Switching Carriers @ Launch? 4G LTE info Here


Dec 10, 2009
Clarksburg, WV
I've been dong a bit of research as I will be switching from Sprint to Verizon on Friday. Was having a discussion in a Tel Co technical forum, trying to wrap my cranium around all the conflicting data available on current and future 4G LTE deployment.
A member there posted this very good breakdown:

Here is my take on LTE offered by the carriers:

Verizon: Currently king of LTE. Had a huge head start, and "beachfront" 700MHz spectrum which made for a quick rollout. They did not use the same equipment that Sprint (and others) is using for NV, which will force them to update their cell sites with new hardware much sooner than Sprint. Their current offering of LTE has superior building penetration, but the rollout in many smaller markets is set so far apart, that while they have blanket outdoor coverage, the indoor coverage is comparable to Sprint. Larger cities, where the cell sites are closer, see the benefit of building penetration once Verizon comes back and thickens their cell sites for capacity. They also have no ability to throw more spectrum at LTE with the current crop of devices, the only options are to roll out LTE on cellular band or PCS for the iPhone 5, or roll out on AWS, but they have zero phones that support AWS LTE at this time. Verizon sells something similar to the airave for improving coverage in dead spots.

Positives: Most mature LTE network, covers the most cities, signal propagation, CDMA voice, reliable 3G network, coverage area

Negatives: Aging equipment, rural areas not a priority, spectrum is loading up with no quick solution to remedy, slower 3G than AT&T or T-Mobile, tiered data, customer service

AT&T: LTE rollout is just slightly ahead of Sprint, but won't go nationwide, or to rural areas anytime soon. AT&T has their spectrum wrapped up in a wide variety of different network technologies, making it difficult to refarm. They have "beachfront" 700 MHz spectrum, although it isn't nationwide. GSM carrier, which allows for unlocked world phones to be used. 3G network is generally faster than CDMA carriers, and can give speeds comparable to Sprint's LTE in some areas. GSM voice is known for lower quality than CDMA and harder handoffs which can lead to dropped calls. Also, equipment used for LTE is on par with Sprint's making for a longer period of time before network upgrades and the pains that brings.

Positives: 3G network, coverage area, easier to BYOD, backhaul upgrades at most cell sites, (nearly) all phones have simultaneous voice and data, modern network equipment (at least for LTE upgraded towers)

Negatives: GSM Voice, spectrum tied up in multiple network technologies, LTE future is up in the air, tiered data

T-Mobile: LTE rollout is still in the planning stage, but they have a mature HSPA+ 4G network is many large markets. They have a smaller nationwide footprint, but roam on AT&T. Data is unlimited, for certain plans. WiFi calling is available, eliminating the need for specific technology (airave) to improve coverage in dead spots. The network is notorious for being good in urban areas and dropping to low signal/old network tech once one leaves the urban area. They also have upgraded backhaul at many cell sites for HSPA+ and will be deploying network equipment that is on par with Sprint's. They have zero spectrum in the "beachfront" category, leaving them with less signal propagation and building penetration. They made a deal with Verizon to improve their portfolio of AWS spectrum. They have very low spectrum reserves, and have to aggressively refarm spectrum, purchase more spectrum, or contract use out (Clearwire) to keep up with other carriers and increased demand. As with AT&T, their 3G network is very fast, in fact it was rated the fastest of the big 4 carriers in a study earlier this year. They also use GSM for voice, making BYOD easier, but voice quality is less desirable and dropped calls are increased. Deutche Telekom is finally dropping some cash into upgrading the network, but it could be just to make it more attractive for a buyer.

Positives: 3G network, easier to BYOD, backhaul upgrades at urban sites, simultaneous voice and data, modern network equip, WIFi calling, cost, unlimited data, clear plan for LTE rollout, spokeswoman

Negatives: GSM voice, spectrum constrained, less native coverage, tech drops to 2G in many rural areas, less building penetration, LTE rollout will be last of all the carriers, carrier is perpetually for sale

Sprint: Sprint's legacy network's shortcomings are well documented on nearly every tech website in existence, so I will not go into that. They have a multi-phased plan to completely overhaul every piece of their network. Every cell site will be receiving modern scalable backhaul, new multi-mode antennas, with RRUs directly behind the antenna which will decrease signal loss (giving slightly richer coverage than legacy systems) and new base equipment. Phase 1 of the network vision rollout is to roll out LTE on the PCS band and upgrade all the equipment on the cell site. This should eliminate the current problems with the legacy network, bring 3G up to par with Verizon, and open up 4G LTE on every cell site in a market. LTE should be present everywhere 3G signal is available presently, once the rollout is complete in a market. There are also many cell sites that are receiving 800MHz voice upgrades with wave 1 of network vision. This will give expanded voice coverage and enhanced building penetration. Also, since it is going on almost every cell site, coverage will be very rich, and building penetration might be the best of any carrier. Wave 2, once Nextel is completely shut down, will consist of LTE being rolled out on 800MHz on nearly every cell site. This will give the same increase of range and building penetration that I detailed for 800MHz voice, as well as doubling the amount of spectrum dedicated to LTE (unless some PCS spectrum was already refarmed). In order to avoid spectrum crunches in the future, Sprint has partnered with Clearwire to dictate areas where Clearwire needs to supplement Sprint's LTE with their mass amounts of Spectrum as a sort of "hot-spot" that will take burden off of Sprint's base network without the consumer noticing much of anything different. There are definitely growing pains as Sprint is not able to deploy the new equipment without interfering with coverage some. LTE uses spectrum that is not currently used, as well as 800MHz voice, but PCS voice and 3G EV-DO have to remain on the same spectrum.

Positives: Unlimited data, modern equipment, CDMA voice, rural areas will be upgraded with the market instead of as an afterthought, future network will offer everything any other network will offer, HD voice, aggressive NV rollout

Negatives: Upgrades disturb service of legacy network, slightly slower max LTE speeds than carriers with 10x10 carriers, LEGACY NETWORK, slower 3G network than GSM, no 800MHz or 2600MHz LTE compatible equipment on the market yet, less native coverage but roam on Verizon.

Hope that is as helpful to some of you as I found it....


Aug 2, 2007
As an AT&T subscriber since Cingular was formed (yeah, way back then) I can tell you that the CDMA vs GSM argument isn't very relevant anymore. Dropped calls on AT&T's network are from leaving coverage areas and dead spots- which all networks have. As far as quality between the 2... I think that is subjective at best. I never have any call quality issues unless I have 1 bar, and then things get dicy. Otherwise, I am always heard loud and clear. Saying that CDMA is a plus really doesn't hold any water- especially since its such old tech and will be replaced as soon as possible. (yes, the companies will actually drag their feet on it due to cost, but eventually, it's going to be a race to see who is going to have the most advanced network out there)
Now, what I'm about to say is from articles and research from about 2+ years ago, and is likely no longer true or relevant, but one of the things that AT&T was doing is setting up all existing and new towers with the hardware for LTE.
They have test markets, but they are far and few between with no real LTE coverage to speak of. BUT, when the time comes to bring their LTE network live, it's basically supposed to be the same footprint as their current 3G map (maybe a little bigger with new towers installed), and it will be a "flick of the switch" to go live with nationwide coverage.
That plan might have been side-tracked with the whole "4g war" that was going on for a little while, with AT&T racing to get hspa+ out there to remain "relevant" to consumers. That's why the iPhone 4s has a 4G signal symbol when it hits one of those network areas. It was a marketing thing for the most part, because they had to keep relevant during the smartphone revolution.
All that said, I admit to being biased about AT&T. I have almost never had a problem with them in the past 18-20 years. Prices are a little steep, but still within "normal market prices".
The most important thing to remember is to choose your carrier based on where you will use your phone on a regular basis. It means better coverage, fewer network problems, and higher satisfaction. Customer service and billing is a completely different thing, and if you're a person that talks to CS on a regular basis, then that should be a determining factor for what carrier to go with as well.


Dec 11, 2008
Dallas, TX
This argument is contingent on a user's location or where they travel. In DFW, att 4G is great...on my Note I get speeds of 56Mbps. A friend of mine on Verizon sees 30s and another friend on Sprint saw 12. Ran speedtest at the same time, same location.

I never cared who had more coverage across the US, since I'm not all over the US.


Jul 28, 2010
North Jersey
AT&T's Coverage Map and other info is found here.

When I zoom in on the map, it shows my work in the LTE area, but if I turn off wifi, it doesn't exist. What gives?


Senior Moderator
Dec 12, 2008
AT&T's Coverage Map and other info is found here.

When I zoom in on the map, it shows my work in the LTE area, but if I turn off wifi, it doesn't exist. What gives?
I don't know if it's really accurate when you zoom in to the neighborhood level. The demarcations aren't exact. You might be just outside the threshold.