After years of Cell phone contracts that lock you into a particular provider, many people are used to treating that relationship as a marriage. But just because a particular operator worked for you 10 years ago, does not mean it is the best for you today. Different carriers excel at different things when new technologies such as 5G emerge, and if you move to a new city, the operator with the “best” signal may be completely different from where you lived before. If you’re tired of getting a terrible signal in your own house, or constantly getting low speeds when traveling, it may be time to look at some other carriers ̵
Do not just look at coverage maps – Dig Deep
Carriers love to show their coverage maps, plastered with red, blue or purple dots to show you how many cities they serve. But the carriers themselves are hardly impartial, reliable sources, and coverage is not a binary thing – just because your city has a red or blue dot, does not mean that the service will be optimal.
So if you are looking for a new operator, you can get as much independent information as you can. Opensignal, for example, is an app that allows users to send speed and signal tests from across the country, so you can see on a map how things are going with any of the four major carriers. (You can also run a quick speed test yourself to see how your connection compares, and help feed the data pool to others).
Remember that coverage is only part of the equation. Signal strength, speed and latency are also important. Opensignal covers these bases if you tap Network Statistics and swipe through the results for a given location, but you can also look at things like PCMagits annual coverage of the fastest mobile networks for an idea of how speeds can vary from city to city.
If you really want to drill deep, you need to ask some good old-fashioned questions. See which operator your friends use, ask the Facebook groups in the neighborhood, and see if your city has a dedicated subreddit with experiences you might be able to achieve. I’ve been to major US cities where my wife’s phone at one operator would have full signal strength, where my identical phone at another operator’s would swing wildly around the city – coverage maps and tools not available will not always be able to tell you things. as that.
And keep in mind that a carrier’s coverage can change over time, so if someone tells you that one is terrible in that area, ask them when they last used it. (My family is still married to Verizon based on AT & T’s poor rural coverage a decade ago – although AT & T’s Northern Michigan signal has improved drastically since then.) It can also be affected by which phone they use, so try to look for bigger trends rather than focusing too hard on a single opinion.
Look beyond the three large conveyors
If you have not been on the MVNO train, it’s time to stop by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile and try all the other great carriers out there. While most of the mobile coverage in the United States uses these three networks, there are dozens of mobile virtual network operators – or MVNOs – that use the same towers while offering plans with cheaper or more unique pricing structures. You’ve heard their names before – Cricket Wireless, Republic Wireless, Ting, Straight Talk and others have been around for years. But if you wrote them off as discount operators with poor service, you could miss it.