Awhile back I blogged about some excellent crowdsourced coverage maps available to customers of major wireless carriers and today I put together this infographic on the state of coverage maps provided by the carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The inaccuracy of coverage maps does not just exist with major carriers but it’s also a problem with smaller carriers too.
Carriers are using every spin on words they can in every advertising medium possible to try to hook consumers into expensive multi-year contracts and many don’t want you to know that although they may promise you the “Best Coverage” or “Fastest 4G Network” in reality people are constantly getting stuck with service that is nothing close to exceptional.
But don’t fret there are three amazing free web services that give you coverage maps you can rely on. I remember when I started using AT&T I checked my neighborhood on their coverage map and it said “Best Coverage” which is their highest level of service quality and for months they told me the dropped calls, failed call attempts and bad voice quality was just an issue specific to me or my phone.
Come to find out they were pulling my leg because I looked at the following sites and signal and speed data from hundreds of customers on AT&T in my neighborhood and surrounding areas showed the service sucked.
Open Signal is a free crowd-source open coverage map platform which means users install an app on their phone which checks real service quality in 2G/3G/LTE and conduct speed tests to give true coverage data showing you how your current carrier or potential new carrier stacks up in your neighborhood or city.
In my opinion Open Signal appears to have the most data of any platform.
Note: Feel free to install their app and test signal in your current city/neighborhood so their coverage map grows in accuracy and that way it benefits other considering getting service with your carrier.
Sensorly was probably my favorite crowd-source coverage map tool because not only does their mobile app check for cell service levels and speeds but it can also use the wifi chip in your phone to scan for open/free wifi networks in your city/neighborhood to help build a map showing where the most wifi is deployed. Sensorly goes further than Open Signal in that it has a Trip Mode that lets you run it while doing trips so it can plot signals over maps while Open Signal can do the same it seems Sensorly’s app works better and provides more data when moving.
Note: Like Open Signal you can Install Sensorly and help grow their data for the benefit of yourself and others
Root Metrics was my least favorite crowd-sourced tool because it had the least amount of settings on the app side although their website came in second place when it came to the amount of data they had on various carriers and how complete their maps were.
Note: Help grow Root Metrics data by installing their Android App or iPhone App.
All in all if looking for a carrier I would suggest using Open Signal Map while also looking at the data Root Metric’s has to offer and consider them both when deciding on a new carrier. Notably of the carriers coverage maps I found AT&T’s to be the least honest while Verizon was more honest and Sprint and T-Mobile seemed somewhat honest. Small carriers like Cricket and MetroPCS seemed to have inaccurate coverage maps too and I assume the carriers with the least honest coverage maps are not using real signal level data to show coverage but instead have some sort of “Coverage Projection” that they guess based on cell tower placement with no consideration for interference from freeways, adjacent towers or buildings or just faulty older equipment.
If you are already stuck with a carrier providing you horrible service consider reading your wireless contract as there are usually portions you can use to your advantage for instance AT&T has a part that covers their liability during service interruptions and I have personally used that since if they are claiming “Best Coverage” yet not providing it then that’s clearly an interruption in the service they promised.