise|
& 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 only Appalachian Wireless serving the southeast part of the state. 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 in southeast Kentucky with additional coverage just across the adjacent Virginia and West Virgina borders, with a good selection of CDMA phones, including several smartphones, lots of iPhones, 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. They have upgraded much of their network to 4G LTE. Appalachian does not allow you to Bring Your Own Phone and their Lifeline plans, which are excessively overpriced, are available for Kentucky customers only.
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
Get AT&T Phones @ Less Than Retail!
Bluegrass Cellular is located in central Kentucky and is operated by a combination of 5 rural Kentucky telephone co-ops. They have a moderate selection of CDMA phones and devices including smartphones. They have very good coverage across their own network, which is mostly 4G LTE, and they offer a number of generous plans. Nationwide roaming is available. They also offer competitive Data 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.
DTC Wireless located east of Nashville, TN has stopped offering cellular service as of January, 2017. As part of their other communications services they do offer Fixed Wireless broadband Internet access using their existing 4G - LTE network.
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. 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
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