How To Find The Best Mobile Broadband Coverage

< (Page 3 of 4) >

mobile-broadband-coverage

This is a 4-part lesson on "How To Pick The Best Mobile Broadband Provider". Previously we covered, how to pick a mobile broadband plan and how to pick a provider based on mobile broadband speed. In this section, we cover finding the best mobile broadband coverage for your needs.

 

Mobile broadband coverage is the engine of high speed internet on the go. Without it, your going nowhere (online) fast. Instead, you’ll be creeping along on what’ll feel like dialup speeds.

Pictures load at the speed YouTube videos normally do.

Like paint drying on the wall, your downloads will have ETA’s of in hours…possibly even days for just one TV episode.

 

That’s a terrible way to live especially if you’re paying for broadband speeds.

That’s why knowing exactly where you’ll have the best mobile broadband coverage is so critical.

Before we get into how to actually check for the 3G or 4G coverage in your area, let’s make a quick but necessary pit stop to understand just what the heck it is in the first place.

 

What Exactly is Mobile Broadband Coverage Anyway?

speed-test-mini 

Mobile broadband coverage is any area you can receive speeds faster than 768 Kbps via a mobile device.

Since the FCC defines broadband as speeds faster than 768 Kbps.

Therefore, mobile broadband coverage is any area you can receive speeds faster than 768 Kbps via a mobile device.

For the most part, you’ve got 2 main tiers right now:

1. 3G Mobile Broadband Coverage
2. 4G Mobile Broadband Coverage

While 3G breaks down into the CDMA camp (EVDO Rev. 0, EVDO Rev. A) vs. the GSM camp (HSPA, HSPA+) and 4G breaks down into WiMAX (already launched) vs. LTE (launching in 2010), the important take-away is this:

Average 3G speeds range from 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps while average 4G speeds range from 3 Mbps to 6 Mbps. That’s anywhere from 3 to 6 times as fast.

While 3G speeds actually have the potential to get as fast as 21 Mbps, 4G tests have shown speeds up to 100 Mbps.

Are these coming anytime soon?

While T-Mobile’s testing it out 3G HSPA+ tech that gives 21 Mbps in multiple markets, don’t expect nationwide mobile broadband coverage for at least 1 – 2 years (from any carrier).

Likewise, don’t expect 100 Mbps speed from any carrier (LTE or WiMAX based) for 2 or more years to come.

That’s gravy and all, but how does it affect the price of rice in China?

Here’s how.

Knowing what mobile broadband coverage is gives you a baseline to judge whether the service you are getting or thinking about getting is worth your cash.

Also, having a crisp picture of what mobile broadband speeds should be, let’s you know whether you’re being ripped off.

While you’ll get service pretty much anywhere you can get a cell phone signal, high speed service may or may not be there. Lastly, depending on the carrier, mobile broadband speeds may be available nationwide or only in select areas.

So How Do I Find The Best Mobile Broadband Coverage?

It’s not an easy road.

While I can provide you the tools, I cannot walk the journey for you. I can only best prepare you.

To do so, you’ll find a table below summing up the need-to-know info on each carrier regarding their mobile broadband coverage.

Its not expected that you’re going to look through each of these. It’ll be much quicker if you’ve already narrowed down your options based on how to pick a mobile broadband plan and how to pick a provider based on mobile broadband speed.

 

Afterward, we’ll look in your backyard and check the 3G or 4G coverage of the few providers you’re trying to decide on.

 

Postpaid Providers

Mobile Broadband Coverage Comparison
Provider
Coverage
Recommended Use
Comments
Coverage Review
Coverage Rating
us-cellular-logo
Regional 3G Coverage
Day To Day Use, Coverage Not So Important

– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

US Cellular speeds are the slowest in the 3G industry. It’s okay if speed’s not your priority
C-
att-logo

Nationwide 3G Coverage (mostly urban)

Day To Day Use, Coverage Not So Important

– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Many users do not get AT&T’s advertised speeds due to its iPhone strained network
C+
sprint-logo

Nationwide 3G Coverage

Regional 4G Coverage

Day To Day Use & Want Great Coverage

– Content Kings
– Everyday Pros
– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Sprint’s 4G network is powered by Clear. If you’re in a 4G area, you’ve got access to the fastest mobile broadband available without restrictions. If in a 3G area, speeds are still good but you need Kings need to watch out for the 5 GB cap.
A
t-mobile-logo

3G Coverage (select cities)

Day To Day Use, Coverage Not So Important

– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

T-Mobile faithfully plays the role of budget carrier alongside US Cellular. Not the best speeds but still decent.
C
verizon

Nationwide 3G Coverage

Day To Day Use & Want Great Coverage

– Content Kings
– Everyday Pros
– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

While they don’t have the 4G network Sprint has, Verizon still holds its own in the 3G department. Good for everyone so long as they use less than 5GB.
B+
clear-logo

Regional 4G Coverage

Nationwide 3G Coverage

Day To Day Use & Want Great Coverage

– Content Kings
– Everyday Pros
– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Clear’s 3G network is powered by Sprint. If you’re in a Clear 4G area, you’ve got access to the fastest mobile broadband available without restrictions. If in a Sprint 3G area, speeds are still good but you need to watch out for the 5 GB cap.
A

Adapted from the Wireless Broadband Comparison

 

 

 

Prepaid Providers

Mobile Broadband Coverage Comparison
Provider
Coverage
Recommended Use
Comments
Coverage Review
Coverage Rating
cricket
Regional 3G Coverage
Day To Day Use, Coverage Not So Important

– Content Kings
– Everyday Pros
– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Be sure to use Cricket’s coverage tool to see if service is in your area. As they provide regional service (like US Cellular), don’t expect to travel too much.
C
readybroadband
Nationwide 3G Coverage
Used Occasionally, Good Coverage

– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Readybroadband’s coverage is inherited from Sprint (i.e. they’re a reseller).

Ready
Broadband Coverage Review

B+
slingshot
Nationwide 3G Coverage
Used Occasionally or Emergencies Only

– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Slingshot isn’t available due to a lawsuit with Sprint. When more info becomes available we’ll update accordingly.
?
verizon[7]
Nationwide 3G Coverage
Used Occasionally or Emergencies Only

– Content Kings
– Everyday Pros
– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Since Verizon’s Daypass runs on the same network as their regular mobile broadband service
B+
virgin-mobile-broadband
Nationwide 3G Coverage
Used Occasionally, Good Coverage

– Social Clickers
– Fast Trackers
– Online Insiders

Like ReadyBroadband, Virgin mobile is also a Sprint reseller and inherits their coverage.
B+

– Adapted from the 2009 Prepaid Mobile Broadband Comparison

As you’ve probably noticed, most prepaid and rental companies inherit features of their ‘parent’ networks. It’s to be expected since building a mobile broadband network from scratch is quite the costly investment. For many, it just makes a whole lot more sense to ‘rent’ or ‘lease’ the network and repackage it in a profitable yet mutually beneficial way for everyone.

 

 

Rental Providers
Mobile Broadband Coverage Comparison

Provider
Coverage
Recommended Use
Notes
Coverage Review
Coverage Rating

aircardrental

Nationwide 3G Coverage
One time event
AirCardRental uses Sprint’s network and also inherits their coverage.

AirCardRental Coverage Review

B+
cellhire
?
One time event
While they are most likely using Sprint, Verizon or AT&T’s network, it’s not explicitly stated
?
eventradiorentals
Nationwide 3G Coverage
One time event
Event Radio Rentals uses Sprint’s network and also inherits their speed.
B+
rovair
Nationwide 3G Coverage
One time event
Depending on the device you choose, you’ll be on Verizon or Sprint’s network
B+
wifirents
Nationwide 3G Coverage
One time event
Depending on the device you choose, you’ll be on AT&T or Verizon’s network
B

– Adapted from the 2009 Mobile Broadband Rental Comparison

 

Time To Look In Your Backyard

backyard

Now that you’ve got a general view, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty make or break details.

For each carrier (or just the ones you’re interested in), we’ll check what mobile broadband coverage is like in your area. You’ll be plugging in your address a couple times in multiple windows. As such, you may want to keep it handy in notepad or Microsoft Word for some copy and pasting.

To keep things simple, here’s a few short steps to keep things organized:

1. Click on any provider’s logo to begin. Be sure to disable any pop-up blockers since each link will open in a new page or tab (depending on your browser).

 

2. If you click on a provider such as Virgin Mobile but see Sprint’s coverage map pop up, it’s not because you clicked the wrong link. Since Virgin uses Sprint’s network, you’ll need to use Sprint’s map to find out what your coverage will be. Also, if you click and absolutely nothing happens, it’s because no coverage map is available for that provider.

 

3. Plug in your address and see what your coverage is like. Afterwards, finish reading the rest of this page for what comes next.

 

4. (If necessary) Make sure the coverage map is on the ‘broadband’ or 3G tab instead of the default ‘voice’ tab. Most providers are cell phone companies and show calling areas that may not reflect mobile broadband coverage.

 

Postpaid Provider Coverage Maps


us-cellular-logo[7]
att-logo[6] sprint-logo[6]
t-mobile-logo[6] verizon[9] clear-logo[6]

           

Prepaid Provider Coverage Maps

cricket[6] readybroadband[6] slingshot[6] verizon[11] virgin-mobile-broadband[6]

 

Rental Provider Coverage Maps


aircardrental[6]
cellhire[6] eventradiorentals[6] rovair[6] wifirents[6]

 

 

How To Double & Triple Check Your Coverage

Not too trusting of what the mobile broadband providers say?

Can’t say I blame you.

It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve gotten a complaint from one a reader who’s been stuck without service despite the coverage maps saying otherwise. In the hopes of fixing that problem, there’s GotReception.com that shows user reported signal strength by major providers. Plug in your address to get a feel for what things might be like in your area.

 

Now it may not even be enough to know where the carriers themselves claim to have coverage. To dot the i’s and cross the t’s, there’s one more tool you can use.

DeadCellZones.com allows you plug in your address and see if anyone has reported dead zones for your carrier (or potential carrier). Quite the handy feature. Since it’s user generated content, it’s hard to verify but if it gets anywhere as massive as, say, Wikipedia, it’ll only become a lot more useful in times to come.

 

I Know The Provider With The Right Plan, Speed & Coverage I Want

What Next?

Now that you’ve got a clear grasp on how to pick a mobile broadband plan, how to pick a provider based on mobile broadband speed, and  how to find the best mobile broadband coverage for your needs, there’s 1 final piece to the Da Vinci Code of mobile broadband.

If you feel you don’t need it, you can start getting connected now:

 

I Know What I Want. Lemme Get Some Mobile Broadband Not sure if I know enough yet. Lemme keep reading
get-mobile-broadband

Next up:

Finding The Best Broadband Device

< (Page 3 of 4) >

email

No Comments Yet. Be The Pioneer.

Join The Conversation