Carriers’ provided coverage map more accurate?

David Martin, a contributor to, argued that carriers’ provided coverage maps for wireless service are more accurate when comparing with a paid app called Coverage ($1.99 on the App Store). I have never used the Coverage app, but in my personal experience, coverage maps provided by mobile carriers leave a lot to be desired.

In and around our house in the Eastlake neighborhood of Seattle, it is next to impossible to make voice calls without suffering from numerous drop calls and having to repeatedly yell “Hello? Hello?” at the phone. Not too long ago, i was supposed to give a friend a ride to the airport. Apparently, prior to departing my house to pick him up, he called me on my iPhone. Since the AT&T reception in my house is horrendous, i could only make up part of what he told me and i missed the portion of the conversation where he told me the important detail like where to pick him up. I drove across the lake to Bellevue and waited outside his apartment not knowing that he had already moved out of it and was waiting for me at work in South Lake Union, 5 minutes away from my house!

AT&T’s voice coverage map for my area showing it has the “Best” coverage.

AT&T’s 3G coverage map for the same area. Again, the coverage appears to be great.

Looking at the coverage maps for both voice and 3G data provided by AT&T, one would think that i should have excellent coverage. If i can actually make/receive a voice call at home without the call being dropped or yelling “Hello? Hello?” repeatedly, i consider that a success. If my iPhone is not constantly connected to my own WiFi router at home, it is excruciatingly slow and painful to use AT&T 3G service. When i tested AT&T’s data rate using RootMetricsCoverageMap app, i was getting about 10 kbps download and 4 kbps upload. That is a far cry from the average download speed of 812 kbps, a download speed that i can only dream of. In fact, my 3G download speed is even slower than EDGE’s average download speed of 75 – 135 kbps.

Root Metrics’ coverage, on the other hand, provides a more accurate representation of users’ experience as it “uses millions of real-world results from mobile users like you to deliver an accurate, unbiased view of each carrier’s performance.” The CoverageMap app by Root Metrics allows a user to collect and submit coverage data to Root Metrics’ servers for analysis. The app also shows the actual coverage map three ways: Overall, Voice and Data. I am not entirely sure what the Overall score demonstrates but both the Voice and Data scores are quite accurate in indicating the actual coverage (or the lack of) in my area.

AT&T’s voice coverage as shown by Root Metrics’ CoverageMap app.

AT&T’s data coverage as shown by Root Metrics’ CoverageMap app.

Well, why is there such a discrepancy between the actual coverage and the one provided by cellular carrier like AT&T? For once, no one is his or her right mind should expect a cellular carrier to honestly reveal the weak spots in its coverage. Would you have signed a two-year contract with AT&T if you knew it has terrible coverage in your neighborhood? Instead of relying on carriers’ provided inflated coverage map, it is more reliable to use one from an unbiased source like Root Metrics.

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