US STATE CONNECTIVITY – CELLULAR NETWORK COVERAGE IN INDIVIDUAL US STATES

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US STATE CONNECTIVITY

When your mobile phone indicates it has an active signal, it is connect-ed with the most expensive part of your carrier‘s infrastructure – the radio access network with thousands of base stations providing coverage to, ideally, every place you go and want to use your connected devices.

Currently you see a compilation of so-called 2G technologies like CDMA or GSM up to LTE technology that we also call 4G. On top of that, what technology you are actually served with may depend on the kind of service you are using.

While Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have rolled out voice call capability througout their LTE networks long ago, Sprint has announced an upgrade to their 4G network in the near future. Sprint currently handles voice calls with the 1X CDMA part of their network.

The coverage you experience does not only depend on where you are and which carrier you have chosen but also on the type of device you use and whether you are on a phone call or using cellular network data.

The comparison of network coverage consequently requires a detailed consideration of multiple factors. In order to compare the mobile networks, we have to look at two properties that characterize the coverage. First at the availability of a technology, i.e. when a specific technology provides service to an area. Second at the share of users actually connected to this technology within that area.

This P3 report draws a holistic picture of the coverage of cellular networks in the US.

MOBILE DATA SERVICES COVERAGE ‒ THE EAST-WEST DIVIDE

CARRIERS USE 3G AND 4G TECHNOLOGIES TO DELIVER HIGH SPEED DATA SERVICES. 2G NETWORKS ARE EFFECTIVELY NOT CAPABLE OF SUPPORTING DATA CONNECTIONS WITH SUFFICIENT SPEED. VERIZON HAS ALREADY ABANDONED 3G AND PROVIDES ALL DATA SERVICES OVER 4G.

Coverage for Data Services
Who is the leading carrier with respect to coverage for data services when we look at each individual state? Red and Blue indicate states where Verizon or AT&T lead the benchmark, respectively. Grey indicates states where at least two networks are on par; providing about the same degree of data coverage (within a relative margin of 2.5%). The numbers indicate the degree of coverage (rounded), relative to P3 requirements. 100% means both 100% availability and 100% connection is achieved within the area.

Looking at the coverage for data services, a clear East-West divide becomes apparent. In many of the eastern states, Verizon and AT&T compete head-to-head, though Verizon has a slight advantage. The Western part of the country is clearly dominated by Verizon. In the East the degree of coverage is significantly higher compared to the West. In most Western states, there is at least one carrier that provides data coverage nearly everywhere consumers roam in these states. Averaged over the whole US test area, there is no clear winner of the data coverage benchmark. However, when looking at each state separately it shows that Verizon wins the benchmark in more individual states.

AT&T is the strongest in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, West Virginia and Nevada. Verizon outperforms AT&T especially in Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona and Vermont. In the remaining states, Verizon provides slightly better data coverage or is at least on par with AT&T. Sprint and T-Mobile can just watch the two giants competing for data coverage – except for the District of Columbia where all four carriers provide about the same full data coverage.

“Verizon wins the state contest”

LTE COVERAGE

LTE Coverage
Who is the leading carrier with respect to LTE coverage when we look at each individual state? Red and Blue indicate states where Verizon or AT&T lead the benchmark, respectively. Grey indicates states where at least two networks are on par providing about the same degree of LTE coverage (within a margin of 2.5%) The numbers indicate the degree of coverage (rounded), relative to P3 requirements. 100% means both 100% availability and 100% connection is achieved within the area

“Verizon clearly has the largest LTE footprint”

The percentage of LTE covered test area is shown in the upper part. Below, the area-weighted percentage of users actually connected to LTE is shown. Despite the large LTE footprint, AT&T customers are much less likely to experience fast LTE speeds than Verizon customers. T-Mobile users are more likely to experience fast LTE speeds than AT&T users.

LTE is the fastest and most widespread option for the provisioning of mobile data services until 5G becomes available. The LTE map shows a clear dominance by Verizon. West Virginia is the only state where AT&T has a larger LTE footprint than Verizon. In several states, AT&T and Verizon are on par: Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

In the rest of the United States, it is clear that Verizon has the lead in LTE coverage. AT&T consumers are much less likely to experience fast LTE speeds than Verizon customers. T-Mobile users are more likely to experience LTE than AT&T users despite of the fact that AT&T has a significantly larger LTE footprint than T-Mobile. AT&T still makes significant use of its 3G layer.

TO COMPARE EACH CARRIER‘S COVERAGE, WE LOOK AT THE COMBINED 3G AND 4G FOOTPRINT. WE EVALUATE BOTH THE PURE NETWORK AVAILABILITY AND THE SHARE OF OUR USERS CONNECTED TO A TECHNOLOGY IN A DEFINED AREA. BOTH PARAMETERS ARE COMBINED INTO ONE SINGLE VALUE.

CELLULAR VOICE COVERAGE

Coverage for Voice Services
The graphics shows the best network with respect to fulfilling/meeting the P3 coverage requirements for voice services. The numbers indicate the degree of fulfillment of the coverage targets. Grey indicates that at least two carriers are on par providing about the same coverage for voice services with respect to the P3 coverage requirements. The analysis was completed estimating Sprint’s coverage of VoLTE.

“Verizon has the strongest voice coverage in nearly all states”

T-Mobile and AT&T use a combination of 3G and 4G technologies to deliver voice services. Sprint announced it was launching Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) in late 2018 but currently carries the voice traffic on its 1X CDMA network. Verizon has converted into an LTE-only network and provides all voice and data services over the same network. It is worth mentioning that the four big US carriers also have adopted WiFi calling which is especially useful when connected to WiFi in areas with weak carrier coverage.

However, this technology currently does not support mobility and is not taken into account in our analysis. Looking at the coverage for voice services, there are similarities to the data coverage. A clear East-West divide indicates that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the middle of the Unites States. At the same time, Verizon dominates the voice coverage benchmark by far.

As Sprint announced the launch of VoLTE in the near future, we also looked at the potential of that technology for Sprint. Sprint‘s LTE coverage already shows the potential to catch up with the competition in many states like Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey and Wisconsin. In West Virginia, Sprint could win the voice coverage contest if it had VoLTE  enabled today.

SUMMARY

OUR COVERAGE BENCHMARK COMPARING THE FOUR LARGEST CARRIERS SHOWS THAT VERIZON DOMINATES IN ALL DISCIPLINES IN MOST STATES. IN A FEW STATES WE SEE A COMPETITION BETWEEN VERIZON AND AT&T. SPRINT AND T-MOBILE CAN JUST WATCH THE TWO GIANTS COMPETING FOR COVERAGE.

Verizon and AT&T compete for data service coverage head-to-head in many of the Eastern states while the Western part of the country is dominated by Verizon. Overall, Verizon wins the benchmark in more individual states. Moreover, Verizon’s lead in data coverage goes along with an outstanding LTE footprint. Consequently, Verizon customers are much more likely to have a better LTE experience than customers of any other network.

Similar to data service coverage, there is a clear East-West divide with regards to voice coverage. While there is decent availability of mobile voice services in the East, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the middle and western parts of the United States. Verizon also has the strongest voice coverage in nearly all of the United States.

“Consumers are more likely to get LTE on T-Mobile than on AT&T”

Best rated network with respect to fulfillment of P3 coverage requirements for data, LTE and voice. Results are shown as weighted average (50 % data, 30 % LTE, 20 % voice) per U.S. state.