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Our picks haven't changed, but we've updated this guide with new unlimited data plans from Verizon, the arrival of C-band 5G to AT&T and Verizon, and 3G coverage plans for all major carriers.
What Cellphone Company Has The Best Coverage
If you haven't looked at how your current bill compares to what you might have with a new plan or service, you should now. Although three of the four national carriers have recently moved from 3G to 4G and now 5G, prices have fallen as data sharing has increased, especially among the many smaller networks. But as always, most deals come with catches.
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There may not be one carrier or plan that we can recommend for everyone, but we have recommendations for some common needs and advice for those with more specific needs.
I've covered the wireless industry since the late 1990s—my first guide to cell phone service, written in 1998, spent a lot of time comparing analog and digital cell phones. He has tested smartphones and cell phone plans from the historic four AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, and before that, Nextel, for The Washington Post, CNN Money, Discovery News, PCMag, VentureBeat and others. i spent ., and now I cover technology and communications issues for business publications such as Fast Company, USA Today and other sites, including Reading Light and FierceTelecom. And in July 2021, I tested over a thousand miles from Baltimore to Atlanta for PCMag's fastest mobile networks.
We've narrowed this guide down to the most popular national options—starting with the top three carriers nationwide, including prepaid services and their affiliates, followed by top-ranked services in surveys from PCMag, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and websites. J.D. Power
We have also chosen to exclude competitors that are only available in certain parts of the United States. That means selling to cable companies like Comcast and Spectrum, which require U.S. cellular and cable companies like Comcast and Spectrum to advertise their rates or pay subscription fees at all. As a result, we have discontinued prepaid services that require separate purchases of data, text, or voice minutes to meet each of our monthly usage amounts.
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We calculated the cost of three types of mobile service for each: average usage of 3 GB of data; mode for many people who need unlimited data for the phone, but without using more than 3 GB of mobile data; and a lightweight package with unlimited mobile data and 10GB mobile hotspot usage. Data usage is up because these figures are higher than previous figures: In March 2022, NPD Group analyst Brad Aquiz said the company's research showed US cell phone data usage averaged 12 GB in the fourth quarter of 2021. in extreme cases) 17.2 GB.
We no longer include text or voice minutes as all services offer unlimited text and calls.
Wireless network quality is not something that can be defined in a single standard: coverage and performance usually vary by location. They also change over time, as anyone who used T-Mobile in 2011 and remains with that carrier today can attest. To try to get the most accurate picture possible of the three major vendors (and their network resellers), we conducted our own coverage and performance surveys from Openignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics. We don't care about download speed if the environment is suitable for accessing those speeds; Good work always happens in places where many people live, work and visit.
Our estimates are that anyone who wants to use their phone's hotspot to share LTE or 5G bandwidth for long periods of time wants some "unlimited" rather than 2G-esque speeds. "I need the plans. Also, we're guessing most people won't use more than 3GB of data per month with this feature, as it can put a real drain on the phone's battery, but up to 10GB per month is a tough case for smartphone usage.
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We also cut the same numbers for two- and four-line sharing plans because so many of you said you wanted to compare prices for your family.
If a plan offers a low rate for allowing automatic payments or payments a year in advance, or includes a loyalty discount that lowers your bill over time (a new feature on Verizon Prepaid as of spring 2020), we've listed those options. . However, we do not count transactions that require a transaction over the phone or sent to a number.
Since almost every phone on the market in the US will work with one of the three major carriers, we haven't included the phones that each carrier or service sells on their website or in their stores. We also don't take into account the sales that wireless service releases for each new iPhone.
Plus, a T-Mobile account adds a free Netflix subscription with two or more lines, $15 off the $85 Unlimited Elite plan on AT&T HBO Max service, and we don't include media partnership value. Verizon. including Apple Music or the Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ collections on certain unlimited plans.
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Finally, we didn't factor in the tax and regulatory fees because they vary by jurisdiction (I believe with the legacy T-Mobile network, these fees add up to 7.4% in October 2021). But regardless of where you live, taxes and fees should be the same for all your options — except for T-Mobile's Magenta plan and offers from Boost and Visible, which include tax in promotional prices.
If more data is more important to you than roaming in non-urban areas, the Magenta plan offers great prices for unlimited data on a powerful network. Plus, T-Mobile has the best 5G service and plans in the world.
If data is a priority, consider the T-Mobile Magenta plan, which means you'll be able to get a fast internet connection and use it for bulk downloads and uploads. T-Mobile's first unlimited data offer is more generous than its two rivals, and the rollout of 5G sets up an already good network to continue expanding its share in the country.
The price alone should catch your eye: Magenta costs $70 a month for unlimited mobile data with 100GB of data. (Also, T-Mobile may slow down your network connection to connect to a customer, but whether you experience this depends on external factors such as the number of customers in the same area and the quality of the network.) This doubles its dividend. Comparable plans on AT&T and Verizon cost $5 and $10 before taxes and fees. T-Mobile multiplies these fees to the advertised price. . On top of that cover, T-Mobile advertises "3G speeds," which we appreciate, but the broadband data sheet says you're only getting 600 Kbps, which isn't much faster. The 2G standard is not. AT&T and Verizon allow higher than their point limits.
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Worldwide data distribution doesn't help if the connection is slow, but T-Mobile's network has gotten a bit better thanks to 5G frequencies. The spectrum that T-Mobile acquired when it bought Sprint allowed it to deploy 5G better than the faster but smaller 5G networks offered by its two rivals, AT&T and Verizon, and even the C.-5G group. This medium-band 5G, which T-Mobile is marketing as Ultra Capacity 5G, offers faster service than low-band 5G, which fills the network and is the most common type of 5G among competitors.
The difference is most evident in third-party tests, as well as in our own evaluation of Wi-Fi hotspots from three major vendors.
T-Mobile's Openignal public test results published in January 2022 ranked this provider among the top three for download and upload speeds. Openignal's special 5G tests released in January show a bigger advantage for T-Mobile: 5G average download speeds of 150 Mbps, compared to average downloads of 56.2 Mbps and 49.1 Mbps on Verizon and AT&T, respectively. . T-Mobile has a better chance of enjoying those speeds, getting 5G 35.4 percent of the time — more than double the best figure of 16.5 percent.
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