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and South Dakota Cellular Network Report
General Observations in the Dakotas. AT&T now has a slight edge in the area with Verizon Wireless a close second. There are often significant local differences between the two. T-Mobile has introduced their "Extended" coverage into large parts of the eastern parts of both states and the southern half of South Dakota which works very well. Sprint appears in Fargo and Grand Forks and no where else. There are a couple of tiny carriers that serve isolated communities who do a good job locally, so don't forget to ask about them in your area. TracFone and Straight Talk do well in most areas.
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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The Nemont Telephone Cooperative provides CDMA wireless service in northeast Montana and northwest North Dakota surrounding Minot. They have good coverage across their area. They offer reasonably-priced National plans including reasonable data charges. They have very inexpensive Local plans limited to their own coverage area and they offer subsidized Lifeline plans. As part of the local telephone cooperative you can expect better than average customer service and bundles are available. They have a small selection of phones including some Smart phones and the iPhone. NVC
NVC offers various communications products as part of the The James Valley Telecommunications Company, centered on the town of Aberdeen, South Dakota. They took it upon themselves to improve cellular service in their area by building their own CDMA network. They offer wireless plans with unlimited calls in their local area and a certain number of roaming minutes for a reasonable price. They offer a surprisingly broad selection of phones including Smart phones, operate a fairly sophisticated 3G cellular network, and offer bundle discounts with their other telecommunications products. They support LifeLine plans. Local folks usually mean better than average customer service.
Rock Wireless is the operating name of the wireless service of Standing Rock Telecom, below.
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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SRT Wireless in Minot, ND and north central Montana has decided to discontinue cellular service as of July 15, 2017. They offer discounts to switch your phone to Verizon Wireless.
STANDING ROCK TELECOM
Standing Rock Telecom, also called Rock Wireless, provides CDMA cellular and fixed wireless voice, fax, data transmission and high-speed Internet services throughout the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on the border of North and South Dakota. Standing Rock is tribally-owned and offers the best, and sometimes only, wireless services in the area. They have competitively-priced plans that include US roaming and Unlimited minutes. They offer discount bundles with their other telecommunications services. They offer a small number of phones including a few Smart phones. Customer service is good but they're really small. Standing Rock claims the other carriers in the area admit to having poor coverage on the reservation and will help you switch to Standing Rock without an Early Termination Fee. They now offer Lifeline plans which are available to anyone who actually lives on the reservation.
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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