The PhoneBoy Blog


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Full Disclosure on Coverage

Every once in a while, I check the coverage between T-Mobile and Cingular at my house. Empirically, I know what it is–Cingular is generally better than T-Mobile. For grins I also looked at Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

With Verizon and Sprint, who knows. They don't offer Street-level maps. It looks like I might have coverage, but who knows whether or not I do. Since I don't have a Verizon or Sprint phone, there's no way for me to know if I have sufficient coverage at my house.

Cingular uses adjectives like Best, Good, or Moderate, and provide a guide as to what this means:

  • BEST: In general, the areas shown in dark orange should have the strongest signal strength and be sufficient for most in-building coverage. However, in-building coverage can and will be adversely affected by the thickness/construction type of walls, or your location in the building (i.e., in the basement, in the middle of the building with multiple walls, etc.) This Cingular owned network provides GSM, GPRS, and EDGE service.
  • GOOD: The areas shown in the medium orange should be sufficient for on-street or in-the-open coverage, most in-vehicle coverage and possibly some in-building coverage. This Cingular owned network provides GSM, GPRS, and EDGE service.
  • MODERATE: The areas shown in the light orange should have sufficient signal strength for on-street or in-the-open coverage, but may not have it for in-vehicle coverage or in-building coverage. This Cingular owned network provides GSM, GPRS, and EDGE service.

Cingular also includes their 3G coverage on their street-level maps. You can see it's not built out nearly as much as their voice network, but at least you know exactly where you can use your phone.

T-Mobile used to provide similar adjectives, but now report the signal strength in number of bars of signal that you can expect in any given area–from zero to five. Here is T-Mobile guide as to what it means to have a certain number of bars of signal. :

  • Zero bars: No coverage
  • One bars: You typically should be able to make calls outdoors, but you may not be able to make calls in buildings.
  • Two bars: You should be able to make calls outdoors, but you may not be able to make calls in buildings.
  • Three bars: You should be able to make calls outdoors or in a car, but you may not have coverage in some buildings.
  • Four and five bars: You should be able to make calls outdoors, in a car and in most buildings.

Obviously, the coverage you might experience may be different than what they show on the maps. In my case, the maps show "one bar" and that is a fairly accuate description of what I get.

It should be noted that T-Mobile was the first US carrier to offer street-level maps to the public online. I myself have known about it for 18 months or so. Cingular has had street-level maps available in the store for a while now and has only made the information available online in the past 3 months or so.

I have to wonder what Verizon, Sprint, or any other carrier has to hide by not offering street-level coverage maps online to their customers. You would think Verizon especially would be proud of their "Most Reliable Network" and would be willing to offer tangile proof of that.


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