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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 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!
The Nemont Telephone Cooperative provides CDMA wireless service in northeast Montana and northwest North Dakota surrounding Minot. They have good coverage across their area and have upgraded their network to 4G. They offer reasonably-priced plans including nationwide coverage and 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 but they include the latest iPhone and Android models.
NVC offers various communications products as part of 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 usage for a reasonable price. They offer a moderate choice of phones, including smartphones, 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. 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
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.
Verizon Wireless Pros & Cons