Without proper wireless coverage a phone is almost useless; check the coverage maps!

In the U.S. there are four big nationwide cellphone service providers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. These carriers provide varying degrees of voice and data coverage across the country. If you live in a major city chances are you have never had to worry about any of the "big four" companies not having cell service. But, if you live in a smaller city, or even a rural area, the coverage you get may be limited.

What is a coverage map?

Quite simply, it is a map of the U.S. that shows you what range of coverage a carrier offers in a certain region. The good news? All the major carriers have them. The bad news? None of them work quite the same as the others. We will give you a short breakdown of the coverage maps from all big four mobile carriers in the United States.

AT&T

AT&T actually has two national coverage maps that you should consider before choosing them as your wireless provider. One may for voice and another for data.

Voice coverage

Voice coverage map from AT&T

Pictured above on the left is what the voice coverage map looks like across the continental United States, and pictured above on the right is what the map looks like zoomed in on a more specific region. On their website, the AT&T coverage map will allow you to enter your address to see what range of coverage is available there. However, if you do a lot of travelling or are out on the road, a specific location may not be the most useful to you.

Understanding the legend

AT&T's voice coverage map has three types of coverage as outlined on the legend.

  • Voice: Represented by solid orange areas on the map, this means that regardless of what type of device you have you will be able to make calls from those locations.
  • 3rd Party: Represented by the pale orange areas on the map, this means that AT&T has voice coverage in these areas but, it's through a different carrier network. The quality of coverage in those areas could vary depending on the deals that AT&T has made.
  • Requires 3G, 4G, or 4G LTE Handset: Represented by the striped areas on the map, this means that in order to get voice coverage in these area you need a phone that supports 3G, 4G, or 4G LTE networks.

Any of the white spots on the map are areas where no coverage is provided.

Data coverage

Data coverage map from AT&T

AT&T's data coverage map is very similar to the voice map. Picture above on the right you can see the coverage the lower 48 has access too, and once again on the right you can see what that map looks like zoomed in over Colorado. Just like the voice map, you can go to their website and enter your own address.

Understanding the legend

In order to have access to AT&T's data networks you need to have a phone that is capable of doing so. Chances are you already do, since most modern phones are of the smart variety!

  • 4G LTE: Represented by the red areas of the map, this means that AT&T offers their fastest data network in those regions.
  • 4G: Represented by the dark orange areas of the map, these are the areas where you will have access to AT&T's 4G network.
  • 3G: Represented by the light orange areas of the map, these are the areas where you will have access to AT&T's 3G network This network will experience slower data usage than their 4G networks.
  • 2G: Represented by the pale orange areas of the map, these are the areas where you will have access to AT&T's slowest data network. Most carriers are phasing these networks out.

Check out AT&T's coverage map if you want to check out if their coverage reaches your area.

Sprint

Sprint also has two coverage maps, one for voice and one for data.

Voice coverage

Voice coverage map from Sprint

Sprint gives you the ability to look up any address you want, allowing you to see what the coverage is in that location. You can also zoom in on the map (picture above on the right) to get a clearer picture into the exact coverage of specific regions.

Understanding the legend

You will notice that there are only two items in the legend provided by Sprint. However, if you notice on the zoomed in map above, they are different shades of green. While at first this may seem a little confusing, it's pretty simple when you think about it.

  • Voice coverage: Represented by the color green, means there is coverage from Sprint. Although it doesn't show on the legend, the lighter the green, the poorer quality of coverage.

  • No coverage: Represented by no color, means there is no coverage at all in those areas.

Data coverage

Sprint's data coverage map.

Understanding the legend

This legend is a little more confusing than some of the other carriers. The colors are a little too close to really tell which is which and they have three different listings for LTE networks. We strongly suggest checking out their site for more information of this map.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile has the best coverage map of all the big carriers hands down. It's super easy to find the information you are looking for and it's all explained really well.

t-mobile-coverage-map

Understanding the legend

Above is T-Mobile's nationwide coverage map. Anywhere it's pink there is coverage. However, if you look at the picture below, you will notice that if you zoom in and click on the map anywhere ( or you enter an address into the search bar) a pop-up will appear telling you exactly what type of coverage to expect in that area. Check T-Mobile's out the coverage map for yourself

Verizon

Just like T-Mobile there is only one coverage map for Verizon. And, surprise it uses shades of red to determine what type of coverage is in an area.

Verizon coverage map

Understanding the legend

Much like the map from Sprint, the Verizon one is pretty muddled. There isn't a clear distinction between all the different shades of red and as you can see on the right of the picture above, zooming in doesn't really help you. However, the basic breakdown of service is something like this.

  • Verizon 4G LTE: Represented by the bright red areas of the map, this is where you will get LTE data speeds.
  • Verizon 3G: Represented by the dark red areas of the map, this is whee only 3G service is available.
  • Extended 3G: Represented by the brown areas of the map, these are the spots where Verizon has coverage through a partner service, so data speeds may vary.
  • International 4G: Represented by the dark pink areas of the map, these areas will experience 4G service however, it is considered international data usage which will have different rates.
  • International 3G: Represented by the light pink areas of the map, these areas will experience 3G service. However, it is considered international data usage which will have different rates.

We suggest going to the Verizon website and typing in your specific address for the best results.