Who's got the best highway coverage? Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint's networks put to the test


Just in time for the Great Thanksgiving Exodus, a unique testing procedure was set out to measure the network coverage and performance of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint over vast swaths of the nation's acclaimed highway system. How vast? Well, how about driving 52,000 miles in all states, and conducting 703,000 voice and data tests between March and July 2017? The tests were standardized by using state-of-the-art Rohde & Schwarz Diversity Benchmarker II gear with Samsung Galaxy phones, as these are currently at the forefront of modern network connectivity services.

That's all fine and dandy, but who won? Well, depending on what they were doing with the handsets, it was either AT&T or Verizon. AT&T got the highest average download speeds, if you can call 6.9 Mbps quick, but that was still a third faster than Verizon, and let's not forget that the kits were moving all the time. Sprint had the most finicky data connection of the big four, with just 85% availability, indicating that its network has some catching up to do in remote places.

Verizon, on the other hand, was the best in terms of consistent VoLTE network (97%) and phone call coverage, slightly edging AT&T, while T-Mobile was dead last with 11% of calls not going through at all, and another 10% being dropped mid-rant. When it came to providing extra LTE features like 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM and carrier aggregation that improve both coverage and download speeds, AT&T had those available to its subs 31% of the time, against Verizon's 30%, yet the testers noted that the load on Big Red's network was much higher most of the time. All in all, if you are traveling between cities, towns and villages, you'd be better off with the two larger US carriers, which only comes to confirm everyone's unscientific observations, too.

source: GWS

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10 Comments

1. disatrousrainbow

Posts: 64; Member since: Oct 24, 2015

I'm not surprised by Verizon's results. They may not be the fastest everywhere, but they are *consistently* fast and reliable everywhere. I love to travel so I've driven from coast-to-coast and can honestly say Verizon's never let me down. T-Mobile on the other hand? There's literally a good two hour strip of the Interstate they don't cover where I live so they still have some work to do.

3. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

VZW and ATT were obviously going to be the best in such a test. T-mo is honestly all over the place with it's cellular signal, decent data connection in most places but call quality really needs some work.

2. mike2959

Posts: 694; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

The truth about TMO is the same as it’s always been. Dense urban market inner city they are great. Get outside the large metro area’s and suburbs still they poor. All the marketing they spend they should truly improve their foot print. It’s their foot print that is poor.

5. mrmessma

Posts: 271; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

It isn't as good as Verizon, but I wouldn't call it poor. I can go from Northeast rural Indiana to West Central rural Indiana and watch Netflix all but about 15 min out of the 2-1/2 hour drive. I don't consider that poor, in my opinion. And this is just one bit of anecdotal evidence.

6. BuffaloSouce unregistered

It has its spots but if you include coverage for across the whole US, then T-Maybe can be poor compared to Verizon

9. JC557

Posts: 1918; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Yup, T-Mobile is much better than years ago and has surpassed Sprint in reliability in my personal testing, though it still cannot touch AT&T or Verizon BUT those providers costs more (Verizon is my primary with T-Mobile as a backup, used to have an AT&T backup until last year and Sprint was a fling).

8. rsiders

Posts: 1934; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

As far as I'm concerned if I can get coverage in Walterboro, SC with T-Mobile, I can get service anywhere. And that's 4G too.

4. baldilocks

Posts: 1494; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

I often travel to Eastern Kentucky to visit family. If you don't have AT&T, you might as well forget about making any phone calls.

7. Omarc07

Posts: 574; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

on this side on california travel to Arizona, new mexico ,oregon verizon is the best LTE most of the way . At&t and tmobile are about the same were Att dont have lte neither does tmobile . The 8 hour drive to San fransisco from LA has perfect Lte on all carriers including tmobile and sprint . So that part they all covered well . The 4 hour drive to vegas same now with all carriers they all cover it pretty good with lte took them a while but finally did it . Difference is when you travel to Arizona , Oregon ,new mexico thats when verizon wins.

10. The2ndflood

Posts: 7; Member since: May 15, 2018

See, T-Mobile is going on that they have the fastest data speeds (Well Opensignal Raves About That), but what good are speeds with no coverage? Don't get me wrong, I'm very impressed with T-Mobile. When I first had them back in 2002, their network was tiny. Now it is much larger, but their network reliability is still in need of improvement. I'm still loyal to Verizon though. Here in Middle Tennessee, Verizon is by far the best carrier, because we will travel out in the middle of no where and still have service. Where as no other carrier will even come close to having a signal. So no matter what the data speeds are, at least I can make a connection with Verizon. I don't trust any other carrier. I'm disappointed with Sprint. They have not inlargred their network since 2001.

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