The Myth of Nationwide Coverage
Roland is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
We’ve all seen the ads on TV. Every carrier in the business claiming to provide “nationwide coverage” or “national coverage,” yet we’ve all dropped calls crossing the street and tried to dial when on vacation only to find we had no service, not even roaming.
Just how blatant is this false advertising? This is an interesting set of maps. Not certain about the dates, but it does show what Cingular was claiming as “nationwide coverage” before AT&T (NYSE: ATT) ate them.
Here is a particularly good link.
It provides direct links to coverage maps by ALL carriers. It is absolutely hilarious when you click on the link for T-Mobile (NYSE: DT) and see what they consider nationwide coverage. Yes, the girl that is pretty in pink is selling more air than cheese with this Swiss Cheese map.
Sprint (NYSE: S) is a bit better at hiding things when you click on their map link. A careful eye will note that their coverage looks a lot better than what it is due to the size and scale of the map. To have a rip-roaring laugh, click on the Nextel button found on Sprint’s coverage map and see just how small your nation must be.
An incredibly cool place to visit is:
Which will show you the actual locations of cell towers for each carrier. You can then judge by the distance just how horrible a time your handset, with what is now probably down to a quarter watt transmitter, is going to have reaching one of those towers. Thank you FCC for doing us THAT favor!
But back to the main topic of this post, just how many cell towers does a company have to own before they can claim “nationwide coverage” and have it not be criminal fraud? Has that number changed since we went all-digital?
Remember when we only had analog cell phones? No matter what carrier you chose, you got the exact same features: phone calls, voice mail, and caller id. Dropped calls were almost unheard of. The Panasonic “boat phone” I had used a regular car phone hand set (remember those?) and a VCR/Camcorder battery that was something like 8”x2” and weighed over a pound by itself. While you might get a really low quality call due to static, you could be 60 miles from a tower and still make a call with that 3 watt transmitter. I drove from IL to Denver taking a different route each direction and never saw “no service” on the display. Even when going up into the mountains on horseback I could still reach the world. To do that today I need a SAT phone and a clear view of the southern sky.