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Cellular Network Report
General Oklahoma Observations:
The area from I-35 eastward is served best by US Cellular with good coverage and a customer-friendly experience. AT&T serves most of the state very well. Verizon Wireless has some big holes in the southeast and northwest parts of the state, and Oklahoma City is not their best urban market. T-Mobile offers good service in most populated areas of the state and has some of their 4G LTE "Extended" coverage in the extreme southeast part of the state. Sprint covers most populated areas, but the western third of the state is served well by Pioneer Cellular, a Sprint affiliate. The panhandle is best covered by Verizon Wireless and PTCI. Oklahoma is one state that has several rural areas served with cellular from the local co-op telephone company. The quality of these services vary considerably. Most of Oklahoma is also covered by TracFone and StraightTalk.
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!
Bravado Wireless, the new name for the former Spocket Wireless, is a small CDMA carrier serving the east central part of Oklahoma just south of Tulsa. They have narrowed down the number of plans just to Unlimited Calls & Texts, with and without data, with a certain method of overage protection. Sprocket's Unlimited coverage was limited to their local area, we don't know about Bravado's, yet. They have expanded their small selection of phones to include most of the iPhone line. Coverage is adequate. They have added some 4G Data and they offer "Lifeline" plans. They also offer wireless home Internet access. Their current rating is based on the old Sprocket network performance but it may improve based on their simpler plans, wider phone selection and larger 4G-LTE coverage. Bravado is operated by the Cross Telephone Company who also offers cellular service in adjacent counties as Cross Wireless.
Cross Wireless is a small CDMA carrier, part of the Cross Telephone Company of eastern Oklahoma. They have Regional and National plans which are a little cheaper than average. They offer a large variety of Unlimited plans including Nationwide Data. They are adding 4G Data but they only offer a small number of phones. As part of the local telephone company their customer service is above average but don't yet offer bundles with their other communications services. . We have no coverage reports for their network. They also offer wireless broadband access for home as well as Lifeline plans with several add-on features available. Cross also offers cellular service as Bravado Wireless in areas east of Tulsa.
Phoenix is the cellular service of the Oklahoma Western Telephone Company, which is located in southeast Oklahoma, despite the name. They operate a GSM wireless network with adequate Local coverage, some of it at 3G. Phoenix offers a large selection of plans that include National roaming and Lifeline plans, however, the Lifeline plans at $20 and over are the most expensive we've found. Communication bundles are available. They have very few phone choices and there appears to be no smartphone support. Getting information from this company is a real challenge. The wireless products they offer seems to be mostly an extension to their wireline services.
Pine serves the southeast quadrant of Oklahoma. This GSM carrier has generous Local and National plans. They offer a large number of phone models including Smart phones and the iPhone. Coverage is very good in most areas, some or all of it is 4G - LTE. They offer both Local and Nationwide plans, Data prices are very competitive and they offer hot spot and wireless home Internet service. They offer 18-month contracts as well as 2 years. Pine Cellular is related to the Pine Telephone Company and offers some bundle discounts.
Pioneer has good CDMA coverage, especially in northwest Oklahoma, with some service across the border into southern Kansas, and they now offer 4G LTE coverage. They have a large selection of phones, including a good number of Smart phones. They have a large number of plans, maybe too large, and, while some of them are overpriced, they include a good amount of Data. They are part of the local communications cooperative, so we expect better than average customer service. Some basic features cost extra...we don't like being nickel and dimed and it adds significantly to your final cost. LifeLine plans are available. Roaming coverage favors the Sprint network.
Pioneer Wireless Coverage
The wireless service of the Panhandle Telephone Cooperative has good coverage in the Oklahoma panhandle. They recently converted their network from CDMA to GSM 4G LTE. On the new network, plans have been greatly simplified and are quite competitive. Plans include Talk, Text and Data both on and off their network but when you build your plan, the cost may be an unpleasant surprise. They offer a moderate selection of GSM phones including Smart phones and air cards. Roaming outside their home service area favors the AT&T network. As part of the local telecommunications cooperative they have local stores, better than average customer service and bundled discounts. Don't confuse PTCI of the Panhandle Telephone Cooperative with the PTCI of the Pioneer Telephone Cooperative, parent of Pioneer Wireless, that serves the adjacent area of Oklahoma.
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
Sprocket has been renamed Bravado Wireless.
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