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General Texas Observations:
For a state as large as Texas, it's difficult to declare any carrier "The Best", but if we had to choose, it would be AT&T. Through mergers, acquisitions and government generosity, they ended up with more of the best spectrum available. But they do not dominate in west Texas where, after the takeover of the Alltel network, Verizon Wireless is now tops. T-Mobile, with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, offers excellent service across most of Texas with the exception of the southeast corner of the state. Sprint works reasonably well in populated areas and along major highways but leaves many rural areas without coverage. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices across the entire state. There is a handful of small carriers in the state with widely varying quality, many of which offer reasonable Unlimited local plans. West Central Wireless around the Hill Country is a good choice for both coverage and service.
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!
Primarily offering service to people and businesses who operate in the Gulf of Mexico, Broadpoint operates a cellular network with coverage over 100,000 miles of the Gulf with voice, text and data services. They offer GSM service with nearly continuous on-water coverage along the coast and good roaming capabilities when you travel throughout the mainland US. Broadpoint is owned by Cellular One (MTPCS) which also operates cellular networks in Texas and Louisiana. Plans are expensive and they offer a moderate number of phone models for Voice, Text and Data. They offer a large number of professional data and communication services including satellite communications geared to petroleum installations. At last report broadband was offered at EDGE speeds which are normally less than 200 kb/s. 911 calls are directed to the US Coast Guard. We recommend using a T-Mobile phone if you want to use any mainland or broadband services, then Roam onto the Broadpoint Gulf network. Broadpoint operates what was formerly the Petrocom network.
This Cellular One is made up of parts of the former Centennial Wireless in the South, and parts of AT&T and the old Cellular One in Texas. Cellular One completely shut down their Montana and Wyoming network. They have very good GSM coverage in rural areas of Louisiana and Texas and in the Gulf of Mexico. They offer all the digital goodies and have a moderate selection of older phones including smartphones, but they do not offer the Apple iPhone. Their plans are more expensive than average and, while they will sell you "4G" capable phones, we cannot determine if they offer any 4G coverage of their own. They have reasonable plans for local wireless home phone and Internet access and they support Lifeline plans.
Cellular One Coverage Maps
Cleartalk, a CDMA carrier in small communities in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, has been acquired by Boost Mobile as of February 28th, 2018, which means if you have a Cleartalk phone, it will act like a Sprint phone and will use the nationwide Sprint network. It is not clear whether Cleartalk will turn off their own cell sites. Cleartalk stores become Boost Mobile stores.
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
WEST CENTRAL WIRELESS
Based in San Angelo and the Hill Country of Texas, West Central Wireless has good coverage and offers a large selection of plans, with reasonably-priced plans. Their data prices are reasonable. They have a good selection of phones including several advanced smartphones, the iPhone and air cards. They have a Senior plan for people 55 and over stating at $17/month. West Central also offers an economical prepaid wireless service under the name of Right Wireless which covers the 26-county West Central area with plans starting at around $25, or less than $1 a day and are also available at any of the West Central stores. West Central's has added 4G-LTE coverage to a certain amount of their own network with 3G still available in other areas. Data overages have been eliminated with 2G throttling occurring above your Data limit. West Central also offers Wireless home internet access.