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Cellular Network Reports
Verizon Wireless dominates the state with coverage in virtually every county although not necessarily with the best coverage. They have a surprising number of coverage "holes", even along I-25. Following closely is Sprint who has some strategically-located cell sites in urban areas. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage offers excellent service across most of New Mexico with the exception of a few remote rural areas in the western third of the state. AT&T has had poor coverage in New Mexico but has improved in rural areas with their acquisition of the Alltel and Plateau networks, however, they still have surprising gaps in some urban areas. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices across most of the state.
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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CELLULAR ONE OF NORTHEAST ARIZONA
Cellular One has the best, or only coverage, in and around the Native American lands along the northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico border with additional coverage in the extreme southeastern corner of Utah. They have a number of special, low-cost wireless programs. They also support fixed wireless service for homes away from wirelines. They offer a number of reasonable plans with various levels of Data add-ons. They have a good selection of phone models including Smart phones and older iPhones. Their prepaid plans are only available with a few phones but there is a huge number of Data and Messaging add-ons. They have a few creative programs including a "Free Phone for Life" plan. Most of the network offers 3G coverage. They support Lifeline plans and, in some areas, a separate high speed wireless broadband service.
Choice serves rural and small-town customers in 9 western US states and the entire US Virgin Islands. 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, 4G in USVI, 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. Choice has acquired Innovative Mobile in The US Virgin Islands which should dramatically improve coverage and technical support in the islands. There is no relationship between this Choice Wireless and the Choice Wireless in northern Texas.
Cleartalk is a small CDMA carrier that serves small communities in several states. If you live within their coverage, you'll be doing business with locals. Their plans offer different levels of "Unlimited" features and provide most of the features of an all-digital system. They have a variety of Unlimited plans starting as low as $35 with add-ons for Calling features, Long Distance, Mexico calling, and partial Nationwide coverage available. They provide regional and national coverage with most, or all, service outside of your small Home area provided on the Sprint network. Their phone selection is fairly small and not very advanced, but they can "flash" your current phone on to the Cleartalk network. Data coverage ranges from 2G to 4G-LTE.
NMobile covers southeast New Mexico and is operated by LEACO, the Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative. They offer very economical Local and National plans including Unlimited, starting at $15. All plans include all digital features including Voice Mail and Data. Adding nationwide Data is also reasonable. With such low prices they charge a little bit more for your phone but a contract is not required. They offer a moderate number of CDMA phones including Smart phones. Coverage is excellent in rural areas and average in urban areas. NMobile wireless products are available at both NMobile and LEACO stores. As part of the local phone cooperative we expect customer service to be above average. Even though LEACO offers a variety of communications services, they do not offer 'bundle' pricing that includes wireless. They offer Lifeline plans for both wired and wireless accounts.
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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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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