CONNECTIVITY ON INTERSTATES – P3 REPORT ABOUT CELLULAR NETWORK COVERAGE

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INTERSTATE COMPARISON REPORT

The United States’ Interstate Highway System, also called the greatest public works project in history, has touched virtually every aspect of American life in the past more than 50 years. The Interstate Highway System today connects states, metropolitan areas, cities, industries and, at the very end, people with over 48,191 miles of roads across the United States. It is the backbone for economy and private live. However, in the same way as the Interstate Highway System transformed business in

the last century, another infrastructure has become equally important nowadays: mobile communication networks are the Interstates of our times. Today, mobile networks also connect states, metropolitan areas, cities and people – mobilizing the society. They add virtual connections to the physical ones, boost economic growth and improve Americans’ lives. A mobile society, travelling through the whole country, demands stable coverage, whether working in Nwe York City,

travelling through Nevada or shopping in Lincoln, Nebraska. Digitization sets about changing our lives and the economy again. Self-driving cars, telehealthcare, just-in-time manufacturing and many more – all those life-transforming services need good communication networks, not the least on the Interstates.

In this article, we shed light on the coverage and performance of cellular networks on the US Interstate Highway System and check which white spots are still to be filled.

THE 4G WHITE SPOT CHALLENGE

Though 5G is on the horizon, 4G/LTE is the technology of today. Carriers have heavily invested in this technology. Both speed and latency have significantly improved compared to previous mobile data technologies. And, effectively, apart from some background services, there is no data application that does not benefit from 4G/LTE. Nowadays, 4G/LTE coverage should be the regular standard one could expect taking into account the rapid uprise of 5G. However, there is still a huge difference in the degree to what the main US carriers cover the Interstates with 4G/LTE technology.

Not all of them provide satisfactory coverage on the Interstates even with legacy 3G, let alone with 4G/LTE technology. We have compared the networks of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon with respect to the effective coverage for data services as observed by the consumer. To do so, we analyzed where smartphone users could use data services on 4G/LTE and alternatively on 3G in the different networks.

Verizon
provides nearly full 4G/LTE coverage on the whole Interstate System (blue: 4G/LTE, light blue: some 4G/LTE, red: no 4G/LTE)

T-Mobile
provides broad 4G/LTE coverage in the East region with only a few weakly covered route sections. However, Midwest and Central America routes suffer a lack of 4G/LTE.

AT&T
is equally strong in providing 4G/LTE on the East Region Interstates. In the center of the country, users have to rely on 3G for data. (blue: 4G/LTE, light blue: some 4G/LTE, red: no 4G/LTE)

Sprint
network covers the Eastern Interstates with 4G/LTE but broadly lacks LTE in the center of the country.

For the Interstates Comparison Report in the US, we have collected data 24/7 over a period of three months – from March to May, 2018 – equaling billions samples of real world consumer experiences from smartphones used on The US Interstates. This way, our analysis geographically covers more than 90% of the Interstate System. To provide operators and customers with detailed insights on Interstate 4G/LTE coverage in the the US – from the East to the West, the North to the South and in between – we have analyzed the collected data regarding the question: Where is coverage for data services available? Where is 4G/LTE coverage available? Where are the white spots?

“VERIZON SHOWS BY FAR THE LARGEST 4G/LTE FOOTPRINT ON THE INTERSTATE SYSTEM”

THE EAST

The majority of the Interstate System runs through the East of the United States. From university cities like Boston to the business metropolis New York, down to the capital Washington – millions of people depend on stable cellular connections while on the road. Luckily, here the 4G/LTE coverage is comprehensive. In most of the East, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile compete head-to-head in terms of Interstate 4G/LTE coverage. Verizon is especially ahead in the northern part of Vermont (I-87, I-89, I-91, I-93, I-95) Sprint provides less 4G/LTE coverage in the South-East regions, especially on the I-20, I-22 and I-59 in Alabama and Mississippi.

“SPRINT PROVIDES ACCESS TO MOBILE DATA ALONG 95% OF THE ROUTES”

THE CENTER

This is where the wheat is separated from the chaff. The long East-West connections, like I-70, I-80 or I-90 make the difference. While driving through the less populated states like Missouri, Kansas, Colorado or Utah, coverage is even more essential to stay connected. Here, only Verizon covers these routes properly with 4G/LTE. AT&T and T-Mobile still show long distances with effectively no LTE on the I-80. However, that does not mean that

there is no AT&T or T-Mobile data coverage on that route, it’s just that we see 3G and not 4G/LTE and the coverage is only fair. Sprint lacks 4G/LTE coverage in the center of the country on the long East-West trajectories I-94, I-90, I80 and I70. However, when crossing the US coast to coast in the far South – through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona – one gets a decent 4G/LTE coverage from all carriers.

“T-MOBILE ALREADY COVERS ABOUT 95% OF THE INTERSTATES WITH DATA SERVICES; 90% EVEN WITH 4G/LETE”

“WITH ABOUT 99 % PROBABILITY, YOU CAN GET ACCESS TO THE MOBILE DATA NETWORKS OF BOTH AT&T AND VERIZON”

THE WEST

In Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California and Nevada, Verizon covers nearly every Interstate mile with 4G/LTE. Whether doing business in Los Angeles or the Silicon Valley, visiting national parks or hot spots like Las Vegas or Seattle, one can rely on Verizon and T-Mobile with only very few weakly covered route sections. With AT&T, consumers

still often have to deal with 3G. Sprint provides reasonable LTE coverage on the coastline I-5. However, the deeper one drives into the country, the smaller the chance to get a 4G/LTE signal.