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Which cell phone company has the BEST roaming?

Discussion in 'GENERAL Wireless Discussion' started by Wireless525, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. Wireless525

    Wireless525 New Member

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    Which cell phone company has the largest roaming network? Verizon? Sprint? Alltell? T-mobile? Us celluar? Who? (Nextel and Cingular don't roam, so I didn't include them).

    Alltel claims they have the largest network due to their roaming agreements, but do they actually have the largest roaming agreements?

    So let me get this straight, tell me if this is how roaming works:

    Let's say you have a Verizon phone. And you go to a spot where a Verizon tower cannot give you a signal. So then you're phone starts to search AKA Roam and look for a Sprint signal. It can't find a sprint signal either, so it then it starts to search for a Cingular signal. If it can't find a cingular signal, then it looks for a t-mobile signal, and goes through all it's roaming partners until it finds a signal (or doesnt if none of the companies at all have a signal there), right, is that how it works?

    If so, shouldn't that mean that you almost ALWAYS have a signal with roaming? I mean if what I stated above is the way that it works, then what are the chances that you're roaming Verizon phone cant find a verizon, cingular, t-mobile, or sprint signal? Chances are one of the companies have a tower/signal in the spot your in, so it should be able to roam and pick that up.

    Does anyone know which company roams the best and has the most roaming agreements between companies. (basically which provider: Verizon, sprint, t-mobile, alltel), which one of these has the best, or rather, most roaming agreements with other parties?

    I want to know, because I perfer to always have a signal, even if it's a roaming signal.

    I have NEXTEL at the moment, and while it works fine and gets great service in the Los angeles area, when I went to rural areas, and when I drove to a different state there where stretches where my phone didn't have any signal for miles and miles, while this T-mobile phone I had with me was roaming, and said "cingular" on the t-mobile phone. I'd rather it roam and pay extra, rather than have my phone say "NO SERVICE".

    To me it seems like Alltel has the best/most roaming? According to Alltel.com it says:

    "At Alltel, we strive to make sure every call stays connected. That’s why you’ll get an automatic one-minute credit for any call dropped on the Alltel network. You don’t even have to call us. That’s how confident we are in the Alltel network. Designed to give you the best call quality possible, it’s a network you can count on"

    That's actually pretty good. Really good rather.

    Also from en.wikipedia

    "Roaming agreements in the US are primarily with Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, but other arrangements are in place with U.S. Cellular, Cingular Wireless (Mostly for AMPS), UNICEL, and other CDMA wireless providers."

    And lastly from en.wikipedia:

    "Alltel advertises itself as "owner and operator of the nation's largest wireless network"; this claim refers to geographical coverage of its network rather than number of Alltel customers or population covered."

    So if they have the largest geographical coverage, that probably means that you have the best chance at having a signal anywhere compared to other companies (due to roaming), i'm assuming?
     
  2. TWX

    TWX Mobile Enthusiast
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    Cingular DOES roam. It can roam on Cellular One, and most other GSM carriers.

    Your example (Verizon) is a CDMA carrier, and it can only roam on CDMA networks. Unless a GSM carrier has AMPS.

    Here is a list of the main CDMA carriers in the U.S:

    Verizon
    Alltel
    Sprint PCS
    US Cellular
    Metro PCS


    Cingular, T-mobile, Cellular One, etc.. are GSM carriers.

    From what I know which ever carrier you have (besides Nextel) has a PRL list (preffered roaming list) For example: I have Alltel, and if my signal is unusable and there is a strong Verizon or Sprint signal, than my phone will use that.

    A PRL list kinda looks like this:
    1.Verizon
    2.Sprint
    3.US Cellular
    etc...

    Alltel's number 1 preffered roamer is verizon, that is why it's number 1 on the list. 2nd Sprint, 3rd US Cellular........and it goes on and on until it runs out of carriers. PRL lists are used with both GSM interface and CDMA.


    I think Alltel has the best roaming agreements out of all of them, but thats me.


    Not all areas of the US are covered. Like Montana, it has some major dead spots in it, where no carrier as service. So no you might not always get service with roaming.

    I hope some of it made sense because i'm not really all that great at explaining. :O
     
  3. Wireless525

    Wireless525 New Member

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    Actually, it did help. Yeah, i forgot that t-mobile and them are GSM, i wasn't really thinking about that.

    Also, yeah, some areas there are spots that NO carrier has signals at, some roaming won't do any good.

    Although I more meant just in General, as if Alltel roams for a Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular signal, that means that it should almost always have a signal. (except in spots where none of those carriers have a signal, which is rare), correct?

    Although Verizon also roams, and since it has probably the largest overall network (for it's own towers), and if it roams over to it's other partners, wouldn't Verizon probably have the best coverage?

    I'm guessing it's between Alltel and Verizon.
     
  4. TWX

    TWX Mobile Enthusiast
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    Yes. It's pretty rare to not have any signal w/roaming.

    I think Alltel and Verizon are tied with the best coverage. Because Alltel has awesome rural coverage, but verizon doesn't (in michigan)

    But on the other hand, Verizon covers most metro area's extremely well and alltel doesn't, but Alltel roams for free on Verizon, and visa-versa.
     
  5. Wireless525

    Wireless525 New Member

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    Cool, one last question.

    If I was going to be living in Denver, CO, would Alltel be a good choice? Since it's a big city? If it roams on Verizon for free, then it should be okay. Although if it cost money to roam onto Verizon, and if I would be roaming onto Verizon all the time and if it cost extra, then I mine as well just get Verizon.

    I went to the Alltel site, but it says there are no stores in Denver, or near it. LOL. Ehh...

    I also tried Los Angeles, CA, and it said there where no stores near that either.

    So does that mean I can't even get it, if there are no stores near my areas?

    Or maybe I could order and set it up online, and have them ship me my phone? If not, I could also get Verizon, or just keep my Nextel.

    Nextel is good, it almost always has a better signal than other peoples phones, although once out of Nextel coverage/Nextel towers reach, it doesn't roam, so then it becomes a problem. Although that only happened once I left CA and traveled through rural areas, so it's not a common thing. Although still, I dunno, I'd rather have a phone that roams, just in case I need that signal.
     
  6. TWX

    TWX Mobile Enthusiast
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    Alltel isn't a national carrier, they don't have any native coverage in los angeles, or like none on the whole west cost. But Verizon is a national carrier, and it DOES have service on the west coast, and in los angeles and Denver.

    By the looks of it I don't think alltel has any native coverage in Denver, Colorado. But Verizon does. Ye , you could have the phone set up online and ship it to you.
     
  7. QLR

    QLR RIP Note!
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    "Best roaming" for a provider is area dependent. But Sprint is claiming the largest voice calling area. Obviously, this includes roamers. Also I think that Sprint and Alltel are more willing 2 roam than Verizon (who locks out roaming in most metros). For GSM, I think that Cingular has the largest footprint, including roamers. In my area, there are places where GSM doesn't exist and if you have CDMA service, you are covered natively or you are roaming on Alltel.
    By the way, Alltel now prefers Sprint over Verizon in roaming, who is now 3rd on the list.
     
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  8. TWX

    TWX Mobile Enthusiast
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    o thanks for the update Quint101, if Verizon is 3rd and Sprint is 1st, than who is 2nd??
     
  9. Wireless525

    Wireless525 New Member

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    Haha, now I'm even more confused, so perhaps Sprint has the largest network? :D

    Or actually, let me put it this way.. Which cell phone provider (Sprint, Verizon, Alltel, T-mobile, Cingular) has the best coverage, overall, INCLUDING roaming?

    Meaning, if you where to go to say 100 random spots, which company is most likely to have coverage/better signal in those 100 random spots? (Due to roaming).

    Ok, actually, since it really depends on the area to answer my question, I'll make the question in a better form:

    Does cingular roam a lot? If so, is that why it has the least dropped call rate? And who does cingular roam with? Does Cingular roam in Large cities? (such as Los angeles, Denver). Or does it only roam in small cities/rural areas?

    Does Sprint roam a lot? If so, who are it's roaming partners? Does sprint roam in large cities when it can't find a signal (such as Los angeles, Denver). Or does it only roam in small cities/rural areas?

    Does t-mobile roam a lot? If so, who are it's roaming partners? Does sprint roam in large cities when it can't find a signal (such as Los angeles, Denver). Or does it only roam in small cities/rural areas?

    Does Verizon roam a lot? If so, who are it's roaming partners? Does sprint roam in large cities when it can't find a signal (such as Los Angeles, Denver). Or does it only roam in small cities/rural areas?


    Thanks to whoever wants to answer all those individual questions.
     
  10. QLR

    QLR RIP Note!
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    Alltel is first, then Sprint, and Verizon is 3rd... Sorry 4 the confusion
     
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  11. TWX

    TWX Mobile Enthusiast
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    Probably Alltel has the overall best coverage. Sprint has a ok size network, but they do some heavy roaming on Alltel and Verizon. Cingular roams occasionally, but it is not in my area so I cannot say for sure. They don't have the least dropped call rate, it's just a marketing thing, T-mobile now says they have the least dropped call thing too. Cingular has roaming agreements with cellular one, t-mobile, most GSM carriers. No cingular does NOT roam in cities, they have their own native coverage in most metro areas. Mostly roams in small rural areas.

    Sprints roaming agreements are with Alltel and Verizon mainly, but they might have some smaller agreements w/ small companies. Sprint doesn't roam is bigger cities. but DOES in some rural small towns.

    Verizon doesn't roam to much, they have a very solid network, and if they do roam, it's mainly with Alltel or US Cellular. They have some rural area's that roam on Alltel...

    T-mobile I think has a pretty strong network, they do some roaming on Cingular, but not in big metro area's. Roam mostly in rural area's.

    i think that answers most of it! :D
     
  12. QLR

    QLR RIP Note!
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    As far as Cingular roaming in large cities, the answer is most likely no. Cingy and Verizon lock out roaming in major cities like LA or miami.
    Sprint doesn't typically lock out roaming on its network, even in metro areas. This is what I have experienced.
     
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    #12 QLR, Oct 29, 2006
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2006
  13. Wireless525

    Wireless525 New Member

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    Thanks for the replies guys. :D

    Now i'm just debating on who I should get... Since it seems like non of the carriers roam in big cities, I'm not sure which to get then.

    I'll either be living in Los Angeles, or Denver.

    I'm thinking either Cingular, t-mobile, or sprint. (lol, yeh, I really narrowed it down huh)

    Nextel is very solid, but it doesn't roam. So those few times I do go through rural areas, I have no signal. Even though it's rare that I travel through rural areas, I still want it. Also, in places like Denver, once you go up to the mountains and such, often times the signal will get weaker or there will be no signal at all. So maybe it won't be as uncommon as I think, and with roaming, at least you got a better chance at getting a signal in a dead spot for your current carrier.

    I don't get why Nextel doesn't roam. Is it because they have a completely different cellular network than everyone else (Iden), and it's just not compatible?

    Also, one last question. I heard that Nextel doesn't use the regular cellular tramission. I heard it uses SMR radio and not regular cellular so it transmits at 800 MHz instead of the more common CDMA and TDMA freqeuncies, and because of that it enables it to have much better penetration in buildings, and such.

    Is that true? I also remebering seeing on the news where they tested all the cell phone companies, and they said Nextel reached the deepest and penetrated the best to get a signal. So I wouldn't be suprised if it was true.

    I also read somewhere that Verizon and Nextel ranked highest in overall call quality. Not sure how or why, I don't remember what the article really said.
     
  14. TWX

    TWX Mobile Enthusiast
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    NEXTEL uses iDen, and this does have pretty good penetration in buildings. 800mhz/850mhz are the same, and most carriers use them in rural area's because they can go farther than 1900 PCS. I'm not to sure on which one to get, they all have their advatages. Sprint has the largest Ev-Do data coverage, Cingular has cool phones:cool: and many other cool features, and T-mobile from what I heard has awesome voice clarity.

    The only thing that I can say about which one to choose is ask someone with the first hand experience with those carriers (I haven't, because up in Northern Michigan their is only Alltel, Nextel, and Cellular One.)

    Hope this helped. :)
     
  15. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
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    I've had very good experience with Cingular in rural areas. They have great native coverage, and outside of metro areas I can roam on other GSM carriers.

    -Jay
     
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  16. walkguru

    walkguru Wireless Guru
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    as said it varies from place to place, i think cingular is number one, but thats just my opinion. bet bet is to try them for yourself, then decide.:browani:
     
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  17. TelcomJunkie

    TelcomJunkie Bad Handoff Investigator
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    If you're going to stay in Los Angeles stick with either Sprint or Verizon. Both of them have the best overall Los Angeles market network. If you spend any amount of time in the residential hills of Los Angeles I'd really say stick with Sprint as they have the biggest build out outside the regular major streets.

    Both Sprint and VzW will roam on each other when needed. and likewise so will Cingular and TMobile. Out here in Los Angeles Cingular and TMobile are still bringing their coverage up to speed as both lacked in different areas prior to the ATT/Cingular merge.

    As for Nextel having better penetration, it's partly due to the 800mhz (Which is only a few clicks down from the Cellular A/B blocks) but it can be more attributed to the higher power output from the sites. The SMR band (And the iDEN network design) allows for higher wattage output from sites.
     
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  18. larry

    larry Sprint loyalist and former mod
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    I can't imagine anyone having both more native and roaming coverage combined than Sprint.
     
  19. nKrypteD1

    nKrypteD1 Software Architect
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    Depends on how you look at it, this is another point I think should be noted, partially because I'm a fan of GSM in this aspect. Global Roaming, if you plan on spending much time out of the US without doubt go with a GSM carrier as CDMA will not roam in Europe and many area's of Asia. If you really want to get finicky, T-Mobile/T-Mobil/Deutsche's T has the biggest roaming/native coverage area of the world.
     
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  20. Jordan2005

    Jordan2005 Member
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    What you also have to remember is that most of the CDMA providers also roam on analog a lot.(e.g. Sprint, Verizon, Alltel) Thats why they claim they have the largest networks. But remember, Analog is is being turned off real soon, next year i think. Which will make the coverage for most CDMA providers drop a lot. Lets take Sprint for example. With analog roaming their network covers over 295 million people. Without analog roaming they only cover around 235 million people (including roaming partners last time i checked) Its roughly the same for Verizon and Alltel. As far as Cingular goes with their GSM coverage i believe it covers around 265-275 million people(maybe even 285). That, as far as i can tell means that Cingular has the larges Network, because Cingular's GSM doesn't use analog to back its coverage up anymore. Their network that they sell is all digital. Plus they have overlaid 850mhz over almost all of their network, which is able to go through buildings better than sprints 1900mhz (if you would like a more detailed explanation in the differences between 850mhz and 1900mhz, pm me). Now T-Mobile has many of the same roaming partners that Cingular does, the only difference is that T-Mobile's network is all 1900mhz. They do have some 850mhz roaming, but its not as extensive as Cingular's is. Plus, when your phone locks onto a analog tower, if you make a call it is so staticy its almost not usable, you have to stand still and not move or you will hear nothing but static. (think of an FM radio when your going out of range). Your best bet would be to go with a GSM provider IMHO. Because when analog is turned off, its really going to hurt the CDMA providers. Your best bet is to look at Cingular's and T-Mobile's maps They have street level coverage that will help you a lot. Here is what sprint looks like without analog coverage(no gray) then Sprint with analog(all gray) and then Cingular with no analog because their GSM customers don't use it. You tell me which one is better??? I'll put T-Mobile's map in the next reply to show you too. If you want a more detailed explanation on all of this and you have specific questions, P.M. me, i am more than happy to help. But from what i can tell, your best bet IS Cingular. When analog is turned off, Most CDMA providers will suffer drastically P.M. ME for more help.
     

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  21. Jordan2005

    Jordan2005 Member
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    Here is the T-Mobile map, Oh! and i forgot to mention, T-Mobile & Cingular have free roaming, and m2m counts in those areas too. Sprint, Verizon, & Alltel don't give you m2m when roaming. Oh, and then i also added Verizon's coverage in California & Nevada w/ analog and then without analog. I also have personal experience in with all of the providers listed above in all ares mentioned. So ask me al the questions you want. And FYI, i didn't just choose Cingular & T-Mobile because of the cool phones, it really is the Network, Trust me! P.M. me, okay
     

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  22. QLR

    QLR RIP Note!
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    VZW does give M2M when off the native network (although it applies to most (like USCC, Alltel, Cingular). Alltel does, if the indicator is off/flashing. Sprint's doesn't apply when off the Sprint network

    Not all companies are going to shut off the analog in 2008... I think that Alltel going to keep theirs on; also some companies are overlaying the analog with CDMA or GSM, so more often than not users may have service if they have the appropriate handset.
     
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  23. noahm

    noahm Junior Member
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    For the U.S I would say a CDMA carrier is the best bet for you, as their coverage is a little more extensive at this point. Don't write off analog so quickly, its still a useable signal and is better than "No Service" like the OP was complaining about. Way out in rural areas you may be more likely to get an analog signal.

    Since Alltel doesn't serve the areas you will be in, you won't be able to get service from them. I think sprint would be your best choice. Slightly better deal than Verizon, and excellent roaming capabilities. Sprint can roam on almost every CDMA carrier I can think of, and even some cingular analong networks and such. With their fair and flexibile plans, the roaming should be free too.
     
  24. Wireless525

    Wireless525 New Member

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    Ok, thanks for the replies everyone, but a few questions now. :D

    Jordan said that Analog is being turned off next year or so, but others say it is staying on... Which is it?

    As for Cingular, and sprint.. If they both roam when out of their network coverage (in a rural area for example), then wouldn't they both be the same? Like, if I had Cingular and was in a rural area, it'd roam and try to find a signal from it's roaming partners, correct? And if I had Sprint and was in a rural area, it'd roam and try to find a signal from it's roaming partners also, correct?

    If so, what would be the difference then? Does sprint have more roaming partners, or because it's CDMA, does that just mean it roams better and farther than Cingular (GSM)?

    I'm still debating between Cingular, Sprint, and T-mobile.

    I'm either going to be in Los angeles or denver, and want a carrier with a good overall network, but also a good roaming network. That way, if I'm out of my coverage area, it'll roam for a signal.

    And since I have Nextel, I may be able to switch over to sprint free of charge. (they where allowing it earlier, not sure if they still do). Although if Cingular or T-mobile is that much better, maybe it's worth the $175 cancellation fee.

    Nextel is good, it's just "NO SERVICE" is really annoying once I get out of Nextel coverage range. My sister has t-mobile, and when out of Los angeles, and actually out of california rather, her t-mobile phone roamed and picked up a Cingular signal when we where at some small gas station in the middle of no-where. (it actually said Cingular on her t-mobile phone), but my phone just said "NO SERVICE".

    So from my experience, T-mobile seemed pretty good, and if we needed to use the phone for whatever reason at that time, only her phone would have worked.

    That's why I want to know which company roams the largest and the most.

    From what I'm getting, sprint roams the most and largest then? Analog isn't getting shut down then?




    And if someone could answer this too please:

    Which roams the most in rural cities: CINGULAR, SPRINT, OR T-MOBILE?

    Which roams the most in big cities/metro areas: CINGULAR, SPRINT, OR T-MOBILE
     
  25. noahm

    noahm Junior Member
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    Analong is being shut down at some carriers own discrection...it's not mandatory. That date isnt until February 18th 2008, when the carriers can shut it down. Some will some wont. So analog will still be a benefit to you until then. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMPS if you need further proof.

    Sprint usually has great coverage where they cover in corporate markets, and Los Angeles and Denver both fall under that category. Sprint is CDMA which means it can only roam on other CDMA carriers or on any old AMPS(analog) systems that it has an agreement with. So sprint will roam on Verizon in almost all markets. Also on Alltel and U.S. cellular if you happen to be in an area served by them. Sprint will not be able to roam on Cingular, T-Mobile or Dobson etc GSM networks as they use an incompatible technology.

    However, this is confusing, as Sprint can roam (IIRC) on Cingular analog because the analog platform was standard across all carriers. You wont ever roam on T-Mob because they are all digital.

    Especially because you have nextel, I think sprint would be the best choice. You've pointed out that they will allow you to switch without penalty. I do not have a favorite carrier and am not trying to simply push sprint onto you. I subscribe to Verizon because it was the best choice for me. Based on the info you have given so far, Sprint seems like the best choice. However there is never one right answer.

    Take advantage of Sprint's 30 day trial period. See where you will get service and decide weather you want to actually sign up. Getting a tri-mode phone (analog and digital) will benefit you the most as with all-digital (dual mode) phones you wont be able to access analog weather it's there or not! :)
    Hope I've been of some help, and feel free to ask any other questions you might have.
     
  26. TelcomJunkie

    TelcomJunkie Bad Handoff Investigator
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    No one knows for sure right now what the carriers will do with analog. Most likely the national ones will start shutting it down, while the regional providers will keep it running. Far as I'm concerned, don't count on analog after the beginning of 2008.

    This is the way roaming works for most carriers. If there is even a hint of their signal the phone won't roam unless it has an option to roam only and you force it to roam. Carriers are trying to keep this feature out of phone as they save money if you stay on their network. Both will roam if they're out of the native coverage area.


    For the most part, Cingular roams on TMobile and vice versa. There are a few regional providers that they also have roaming agreements with but they're few and far between. On the CDMA side, Sprint roams on VzW, Alltel and many small regional providers.


    Sprint has a great network in both Los Angeles and Denver and it's roaming partners are pretty strong. You will be able to switch from Nextel to Sprint with no fee. The downfall of Nextel is once you leave a major metro area or a major highway service is going to disappear, as it has no roaming partners in the US. Nextel was built out on a different plan than the cellular carriers, unless there was a very solid business customer base, a site wasn't built. The cellular carriers on the other hand would build out sites a bit more easily based on, local populations and attractings etc. Just like your sisters phone, Sprint will roam if there is no native signal.

    They're all equal, it just depends on the local network in that city. Find which one shows coverage on the map where you are going to end up. Talk to others with that carrier and see how they like it. Find one with the best plan for you. If you are interested in Sprint, shoot me a PM and I'll send you a link to some good deals.
     
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  27. TelcomJunkie

    TelcomJunkie Bad Handoff Investigator
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    It depends on the market. A few markets that Cingular bought did have AMPS coverage, but most were DAMPS, not the regular AMPS that the CDMA providers use.
     
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  28. nKrypteD1

    nKrypteD1 Software Architect
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    Must say that without analog it does look nasty out there. I wonder how recent those maps are though, there's still gaps in cingular coverage that have been filled in (I know I lived in one of them.) We'll see what happens.
     
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  29. noahm

    noahm Junior Member
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    That is incorrect. The grey on sprint's maps is in two different shades, and the vast majority of grey you are seeing on this map is digital roaming coverage. Analog only fills in a few sparse areas.

    Some of the Orange on cingular's coverage map is roaming, they just don't report it as such. They want you to believe they have a bigger network. You'll notice that many of the "no service" areas on cingulars map, are at least covered with digital roaming on sprints. Wide swaths in fact. I think thats what Wireless 525 said they were looking for.
     
  30. noahm

    noahm Junior Member
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    Sorry to detract the thread, but what is the difference TelecomJunkie? Are they completely incompatible? Just curious :)
     

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