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Cell phone coverage maps: who has the best network in America?

Cell phone coverage maps: who has the best network in America?
(Image credit: Unsplash (Jakob Owens))

Cell phone coverage maps are useful tools when choosing a new handset. When it comes to phone networks, we’re spoiled for choice with the big four carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) alongside smaller companies and subsidiaries like Cricket Wireless, US Mobile, and Metro. But it can be difficult to know which network is right for you, especially if you live in a rural or remote area where cell phone coverage isn’t always guaranteed.

Luckily, all of the companies that we check out in our best cell phone providers guide offer coverage maps and/or ZIP code checkers that let you look up cell phone service in your area. Below we have researched the various carriers on offer and looked at their coverage maps to help you decide which is right for you. We've also included links to the carrier's site, which has a more detailed map, if you need to get specific or choose a different region.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless came out in first place in our best cell phone providers guide thanks largely due to their excellent network coverage and speed. With that said, there are some rural and remote areas where Verizon’s coverage doesn’t stretch too. Thankfully, Verizon offers an interactive coverage map that lets you check the coverage in your area (or anywhere else in the USA).

Verizon really nails coverage on the East Coast

(Image credit: Verizon)

As you can see from the coverage map above, Verizon has the vast majority of the United States covered, including Hawaii and the most populated areas of Alaska. In fact, Verizon claims to cover more than 98% of the population, so unless you live with bears on a mountain in the Rockies, chances are good that Verizon has you covered. There are some visible gaps in the Mid-West and West Coast, but coverage in the East is incredibly good. 

Sprint

The fourth largest cell phone provider in the US, Sprint is the runner-up in our search for the top cell services. We love the great value the company offers, but we do note that it suffers from unreliable coverage in rural areas. As a result, you should definitely check out Sprint's interactive coverage map before signing up to a plan, especially if you live outside the major metropolitan areas.

Sprint isn't top of our coverage comparison

(Image credit: Sprint)

Sprint’s coverage has improved massively in recent years and it shows when we look at its coverage map, but the carrier is still lagging behind the other providers in some areas, especially in Arizona and New Mexico. You're well served in middle America, and towards the East, provided you're not too far up north.

T-Mobile

When it comes to 5G coverage, T-Mobile are our clear winners. T-Mobile is also one of the only providers to offer an interactive coverage map which shows both 5G and 4G LTE coverage, so you’ll be able to find out exactly what kind of coverage you can expect in your area. They're a serious performer, and a good choice for anyone who craves fast data.

T-Mobile come out on top for data coverage

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

If you find the mix of 5G and 4G LTE data confusing, you can also view the regular 4G LTE coverage map. As a rule, anywhere that has 5G coverage will also have 4G LTE coverage, but not the other way around. Again, we can see some substantial gaps in T-Mobile’s coverage around the western side of the country, so do you research before signing on with T-Mobile if you live in these areas.

AT&T

The last of the big four in our list, AT&T is a household name with great network coverage and a fast network, if you’re willing to pay the big bucks. Like the majority of providers, AT&T has an interactive coverage map on its website that shows where it operates. If you zoom in on this map, you can get some more detailed data on the network, differentiating between areas of 4G (Blue), 3G (Orange), and off-network coverage (Green).

AT&T is pricey but reliable

(Image credit: AT&T)

This granular data means that you’ll be able to tell exactly what kind of service you can expect in your area. Depending on your plan, AT&T says that “ Excessive use of off-net service may result in the loss of coverage in such areas as stated in your plan terms”. So, if you live in one of the green areas of the map, you may want to consider another provider.

Metro by T-Mobile

The clue is in the name for this one - Metro is owned by T-Mobile and uses its network, so it offers identical cell phone coverage. Metro does still provide its own interactive coverage map though, so you can check to see if you’ll get cell coverage in your area before you sign up to a cell plan with them.

Metro by T-Mobile is a decent choice

(Image credit: Metro by T-Mobile)

Since it's using T-Mobile’s network, Metro has the same gaps in coverage. There are large areas of the western side of the country that won’t get cell phone coverage using Metro, so check the interactive map if you live in the Western states.

US Mobile

US Mobile is the only cell carrier in our list that doesn’t provide an interactive coverage map on its website. Instead, you can visit this coverage page and type in your ZIP code to find out what kind of service US Mobile can offer you. We do know that US Mobile doesn’t use its own network though - it provides service using the other major cell networks in America, specifically through T-Mobile and Verizon.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T and uses the extensive network of its parent company. We like Cricket's affordable unlimited data plans, but are disappointed by the speed caps on these unlimited plans - extensive data use could see your speeds plummet down to 3Mbps. Cricket offers an interactive coverage map on its website so that you can check out their service in your area.

Cricket Wireless can cap your data speeds, so be careful

(Image credit: Cricket Wireless)

Since it's using AT&T’s network, Cricket Wireless has the same strengths and weaknesses in their coverage. The eastern side of the US is locked down, but there are some large gaps on the western side of the country in rural and remote areas.

So, who is best?

With all that information at your fingertips, you should now be able to choose the perfect cell phone provider to suit your needs. Once you’ve got that done, check out our best smartphones guide to choose the right handset to go with your plan. If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, we also have a best cheap smartphone deals guide for you too.