Apartment Living BlogApartment Living › Is Your Apartment in One of the Best or Worst Cell Coverage Cities?

Cell service is an important consideration when moving to a new city. We knew this back in 2014, when we first looked at how cell coverage in the U.S. affects apartment life.

But in the past three years, so much has changed because of technology and infrastructure development. The updated data continues to show that not all locations are equal when it comes to data speeds and signal range.

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Cell Signal Coverage in the U.S.

When you’re hunting for a new home, we think it’s a good idea to test the cell service while you’re touring that two-bedroom apartment. About 81% of the country has 4G coverage, and you don’t want to get caught being part of the other 19%.

Here’s what we know about cell coverage in the U.S.: The maximum range of a cell phone tower is 21.7 miles, and there are a total of 215,000 cell phone towers in the country. On average, that’s about 1,500 people per cell tower. In the past three years, about 25,000 towers have been added to the network.

Despite the aggregate shift towards increased 4G coverage, some cities have a spotier signal. This interactive map from Open Signal can help you figure out how your city stacks up against the nation.

 

Reception Woes or Joys?

After analyzing the country’s cell service, these five cities were determined to have the best signal strength. Note that the strongest signal is ranked at -60, putting Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the top of the list.

Cities With the Best Cell Signal Strength                                

  1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: -73.4
  2. Alexandria, Virginia: -75.2
  3. Killeen, Texas: -76
  4. Washington, D.C.: -76.6
  5. Costa Mesa, California: -76.6

 

But signal strength is only part of the puzzle. Effective cell service also includes fast data speeds. To measure this, analysts looked at a combination of download, upload and latency measurements to determine that Thornton, Colorado, has some of the best speeds in the country, including a 24.3-megabit-per-second upload rate.

 

Cities With the Best Cellular Data Speeds

  1. Thornton, Colorado
  2. Round Rock, Texas
  3. Fort Wayne, Indiana
  4. South Bend, Indiana
  5. Santa Clara, California

 

On the other side of the spectrum, cities with a poor cell signal are ranked at -100. Many of the cities with the worst cell signal are in California, but the very worst city is Palm Bay, Florida.

 

Cities With the Worst Cell Signal Strength                              

  1. Palm Bay, Florida: -96
  2. Santa Rosa, California: -94.4
  3. Lowell, Massachusetts: -94.4
  4. Murrieta, California: -94.4
  5. Palmdale, California: -94.2

 

And if slow data speeds drive you crazy, it’s best to find a hardwired or Wi-Fi connection in these five cities that have the slowest cellular data speeds in the country. All the cities on this list have download speeds that hover around 0.3 megabits per second.

 

Cities With the Slowest Cellular Data Speeds

  1. Pueblo, Colorado
  2. Rialto, California
  3. Charleston, South Carolina
  4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  5. Oxnard, California

 

Not All Cell Coverage Is Created Equal

Network coverage varies based on service provider. For 4G coverage, the average U.S. rate is 81.3%, and Verizon provides the best coverage of all the providers with 88.2%. Next comes T-Mobile with 86.6%, followed by AT&T with 82.2%. Trailing the pack is Sprint with its 4G coverage in 76.8% of the country.

When it comes to download speed, Verizon continues to lead with an average 4G download speed of 16.9 Mbps. T-Mobile is a close second with 16.7 Mbps, and AT&T follows with 13.9 Mbps. The slowest service provider is Sprint with less than 9 Mbps.

Network latency is a seldom-talked-about aspect of cellular signals that measures the amount of time it takes for a “packet” of data to travel from the source to your phone. It’s what matters when using real-time applications like video chat. In looking at this metric, Verizon again ranked best with a 59.8-millisecond latency on its 4G network. Next came Sprint with 61.3 milliseconds, T-Mobile with 61.6 milliseconds, then AT&T with a 65.6-millisecond latency. All of these were much better than the measurements for network latency on the 3G network, which ranked more than double the latency of 4G.

 

Making Your Cell Coverage Work for You

Hotspots and tethering are ways to connect other gadgets to the Internet via the 3G or 4G cellular network that your mobile phone connects to. Although these technologies can provide a similar result, let’s walk through each one so you can choose the solution that’s right for your needs.

A hotspot is a way to provide a mobile Wi-Fi network for Internet access to several devices. You can either turn your phone into a hotspot or use a separate hotspot device, which will spare your phone battery. Each provider charges a hotspot plan fee. With a hotspot, you can talk on the phone and surf on your laptop at the same time.

When tethering, no extra device is needed. It works best with only one additional device at a time, and any data used while tethering is part of your phone’s monthly rates. While tethering is a simpler setup (with no extra devices or plans needed), tethering can have more frequent signal drops.

In looking at the costs of hotspot plans, we see a growing popularity in pre-paid plans like AT&T’s GoPhone Hotspot or pay-as-you-go plans like Karma, which charges from $40 per month for 5 GB up to $150 per month for 50 GB. Hotspots with Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have plans that cost about $20 to $25 for 2 G of data, plus the hardware cost of a hotspot device, which can range from $50 to $100.

But if you’re choosing to tether, you won’t be buying a seperate data plan. When combining the data you’ll use on your phone with any data used in tethering, you can take advantage of the affordable unlimited data plans so you can stream with freedom.

Current Monthly Rates of Unlimited Cellular Data Plans

  • Boost: $50
  • MetroPCS: $60
  • Sprint: $65
  • T-Mobile: $75
  • Verizon: $85
  • AT&T: $95

 

Before touring that utilities-included apartment you have your eye on, you can check out the cell signal beforehand by plugging the address into sites like Dead Cell Zones to review the service in the area.

 

Sources:
http://www.statisticbrain.com/cell-phone-tower-statistics/
https://opensignal.com
http://www.deadcellzones.com/
https://www.techopedia.com/7/30061/networking/what-is-the-difference-between-a-mobile-hotspot-and-tethering
https://20somethingfinance.com/cheapest-mobile-wifi-hotspot-plans/
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/utilities/best-unlimited-data-plans/
https://www.census.gov
https://www.lifewire.com/save-cell-phone-battery-life-while-using-as-a-wi-fi-hotspot-3974480
https://www.verizonwireless.com/plans/data-only-plan/
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About :

ForRent.com's own Director of Search Strategies -- search marketing, user experience, analytics -- improving the experience and accessibility for all. @TheBeardOfSEO on Twitter | berto on Google+

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