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Virginia & West Virginia Cellular Network Report

General Observations of Carriers in Virginia:
From the few reports we have received in this area, AT&T appears to have the advantage in coverage, with Verizon Wireless is a close second, and has a few communities with better coverage based on local conditions. Sprint, after recent acquisitions, now covers most populated areas of Virgina. T-Mobile has been expanding in the eastern half of the state and serves some of the urban areas and highways of western parts of Virginia. Straight Talk and TracFone also serve the entire area.

General Observations of Carriers in West Virginia:
AT&T appears to have the advantage in coverage, with US Cellular as another great choice for extensive coverage in West Virginia. Verizon Wireless is a close second with a few communities with better coverage based on local conditions. Sprint, after recent acquisitions, now covers most populated areas of the state.  T-Mobile does not cover West Virginia. Straight Talk and TracFone serve most of the state.

APPALACHIAN WIRELESS
Appalachian has good coverage in southeast Kentucky with additional coverage just across the adjacent Virginia and West Virgina borders, with a good selection of CDMA phones, including several smartphones, lots of iPhones, and data cards. They have a wide variety of a la carte plans that are priced above average. They charge extra for most Calling Features. Their Prepaid plans are expensive for so few features and they have misleading names: the "3G" plan is actually a "3GB" plan.  It caught our eye when they claimed a "5G" plan.  They have upgraded much of their network to 4G LTE. Appalachian does not allow you to Bring Your Own Phone and their Lifeline plans, which are excessively overpriced, are available for Kentucky customers only. AT&T Review

AT&T
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!
Cricket Wireless Review

CRICKET WIRELESS
Cricket
is now reviewed at Prepaid Reviews.

NTELOS WIRELESS
NTelos has been acquired by Shentel which operates as a direct affiliate of Sprint.  For all practical purposes you are now considered a customer of Sprint and you will have access to the entire Sprint network and plans.
Shentel plans to add more 4G LTE coverage in the former nTelos areas.
nTelos Final Coverage Maps Shentel

SHENTEL
Shentel (also known as Shenandoah Telecommunications Company) is a diversified telecommunications holding company that provides both regulated and unregulated telecommunications services to customers in the southeastern United States. The Wireless segment provides digital wireless service to portions of a four-state area covering the region from Harrisburg, York and Altoona, Pennsylvania, to Harrisonburg, Virginia as a Sprint affiliate. Even though the network is owned by Shentel, you deal with Sprint for all phone issues and customer service. This segment also owns cell site towers built on leased land and leases space on these towers to both affiliates and non-affiliated service providers.

SPRINT
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


Straight Talk

STRAIGHT TALK
Straight Talk is reviewed at Prepaid Reviews
.

T-MOBILE
T-Mobile is one of the Top 4 carriers in the US and is considered tied for the number 3 position in coverage and subscribers. Where they have coverage, T-Mobile works very well, especially in their new "Extended" coverage areas. While they have a slight disadvantage with their higher PCS-only frequency, they make up for it with strategically-located sites. T-Mobile doesn't serve many deep rural areas, but provides coverage along most major highways. They do offer coverage from roaming partners in rural areas, and the network is still growing. T-Mobile has been very competitive by offering sector-leading plans and features.  They offer a number of Family plans that better than most and were pioneers at allowing you to choose between subsidized handsets and non-contract pricing. Their plans include generous amounts of Voice, Text messaging and Data. T-Mobile charges extraordinarily low roaming rates outside of the US including Data.  they have FREE Calling, Text and Data both TO & FROM Mexico and Canada, and they offer a Wi-Fi Calling app that enables you to make Voice calls through wi-fi in any country at the same rate as local calls in the US. While T-Mobile's "4G" network does not universally operate at LTE speeds, it is still very fast and is available in a large number of cities. T-Mobile has a growing number of corporate-owned retail stores, which is a good thing, but the plans offered at retail stores and those offered online can be quite different. Review your options online before going to a T-Mobile store. T-Mobile offers Prepaid under the T-Mobile Prepaid, MetroPCS and GoSmart brands.
T-Mobile Pros & Cons

TracFone

TRACFONE
TracFone is reviewed at Prepaid Reviews.

US CELLULAR
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

VERIZON WIRELESS
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


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