Cell phone providers aren't built equal. Each provider offers different plans with unique coverage areas. That said, every potential subscriber should take some time in advance to consider a cell phone service area comparison. There's no point in having a terrific plan and the hottest new phone if you have no service.
It can be hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison of service providers. Use this handy fill-in chart to compare coverage for the companies that offer service in your area. Click the image below to access the printable chart. If you need help downloading the chart, check out these helpful tips.
Research Service Options
Use the following lists of U.S. and Canadian carriers to get started with your research.
11 Popular US Cell Providers
- Alltel Wireless provides coverage to states in the South and Midwest, including but not limited to the Carolinas and Dakotas, as well as a part of Texas, all of Montana and a portion of Iowa.
- AT&T Wireless offers to the majority of the states, including Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Limited coverage is also extended to Alaska.
- BoostMobile plans cover primarily the Midwest and East, though there is some limited coverage in California, Nevada and Oregon.
- MetroPCS coverage includes California, Florida, Texas, Michigan and a few states along the northeastern border. However, their extended coverage, known as TravelTalk, covers all US states.
- Sprint coverage for voice, 3G and 4G services extends throughout the entire United States, as well as Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There is limited coverage in Alaska.
- Straight Talk provides continental coverage for its non-Android phones. However, coverage for its Android devices is limited in the West.
- T Mobile offers full coverage in the United States and limited coverage in Canada and the West.
- Tracfone coverage for GSM and CDMA phones covers the majority of the United States, though there is a tad more coverage for the latter option.
- US Cellular coverage for voice and data extends throughout the majority of the continental United States. Coverage for the 4G LTE network, however, is currently limited to Wisconsin, Texas, Oklahoma, Maine, North Carolina and Iowa.
- Verizon Wireless plans for voice, data, 4G and prepaid all cover the West, East, South and Midwest. Some of the more rural areas in the West, however, receive only limited coverage.
- Virgin Mobile coverage is especially limited, save for a few states with major metropolitan centers, e.g., Chicago, New York, etc.
10 Popular Canadian Cell Providers
- Chat-r Wireless offers coverage in offers coverage in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
- Clearnet coverage extends from British Columbia through Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Ontario.
- Fido coverage includes Alberta, British Columbia and the cities of Toronto, Buffalo, Montreal and Quebec City.
- Koodo Mobile plans cover British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
- MTS coverage provides HSPA/HSPA+ coverage in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. GSM coverage extends through Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
- Public Mobile provides limited coverage in Toronto and Montreal.
- Rogers Wireless provides Extensive HSPA+, GSM and EDGE coverage through all the major provinces. LTE coverage, however, is just limited to Toronto and Montreal at the moment.
- Sasktel Wireless coverage through Canada is very limited, with primary coverage centering around a few major parks like Atikaki Provincial Park and Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.
- Solo Mobile coverage includes includes British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
- TELUS Mobility offers extensive 4G and 3G coverage through British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as limited coverage through Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
Preparation Is Key
Browsing through these coverage maps can be quite tedious and time-consuming, but it's worth putting forth the effort. Consider not only your primary residence, but also your regular traveling schedule. If you live in Newfoundland but travel frequently to British Columbia, for instance, you should ideally pursue a provider that offers significant coverage in both zones. Remember, preparation is the key to locating an optimal cellular plan.