AT&T and Verizon are locked in battle over who has the most 3G coverage. In the Verizon ads they state that they’ve got the most 3G coverage and show maps to “prove” they have the most coverage.  AT&T filed suit claiming that the ads misrepresent AT&T service offerings since they have a massive “2G” network. They lost the suit and are firing back with their own ads.Customers are surely going to get caught up in the hype, and you can avoid becoming collateral damage in “Cell Wars” by considering these steps:

  • Determine what companies have coverage in your area. Most providers have coverage maps on their websites. First look at the “street level” maps for areas you are in on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Next, take a look at the maps in places where you travel to infrequently, such as vacation destinations.
  • Check with friends, co-workers, and neighbors to see what services they use and how satisfied they are.  This will give you a good indication as to whether a provider is worth testing.
  • Determine the number of minutes and create a list of features you need. For example, if internet and e-mail connectivity are important to you, put them on the list.  You may also want to look at past telephone bills to ensure that the companies have a plan with enough minutes to meet your needs without overpaying.
  • Using the feature list that you created in the previous step, select one or two carriers to test. This is an important step and should not be missed….after all, you’re likely going to be locked in for a one, two, or three year contract with termination fees.   Most carriers have a satisfaction guarantee in which you can cancel the service within a set amount of time and only pay for the minutes or data you used. Select a phone that best meets the features you defined above, then test all of the items on your feature list as often as you can during the test period.  This will give you a good indication as to how well they work in the places that are important to you.
  • After your testing is complete you need to cancel the other service(s) and port your number to your selected carrier.

By following these steps you can avoid what happened to me. I moved from one carrier to another, lured by a brand new phone for free. The data service works well, however voice call quality is sub-par and I experience dropped calls. In my home office and in downtown Chicago buildings the device is virtually unusable unless I press up against the window or find the “sweet spot.” If I had done my due diligence, I would be a much happier customer and not a victim of Cell Wars.