Home > Reviews, Wireless News > Map Wars. The real deal behind AT&T and Verizon’s Claims of 3G Supremacy

Map Wars. The real deal behind AT&T and Verizon’s Claims of 3G Supremacy

verizon vs at&t

We’ve all seen the commercials by now where Verizon claims to have 5 times more 3G coverage than AT&T. “There’s a map for that.” I’m sure some of us have pondered to what degree this stuff they’re feeding us is true. So here is a closer look into the map war.

Verizon says they have 5 times more 3G coverage than AT&T. Is this true ?

verizon, at&t, sprint, and Tmobile 3g map

Update: AT&T is now suing Verizon for “misleading” commercials  that show the 3G map above. However this really is not misleading, This map was actually on AT&T’s website at the time the commercials launched. The Map shows AT&T’s “3G Coverage” it does not say that AT&T doesn’t have data coverage in places where they don’t have 3G coverage.

In fact AT&T has very slow 2G coverage in most of the areas however the map depicting their 3G coverage above is 100% accurate. The new map on AT&T’s website, however is misleading. They no longer break down coverage of 2G and 3G.

AT&T’s Data map should look like this

at&t 3g 2g coverage map

As you can see from the map above Verizon has significantly more 3G coverage then AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint who is an okay second runner. I know what you’re thinking. “Sprint is a close second?” That’s right, interestingly enough because Sprint has been struggling in the wireless industry yet their network doesn’t seem to be the issue. I did find it peculiar that Verizon took shots at Sprints coverage when they both launched the Blackberry Tour. Oddly enough, Sprint’s inventory was infested with defective Blackberry Tours. Those defects included a shabby trackball and poor reception, making it seem as if Sprint’s reception was worst than it really is. Coincidence? Maybe.

Anyways, if you listen to AT&T they never actually deny that Verizon has better coverage. Their answer is that they have a faster 3G network. Let’s look into that.

Three speed tests performed by Gizmodo.com, and Wired.com all give 3 different winners. One Gizmodo test, which included 8 major cities (Atl, Bay Area, Chi, Denver, Vegas, LA, Maui, NY, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, Tampa) named AT&T the fastest network.

3g speed test att verizon sprint tmobile

A different test by Gizmodo, which included 4 major cities (Chi, NYC, Austin, Raleigh, Seattle, Portland, San Fran, Boston) named Sprint the fastest

The last speed test, done by Wired.com, reports

Verizon came in first place with an average download speed of 1,940 Kbps, as reported by 856 participants. T-Mobile’s average rate was 1,793 Kbps with 1,189 reported T-Mobile users. Third was Sprint with 1,598 Kbps, based on data from 1,570 users. In dead last was AT&T with an average of 901 Kbps — but an overwhelmingly large user sample of 8,153 test takers.”

As you can see these test are very subjective.

They also argue that their network allows users to talk and surf the web simultaneous, and they provide 3G coverage in popular areas. Keys word “popular area.” Verizon does have the most coverage but a good portion of their covered is in low populated areas.

The map shows Population density throughout the US. Darker red represents denser populated areas

This should mean higher costs for Verizon users because the costs of infrastructure in the mid-west and western states are spread over fewer customers. However AT&T has the exact same price point as Verizon when it comes to monthly plans. Odd.

Wireless providers have most likely decided not to start building towers in the mid-west and western states because it is not cost-effective due to the low population. Once their revenue grows from heavy populated areas, they may decide to expand coverage. The reason AT&T and T-Mobile’s 3G coverage is so limited is because they just started offering 3G services within the last few years. Unlike Verizon and Sprint, who have had their 3G networks for much longer.

What does it all come down to?

Most often consumer’s attitudes are “you get what you pay for.” But is that really true? Here is a break down of service plan for all four major companies, on a smart phone with 450 minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data.

cell phone company plans compare

Verizon and AT&T plans mirror each other with a few exceptions. AT&T doesn’t cover as many States as Verizon. So what are you paying for? Why does AT&T and Verizon both cost $90 a month yet AT&T has less coverage then Verizon? My guess is that the consumer idea of “you get what you pay for,” makes people believe they are getting the best service if they are paying the highest price. Plus the power of the iPhone allows AT&T to set higher prices when really all consumers are paying for is the expenses their wireless provider encounters to make it seem like they are the best network. Things like advertisement expenses and network expansion to low populated areas.

Verizon and AT&T probably have similar advertisement expenses based on the number of commercials we see with them going back and forth. When you look at a voice service map all the companies have pretty decent coverage Verizon’s being the best.

wireless coverage map compare

Update: AT&T also stopped showing levels of voice coverage. Instead of going from great, to good, to poor, to roaming, to no coverage; they just show coverage and no coverage, no matter how poor the coverage is.  You can no long distinguish good and bad coverage with AT&T’s map. The map above is accurate.

In a nut shell Verizon has the best overall network and if you compare the cost verse the benefit, AT&T doesn’t even make sense. In actuality, from a “cost vs benefit’ point of view Sprint seems to be the best choice. Sprint has good 3G speeds and decent coverage, yet their plans are $20 lower per month than Verizon and AT&T. Sprint also offers great bundle packages that include GPS, TV, text, web, and unlimited calls to any cell phone number no matter the wireless provider, all for the low-cost of $69.99. Not sure how they can do that but it sounds like a good deal to me.

  1. ana
    February 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    AT&T’s coverage sucks in general. Specially with the iPhone

  2. February 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    If the iPhone really goes to other providers its really going to be bad for other phone manufacturers.

  3. Ace
    February 15, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    who cares about the iPhone. Android is taking over and unlike the iPhone its on networks that actually get coverage. AT&T’s network should be called Netbroke lol

  1. January 6, 2010 at 9:07 pm
  2. February 10, 2010 at 4:32 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: