Which Cell Phone Carrier is Right For You?

Of the things that are important to a truck driver, the cell phone has spent the last few years creeping up the list. Cell phones have evolved from luxury items that were used sparingly or in emergencies only into a lifeline for those on the go. As a driver, you're probably wondering what cell phone carrier is right for you. There are a number of factors to take into consideration, such as what type of phone you plan to use and where you travel.

For the purpose of this article, we'll be discussing the three largest U.S. carriers: Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Although T-Mobile is a very reliable national carrier, their coverage isn't strong enough to recommend to anyone with a job that keeps them on the road as much as trucking does. Smaller regional carriers, such as Net10, also offer low prices but lack the necessary coverage.

In terms of voice and text coverage, the competition between Verizon, AT&T and Sprint is very close. Both AT&T and Verizon cover more than 90% of the country and have detailed maps available on their websites. Sprint, too, features excellent voice and text coverage. There is a small series of uncovered patches near the West Coast. Other than that, the company offers native coverage throughout most of the country, with off-network roaming included at no additional charge in their Simply Everything plan.

If you're considering a smartphone, then data coverage and speed is the next logical thing to look at. While carriers are currently touting their 4G networks, none has a strong enough coverage at the national level for anyone in the trucking industry to make it a factor in their decision. Instead, the focus should be on how much 3G coverage is offered.

In this department, Verizon easily takes the crown. Their 3G network is nearly as vast as their voice coverage. AT&T, which lagged behind severely for several years, has made strides in this department. The company's 3G network also tends to offer faster data speeds than Verizon. Still, Verizon gets the nod for having broader coverage. If you're driving all over the country, they're the safest bet for data coverage. If you're only driving in a certain region, then you'll likely want to consult one of the coverage maps available on either carriers website. Sprint's data coverage is spotty in a number of areas and typically slower, so choosing Sprint isn't advised if you're driving around the nation and plan on using a smartphone. Again, using the carrier in smaller regions might be practical, but check their data coverage map first.

Devices are important to consider, but one of the truths of the mobile industry is that the major carriers have a very similar palette of devices. All three offer the iPhone 4 and 4S, and all of them offer Samsung's popular Galaxy series of phones. They also all offer feature phones. The bottom line is that devices shouldn't factor too deeply in your decision.

The next thing to think about is price. Both AT&T and Verizon offer a plan that includes unlimited talk and text. This will be more expensive if you add a data plan to either carrier. By contrast, Sprint offers plan it calls Simply Everything. This is a plan that offers unlimited talk, text and data. If you feel comfortable with Sprint's data coverage in the region you'll be driving, it may be a cheaper option.

Most drivers who work throughout the nation, though, will want something a little more reliable. As such, you'll find that AT&T or Verizon is the best fit. Although Verizon is slightly more expensive than AT&T, the coverage does have that added level of reliability. You can't go wrong choosing Verizon, but you're still encouraged to check coverage maps and individual plans before signing up with any particular carrier.

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