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Carrier Recommendations for Central MN

Discussion in 'Central US Wireless Forum' started by cell-less, Aug 10, 2007.

  1. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    Greetings,

    Believe it or not I've never had a cell phone and I've found researching carriers, plans, phones, etc. can be a bit of a challenge, which is where I'm hoping you folks can help -- I stumbled upon WirelessAdvisor.com during this process.

    I spend most of my time between St. Cloud, MN and the Twin Cities. I guess if I were to map out the overall coverage area I'm looking at, it would be approximately within a triangle having St. Cloud, Des Moines, IA, and Milwaukee, WI at the corners. I do travel into northern MN occasionally also.

    Signal and reception are priorities. In the process of talking with friends, family, and coworkers it seems like AT&T and Verizon are the front-runners. I intend to take full advantage of my 30 day trial period when the time comes but I'm hoping to go with the best carrier the first time. So... who should I go with?

    Thank you for your recommendations.
     
  2. maximus

    maximus Member
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    If Iowa coverage is a factor then I can't recommend ATT or Tmobile. Rural GSM coverage in Iowa is mediocre. Verizon and Alltel have proven reliable for me in the past. Sprint is another option. I've heard they are good up in the cities.
     
  3. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    Thanks for the input maximus. In terms of my projected use it's likely I'll be in IA more than WI, but the vast majority of the time I'd be using the phone in MN, both rural and metro areas. While I'm certainly not a savvy wireless shopper, I simply want a phone that will work where I am, so determining coverage seemed like the place to start.
     
  4. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    Alltel has a solid network in the Midwest so they worth taking a look at. Sprint is another good choice. I like my Sprint plan because there is no additional charge for roaming and Sprint will roam of Alltel, Verizon, US Cellular, and other if native Sprint coverage is not available. Sprint coverage isn't bad in your area either, so you should be happy with them. Verizon is also decent but their plans tend to be expensive and I don't like the UI on their phones.

    I haven't tried any GSM phones in the Midwest so I can not give a knowledgeable evaluation of GSM coverage.
     
  5. DanPFW

    DanPFW Member
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    I would probably have to recommend VZW, as much as I dislike them, but I've never had good luck with GSM around here. Besides, after VZW completes their latest merger, they will have native coverage for the entire state of MN. AT&T probably won't be bad from the cities North, since they just bought the other network, but their Southern MN network is still only PCS, and as someone else stated, their IA isn't too great either. AT&T also has a small band of PCS only arond the entire metro, which might mean less than ideal signal on I-94 between Albertville and Clearwater.

    I would recommend Alltel, but it doesn't sound like you live in their market. Unless you live in this ring around the metro that Alltel owns.
     
  6. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    Ask friends and family members who they use and how satisfied they are with their particular carrier before you sign a contract. If you are choosing between VZW and AT&T, I would recommend Verizon. GSM is nice if you are going to take your phone overseas a lot, but you are more concerned with Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Verizon is stronger in this area at the moment.

    Maybe AT&T has some new sites in the works and by the time your contract is up AT&T will have the best coverage and you can switch.

    As mentioned by Dan, the buyout of Rural Cellular will be add additional CDMA coverage for Verizon. Verizon has better coverage than Sprint in my area, but I can't stand their phones. I would rather have Sprint and be roaming off Verizon all the time because I can get a phone that doesn't have Verizon's miserable user interface. I still have the same coverage area as anyone with Verizon because my phone is on their network 75% of the time.
     
  7. RJB

    RJB Gold Senior Member
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    Go with Verizon Or Sprint also look at the phones between the two and see what you like. Maybe if you know people ask them how service is for them and who they have?? By the way welcome to the forums I hope to see you around alot.
     
  8. Buickman

    Buickman Gearhead/Gadget freak
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    It also depends on where you live. If your mailing address isn't in a carriers native coverage area they won't activate you. I would definitely say to go with a CDMA carrier (VZW, Sprint, Alltel), but if you give us your zip code, we can better recommend a specific carrier for you.
     
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  9. x7bren

    x7bren Junior Member
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    Sprint by far has the most coverage in the US markets and their rural service isn't half bad. I'd suggest them Since Alltel has taken allot of Cell One's towers, I wouldn't trust them with rurual atm...
     
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  10. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    Native carriers are AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and Qwest wireless. I continue to solicit feedback from people in the area, although I've only found a few who have Sprint or Verizon. It seems AT&T is popular and works well in central MN but I've yet to find someone I know with AT&T who gets into southern MN, Iowa, or Wisonsin, and from some of the posts things don't sound too promising away from the Cities.

    I do appreciate the responses; thanks again.
     
  11. strunke

    strunke .:|Always Covered|:.
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    You don't trust Alltel with the rural towers? I think Sprint would be the one not to trust on that....right? or no?

    Anyway I would go with Sprint or Verizon if you are not in a native alltel zip for those areas. Sprint has the force roam feature for low signal areas, where you will want to be on Alltel in the sticks.
     
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  12. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    There is also Cellular One in Most of the areas you are looking at. When AT&T buys Dobson it will give ATT the 850 license for those areas where they currently dont have it.

    Do not confuse Cellularone (Dobson) with the Cell One (western wireless) that Alltel bought out.

    Your best would normally be Alltel or Cell One in the Midwest, there was some recent changes to Alltels market when they bought Midwest Wireless and they had to turn around and sell some of their 850 off to Unicel. I can speak from experience but have read in a few posts that since this happened Alltels coverage got kinda rough in some areas.

    Your best bet is to ask friends and family in the area what they area using and see what works best for you. Do not use any coverage maps that are provided by any of the Cell Phone carriers. These maps are generated by a computer program that creates a graphic display to represent what a tower may do under more than idea conditions. I get complaints now and again from customers that dont have coverage but CS sold them a phone because a coverage map says they should have coverage.
     
  13. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    I was recently in southern MN and north IA with a friend who happens to have a Virgin Mobile prepaid phone -- unable to get a signal in the car and unless standing out in the open or on an elevated spot couldn't complete a call. Would this be a fair representation of what Sprint service may be like in these same areas, as I was told Virgin Mobile operates from their towers? Would a proprietary network phone have better reception?

    Most people I've checked with in southern MN and north IA have Midwest Wireless (now Alltel?), which they're happy with, but is not available where I live.

    Also, I've maintained what I like to think of as a healthy skepticism of provider coverage maps; thanks for the explanation Cellonetech.
     
  14. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    Virgin Mobile is a Sprint MVNO so yes that is a fair representation of Sprint's network, but not roaming coverage. Sprint phones will roam on other CDMA networks while Virgin Mobile does not.. A Sprint phone might have had great signal everywhere you were because it could use nearby Alltel or Verizon towers. A SERO 500 minute plan is nationwide and includes roaming for $30.00 a month. That is hard to beat considering you get Alltel and Verizon cell sites along with native Sprint, but if you think Sprint is going to be crap, look into another carrier first.
     
  15. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    This part may be alittle confusing as the companies names have changes alot but lets see if I can explain with out losing anyone along the way.

    Alltel bought Midwest but Alltel had to sell off some of this area to Unicel. We need some input from some Unicel customers. Verizon is buying out Unicel so between Verizon and the Unicel network this may be an option. Also need some Alltel customers to chime in and see how well the area is covered after the 850 overlap was sold off.

    We also need some GSM input, GSM out that way is alittle slim but Dobson Cellular One and ATT are around and Dobson is soon to be bought by ATT and there may be Tmobile or some other smaller carriers like Chinook.

    I know Verizon has a test drive period so you could try out their network, in my opinion Verizon is usually pretty reliable buy I dont like way that their phones are programmed (also call a UI) but being your first phone you wouldnt hardly notice.

    Good luck.
     
  16. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    I recently visited a Sprint store but did not receive any information about a SERO plan. I'll have to check into what that is....
     
  17. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    I'll welcome input from the folks you mentioned Cellonetech. I don't have a deadline for choosing a carrier so I've got time to gather more feedback. As far as UI, I doubt that will be much of a factor for me initially because you're right, I'm not used to it being a certain way.
     
  18. JasonWells

    JasonWells Junior Member
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    Referring to the areas of Southern MN, Northwest IA and East SD, I have had the best service with Alltel. My T-Mobile service is almost as good, with the exception of some desolate areas of SD. My friends with Sprint have had great results, especially using the 'roam only' feature. When I used VZW, it wasn't bad, but there were dead spots. The T-Mobile coverage has pleasantly surprised me, perhaps with good roaming partners they can almost be equal to the others. Good Luck. Certainly, look for the best deals. If you like N&W at 6 or 7, make certain the carrier offers that. If you want to change your plan without having your contract extended 2yrs every time, consider that (VZW). Best of luck!
     
  19. djjim

    djjim Senior Member
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    Force roam on Sprint is nice Bill, but when you are roaming, your mobile to mobile calls deduct from your anytime minutes, this kind of sucks. This is not the case with Verizon and Alltel.
     
  20. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    Yes and also if you are roaming all the time Sprint might decide that you are no longer a profitable customer. I don't think Sprint isn't so weak that this would become an issue thankfully.
     
  21. Buickman

    Buickman Gearhead/Gadget freak
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    I think there is one very important detail that we haven't pointed out to the OP. When you are in a rural area, for the most part there are only 2 networks there. Southern MN and Iowa are bit of an odd ball area because all the 850 band carriers chose CDMA, but most places there is 1 CDMA network and 1 GSM network. That being said, it wouldn't matter if you got VZW , Sprint, or Alltel, because they will use the same networks in the same areas. Sprint can be a little different because their native towers might line a highway, but get 5 or 10 miles off of that and everyone is all working off of the same tower anyway. If you are in rural southern MN, everyone is using Alltel's system. If you are in the Twin Cities, Sprint and VZW have their own service and I believe Alltel will use VZW. In rural northern MN everyone is using RCC's system. In my experience, CDMA coverage is very good in southern MN. Northern MN is another story. I have been to the Brainerd/Grand Rapids area twice in the last 2 weeks and the coverage can be hit or miss. But it is important to note that an AT&T phone was paper weight in some of the areas where service was very poor but still barely usablefor me with VZW. With the list of carriers you said were available, I assume you are here in the Twin Cities or in St Cloud. Any carrier will work fine in that area, but for the Iowa travels, like I said before, I would stick to Sprint or VZW. There, I have rambled on enough now.
     
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  22. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    Thanks for the breakdown Buickman, I was not aware of this and it's nice to get additional MN input. As I've talked with more people I've begun to take a closer look at Sprint. Some folks have had issues with call clarity, coverage, and customer service but I'm thinking that has to be true with all carriers; some have had Sprint for years and been quite satisfied.

    As I understand things CDMA would seem the way to go - coverage remains my top priority - so I'm still considering Verizon too. Verizon has been in the local area about 2.5 yrs, which I'm told is relatively "new" for a carrier and may be why I have yet to find many people with Verizon...?

    Any additional For or Against experiences - Sprint vs. VZW?

    Thanks.
     
  23. Buickman

    Buickman Gearhead/Gadget freak
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    You must be in the St. Cloud area then, VZW bought out Cell 2000 of St. Cloud (CMS) and took over their network. Both Sprint and VZW are very good in the area, for St. Cloud I might lean a little more tward VZW because I think the old CMS system might be built out a little better than Sprint's, but really I would call it a coin flip. I have VZW for my voice service and Sprint for my laptop data card and both work great wherever I go.
     
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  24. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Verizon sounds like a safe bet to me. Verzion is a good company and their going to buy Unicel so you should be pretty well set. Verizon has good roaming with Alltel so you should be good to go.
     
  25. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    I have to admit that Verizon has better native coverage. The reasons I am reluctant to recommend them are the following:

    Crippled phones/annoying UI - Verizon will disable features on a phone and lock it down with their horrible UI.

    Price - Sprint is usually slightly cheaper for comparable plans. If you get a SERO plan, I haven't heard of a Verizon plan that is even close to that kind of value.

    Verizon has better native coverage than Sprint in many places and your area is no different. Well I bought Sprint because I can roam off Verizon and I am actually paying less than if I had a plan with Verizon.

    Of course take advantage of the trail period regardless of what provide you decide on.
     
  26. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    Bill, where can I find more info. about SERO plans? Can I simply walk into a Sprint store and inquire? I have the impression they don't exactly promote these plans.... Thank you.
     
  27. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    SERO is the Sprint Employee Referral Offer. If you inquire at a Sprint store you may be able to sign up or they make give you a blank look and ask what you are talking about. Even some of the Customer Care folks don't know what SERO plans are. Sprint doesn't advertise SERO plans, it was meant to be a way of getting new customers in the door. Sprint employees can refer friends and family and the people that sign up get a great price on the plan.

    Sprint Employee Referral Offer

    Check your PM. I sent you other information as well.
     
  28. cell-less

    cell-less New Member

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    Thought I'd update -- I've decided to go with VZW but haven't signed up yet because I'm waiting to time the trial period with some upcoming travel, plus my phone usage in general drops now that we're beyond summertime. Thanks to everybody for your input and feedback.

    As I continued to talk with people locally it became clear to me that T-Mobile and AT&T work fine in many places but don't seem to reach as far into rural areas, which supports previous postings. While comparing Verizon to Sprint, people I spoke with favored Verizon approximately 2:1, although I realize this may be skewed due to Sprint's ongoing PR issues.

    What helped seal the deal for me is that I was eventually able to find friends who've had Verizon for 5+ years and traveled extensively throughout much of the area I cover. They've been happy with VZW. Plus, by chance, I ran into a former business associate who now works for Verizon so it's nice to know that if I have any issues I can call him for assistance.

    While I wish VZW offered 7PM nights, or Rollover, or minutes/rates comparable to T-Mobile or SERO plans, they seem like the best bet for having a phone that will work when and where I want or need it, even if that does mean paying more....
     
  29. Buickman

    Buickman Gearhead/Gadget freak
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    Good plan, I did the same thing when I got a Sprint data card for my laptop. Let us know how things go when you get it.
     
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  30. mcnamee02

    mcnamee02 New Member

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    I've read this full thread and I saw that you have narrowed your choice to Sprint or VZW. I just want to let you know a little bit about each company as-of-late.

    Sprint recently lost their CEO due to "bad decision-making" and also has the highest attrition rate (amount of customers they lose vs gain) of about 14% and is rapidly losing stock; they still do not have a new CEO. In my own personal experience, both selling cell phones (I sold T-Mobile) and speaking w/ friends and family, Sprint has the most problems with their customer service.

    Verizon Wireless has the lowest attrition rate at about 7% and has the most satisfied customers. You can check out JD Power and Associates to see how the carriers stack up against each other in different parts of the country.

    I live in St. Cloud, I have VZW, and I'm not going to switch. I used to have T-Mobile, and my friends have each of the other carriers. I strongly recommend VZW.

    Oh, by the way, since VZW just merged with Unicel, VZW is going to have the best coverage in Northern Minnesota by next year.
     

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