Which Mobile Carrier Has the Best Signal?
When choosing a mobile service provider, you want to know which one has a good strong signal and a fast 4G data connection, in the places where you need to use your cell phone. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all make various claims about network coverage, reliability and speed. But is there a way to honestly compare which one is best where you live and work? Read on...
Is OpenSignal The Best Mobile Coverage Map?
London-based OpenSignal claims to publish the only unbiased mobile service coverage maps to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. The company also publishes reports drawn from its millions of real-world mobile monitoring stations -- the smartphones that run the OpenSignal app.
The app reports to OpenSignal the phone’s location, the network to which it’s connected, the actual data speed and latency of the connection. It does not collect data that would identify the user. This crowd-sourcing paradigm has enabled OpenSignal to collect 4.5 billion data points from 15 million copies of its app that have been downloaded since its release in 2010.
Recently, OpenSignal published a report claiming that T-mobile has tied Verizon for “fastest 4G LTE network.” The same report put Verizon in the basement with Sprint when it comes to 3G speeds, and T-mobile far above both. Needless to say, Verizon was not pleased; Big Red hit back at OpenSignal with a statement issued on Twitter.
In its critique, Verizon says that crowd-sourced data is biased by users’ self-selection to run the OpenSignal app. Most users are in urban areas, so OpenSignal’s data is skewed in that direction and under-reports data from rural areas. OpenSignal’s comparison doesn’t reflect Verizon’s broad and deep network covering 2.4 million square miles. Also, says Verizon, the app does not count measurements in which the host phone was unable to get a signal due to so-called “dead zones” that can happen anywhere.
Verizon’s criticisms are valid from a scientific perspective; OpenSignal’s sample is not randomly selected, as the sample for an ideal experiment should be. Its methodology ignores connections that cannot be made, an important criterion no matter where one lives. But that doesn’t make OpenSignal’s coverage maps useless.
If you live in an urban area, as 80% of the U. S. population does, OpenSignal maps provide a good prediction of what a given carrier’s coverage and signal quality may be. If you don’t drive into the boondocks very often, you won’t miss rural coverage. Dead zones may not be measured, but the absence of data points in a given area certainly implies the existence of a dead zone.
I recently moved to a rural area, and was pleasantly surprised to see that OpenSignal's coverage map was quite comprehensive. I was able to confirm that Verizon has a good strong signal, AT&T is a close second, and T-Mobile would not be a good choice here.
Verdict: A Useful Tool
Overall, OpenSignal is a useful tool for the vast majority of users, and it is free of the perceived bias that attaches to professional tests paid for by the company that stands to benefit from the test results. So, which would you trust: OpenSignal’s coverage maps and comparisons, or the professional baseline reports that Verizon recommends?
But wait, there’s more! The average smartphone includes 15 different types of sensors these days, enabling measurements of everything from battery charge to ambient weather factors to the presence of Bluetooth and WiFi connections. OpenSignal offers several crowdsourced apps that can be your personal weather station, help you find a free WiFi connection, and more.
The OpenSignal mobile app will help you improve your mobile signal, and recommend the best mobile operator in any area. The signal pointer will tell you which direction to go in order to find a stronger signal. By installing it, you'll be part of a collaborative effort helping others get a better signal too.
WifiMapper helps you conserve your mobile data when you're away from home by finding free hotspots all over the world. Tap into the world's largest Wi-Fi database, with over 2,000,000 recommended free hotspots.
WeatherSignal is another crowdsourced app, which uses the temperature, pressure, humidity and other sensors in your smartphone to create a comprehensive live map of weather conditions.
Which carrier has the best signal in your neighborhood? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Mar 2017
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