Regular mobile phones and smartphones connect to the nearest cell phone tower in order to get reception. This is true for text and voice, just as it is true for wireless data. As such, one of the better indications for cell phone coverage in a specific area is to review a map of the tower locations. While the websites for the different carriers may display coverage maps, third party websites generally must be used to pinpoint the locations of the actual cell towers.
Three U.S. Cell Tower Maps
In the United States, most cell phone antennas are registered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This data typically serves as the basis for online maps of cell phone tower locations. Many online maps are able to further break down the information by provider, separating Verizon tower locations from those of AT&T, for example. However, since not every antenna is necessarily registered with the FCC, the data is inherently incomplete and is always a work in progress. Still, these maps can provide helpful information to consumers interested in identifying providers with the best local presence.
The maps used on CellMapper.net are powered by Google Maps, so the local information about streets and points of interest is generally kept up to date. The data regarding cell phone tower locations is then laid on top of the main Google Maps, giving the similar zoom and pan features found in the regular Google Maps interface.
To the left of the map are a series of fields that must be addressed before the map will be visible.
- When promoted to share your location with the site, choose yes so that the map zooms in on your general region automatically.
- Specify your country via the drop down list on the left side of the screen; the United States is listed as #310.
- Next, you must then choose the provider. Each provider can be listed multiple times, because of how the tower registration process works. In order to see all the T-Mobile towers for example, you may need to go through each of the T-Mobile listings individually.
- There is a drop-down box to select the network. This separates 2G networks from 3G and 4G LTE.
- Beyond this, there are settings for the types of towers and for filtering the regions. It is best to select all the regions for the most complete information.
When you enter the required information, the map automatically updates, showing colored circles if there is more than one tower present in the area. Green zones indicate higher density and red zones indicate lower density. Zoom in and out of the map using the scroll wheel on your mouse.
MapMuse.com also using the mapping data from Google Maps. This site also provides an interactive map that can be navigated with the same zoom and pan functions as Google Maps.
- Enter the name of your city or state in this search box to automatically orient the map to that region.
- Click and drag to pan around the displayed map.
- Use the zoom slider on the left-side of the map (below the yellow figure) to adjust the zoom level.
- There are also zoom in (+) and zoom out (-) buttons toward the top-left of the map, which is also where you will find a search box.
There are far fewer filters, compared to CellMapper, for finding towers specific to a particular carrier or of a particular type. The map does not differentiate between cell phone tower locations that serve a 2G network, for instance, rather than a 3G or 4G network. This results in a more crowded, but more comprehensive map that can show all the known FCC tower locations in a particular area.
MapMuse does not color-code the relative density of cell phone towers when zoomed out the way that CellMapper does. Instead, this site simply uses a single blue square to indicate the location of each tower. Clicking on any given square, however, reveals the ability to view more details. This usually includes a more precise address or location information about that particular tower.
While CellReception.com also uses Google Maps and a database of FCC-registered cell phone towers, its interface is different from the first two sites. Instead of providing an extra-large map of the entire country that can then be navigated, it has broken down the information for each of the major cities.
- To use the map, you'll need to enter the name of the city you are interested in and choose the state from the drop down list.
- A smaller map is then displayed with the Google Maps red marker indicating the location of each individual cell tower.
- This resulting map can then be navigated as normal: click and drag to pan around the map, and then use the zoom slider on the left to adjust the zoom level. There are also pan controls above the zoom slider.
In addition to the actual map itself, each local area page also has a small table indicating the average rating and total number of reviews for the major carriers in the area. This helps to provide consumers with a better idea of how other customers in the area feel about the coverage they have. The map can also be filtered by these carriers, displaying only the T-Mobile towers or only the Verizon tower locations, for example.
Map of Canadian Cell Towers
Canadians also have access to a cellular towers map. The one produced and maintained by Steven Nikkel is simple, but remarkably robust. It also uses Google Maps as its basis and then each individual cell phone tower has its own indicator on the map. There is a basic search field to narrow the results down to a particular city, but the map itself can be navigated as normal with zoom and pan functionality.
The data includes the three major nationwide carriers -- Bell, Telus and Rogers -- as well as smaller and regional providers like Wind Mobile, MTS, SaskTel and VideoTron. The markers can be color coded for the different providers, giving consumers a good sense of whether they'll have coverage with a specific cell phone service provider in a specific area.
Tower Location Considerations
It can be both beneficial and detrimental to have many cell phone towers located near you. On the one hand, having a higher density of cell phone towers may mean that you don't have to deal with reception issues nearly as often. On the other hand, there is much discussion about the potential health risks associated with cell towers too. Whatever the case, having access to their location by way of the websites above better prepares you to make more educated decisions.