3G Coverage Compared: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint

by Rob on July 28th, 2008

With the launch of the iPhone 3G on AT&T, everybody is talking about the coverage and speeds of 3G networks and how they compare between carriers.  AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel are all making claim to the 3G throne saying their network is bigger, faster and stronger. How do the arguments stack up?

AT&T 3G Network

First of all, lets start with the AT&T’s 3G network, which has so little pop it couldn’t punch its way out of a wet paper bag. Sure the iPhone 3G is fast, but what good does it do if you don’t have access to the 3G network in your area but still have to pay for the speeds? Wall Street Journal tech expert Walt Mossberg, an admitted iPhone fan, thinks AT&T’s poor 3G Network coverage really drags the product down:

The blue patches below represent areas where AT&T’s 3G service is available:

Don’t let the idea that they are “expanding” to 350 markets by the end of the year fool you. While the current map looks like it reaches maybe 50 markets… you might think they’re adding about 300. But in reality, the map above shows their current reach of about 300 markets and they are only adding 50. So, it won’t be growing all THAT much.

Meanwhile, Mark Siegel, Executive Director of Media Relations for AT&T had this to say: “We have the largest network anywhere.” Right… and the iPhone 3G has great battery life.

Verizon Wireless 3G Network

Compare AT&T’s 3G coverage with that of Verizon Wireless and you might be surprised (click to enlarge):

You’ll notice Verizon’s 3G Coverage area in light blue and it DOMINATES the dark blue AT&T areas. The map was created by Winterspan on the MacRumors forum but was composed using data from each carrier’s website – so its legit information.

Verizon Spokesman Tom Pica put some numbers behind the image, saying the carrier measured its 3G coverage in potential customers covered, and counts 245 million within its 3G service boundaries. Not bad… not bad. Sprint – what do you have to say for yourself?

Sprint Nextel 3G Coverage

Sprint went The Price Is Right on us, doing the equivalent of letting all the other contestants go first and then bidding $1. That’s right, it appears Verizon beats AT&T and Verizon has 245 million within 3G coverage so I’m sure you can guess…

Yup, Sprint said they can reach 246 million. They might as well have said, “Oh yeah, well our 3G network is infinity times infinity!”

Apparently, Sprint Nextel could be including 3G capabilities of Alltel from a roaming agreement the two signed. While it would technically fall into the “allowable” nature of 3G coverage, we all know that Big Red is in the process of purchasing Alltel so even with this half-way cheating advantage, it won’t last for long.


According to our own personal opinion and calculations, Verizon wins the 3G coverage battle. However, consumers should check what carriers have the best coverage in THEIR area – afterall, thats what counts for you, right?

Remember that T-Mobile is rumored to be launching 3G service come October 1st or soon thereafter, but we wouldn’t expect them to approach the capabilities of the above three.

And don’t forget that ALL of these carriers already have their eyes on 4G networks, coming in the form of technologies known as LTE and/or WiMax. So… if you thought things were sticky now… just wait!

[Via RCRNews]


  1. 1. evelyn wrote on April 18, 2009

    thanks for making me happy I have a verizon. works great in my outlying area of KY.

  2. 2. Jim Holder wrote on November 4, 2009

    Dose Verison have 3G coverage in Zip Code 28605 and 28607?

    Does Verison have total phone coverage in Zip 28605 and 28607?

    I am considering a new phone.


  3. 3. jim pirkle wrote on November 14, 2009

    i have at&t coverage, i am approx. 45 miles from b’ham, al.the coverage is not good at all. i purchased the contract in april of ’08. i knew the coverage was not great when i signed on. but the rep. told me they were installing 3G towers as we were speaking and there should be 3g coverage soon. nearly two years later the coverage is still terrible. when my contract expires in april ’10, i will not continue with at&t. verizon looks like my best bet according to their coverage map. any suggestions will be appreciated. thanks, j.pirkle.

  4. 4. Hunter wrote on November 17, 2009

    Can you Update this please? Since this site was published AT&T and verizon have grown in their 3g markets.

  5. 5. jon wrote on January 24, 2010

    Last time I checked Sprint owns 90% of all 3G tech oh right that’s why they are the first with 4G and oh wait was the first company to explore wireless web all together. EVDO is the technical term for the systems everyone came to know as 3G. Sprint just leases the shit to other companies. Why don’t u think sprint still holds a spot in the market when everyone said they would flop, but yet now have the most stable coverage service and voted #1 in customer service ontop of their awesome simply everything price. So ur Iphones can suck a big one specially for the price of operation. Damn buy that H2 SUV u hate so much just because of its ability to do everything but go fast and save money. Its really is an insult u drive. And verizon lol that’s just a highschool collage trend it will pass. Your phones suck ass compare all of them on phonescoop.com and ur service is adequate for the price u should have 3G everywhere since u pay extra for everything u add. Txt data blackberry, do u pay extra for battery usage also? And Tmobile for a company that started as omni point and changed 3 times since leaves security in my personal information a wide open back door. I forget any big hitters that need ridicule?

  6. 6. ge69rh wrote on April 7, 2010

    Did you notice the orange areas on the first map, that is Sprint/Nextels 3g. Notice the author of this story did not include a map when they talked about sprint. Way to slant the story toward Verizon pal.

  7. 7. Secret man wrote on April 11, 2010

    I don’t think AT&T is that bad guys. They’ve been giving me the best coverage possible and call quality when i was with them. I used my phone in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, not just in main cities but all around these three states in different places, and I don’t have any complaints. I know I know, I can’t and I’m not commenting about the performance in the other states. Unfortunately I had to break the contract early due to my financial situations. ( Yes I am talking about the IwantallyourmoneyPHONE )

    About sprint, I had the “Palm Pre” and I have to say the call quality was terrible, and didn’t like it at all. But the 3G was extremely good. I actually want to go to Sprint again just for that. With the announcement of 4G phone’s release soon i am actually willing to sign a contract with them.

    Verizon, this freaking people just charge you for everything, at one point i even thought they were charging me for each words I talk on their phone, and each time I touch my phone or look at it. Damn, I seriously want to see Verizon fail just for that. their 3G coverage is good as they say, but heck its slowest of em all. And in some areas you may even get the feeling that you would have been better with AT&T or Sprint. What good is a 3G if it is going to give you freaking Edge speeds ? screw them. Don’t show me their 3G coverage map when they can’t give the speeds that they claim in all areas. To be honest I want those freaks to label those areas as Edge anyway. lol.

    T-Mobile, has given me the best Voice Quality on a phone, and an ok 3G speed with location sensitive data.

    Again, your experience may vary on where you live. Cellullar Networks are sensitive to area and thus I’ll leave the judgement to you guys. If i was to pick one, I would go to with Sprint ( In NYC ).

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