FCC: Understanding Wireless Coverage Areas

FCC Article: Understanding Wireless Coverage Areas

Coverage Maps and Other Coverage Research.  Before choosing a wireless service provider or a plan, it is wise to research the various providers to determine the extent of their coverage in the areas that matter most to you. You can research a wireless service providers’ coverage area in a number or ways:
  • Ask neighbors, colleagues, and friends. You can also visit Internet sites (such as www.deadcellzones.com) that list specific dead spots (submitted by individuals). Information on dead spots is organized by wireless service provider and location.
  • Test the wireless service providers’ plan and coverage area on a trial basis, if possible. Some wireless providers offer trial periods, during which you can test a phone before you are committed to a service contract and have to pay a significant fee to terminate that contract. Be aware, however, that if you terminate during a trial period or at any other time, most wireless service providers will not refund any activation or usage fees. During the trial period, you may want to test the phone in the areas where you plan to use it most frequently to determine if the actual coverage suits your needs.
  • Check out the wireless service providers‘ coverage map on its Web site and/or in stores where its products are sold. Often these maps show very general coverage for entire regions. The maps usually carry a disclaimer saying they are provided for informational purposes only and that actual coverage may vary. There may be holes where the service provider does not have cell sites or where the topography causes dead zones. With few exceptions, the maps do not indicate signal strength or dead zones. Additionally, these coverage maps are not intended to show whether coverage is provided in obstructed areas, like buildings, tunnels, and underground garages. While wireless service providers often deploy in-building wireless solutions for these areas, any lack of coverage is usually not disclosed.
There is no guarantee that your phone will work in an area, even if it is included on a wireless service providers’ published coverage map. Just because a wireless service provider generally advertises service to an area, there may be several reasons why the service is not reliably available in all locations. Although wireless service providers attempt to design their networks to eliminate dropped calls, busy signals, and dead zones, no network is perfect, so coverage breaks within the general coverage areas are still possible. Specific and/or updated information may not be available on maps provided by the wireless service provider, because coverage is frequently changing.

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