Posted on October 29, 2018
The big four providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — are constantly competing for your business by offering discounted plans. When shopping for a new phone, you might wonder what provider works best in your city when it comes to having a steady signal. The trick to knowing whether you should go with one of those plans — or perhaps try a discount carrier, like Metro PCS or Cricket Wireless — is knowing exactly what you want in a phone service, Consumer Reports Smartphone Editor Bree Fowler said.
When a phone breaks
Contract changes, pricier smartphones lead consumers to keep their devices longer
Americans are holding on to their smartphones for longer than ever.
Pricier devices, fewer subsidies from carriers and the demise of the two-year cellphone contract have led consumers to wait an average of 2.83 years to upgrade their smartphones, according to data for the third quarter from HYLA Mobile Inc., a mobile-device trade-in company that works with carriers and big-box stores. That is up from 2.39 years two years earlier. Read more
Unlimited data plans have been on the rise over the past few years, in part because Americans’ ever growing use of cellular data, but also because wireless carriers have been in a constant battle to lure away their rivals’ customers, and one of the most effective ways to do that has been to offer deals on unlimited plans.
The other problem for these carriers is that, having aggressively competed to offer attractive unlimited data plans, they now have to provide networks that can handle the load — an expensive proposition. Not only do customers who have no reason to moderate their data use cause more congestion on their networks, but once a person signs up for an unlimited plan, they’re in the top tier of their carrier’s pricing plan — which limits the company’s ability to sell them on a pricier plan later. Read more
AT&T’s initial 5G service will reportedly leverage its expansive fiber optic network, sitting alongside the company’s existing LTE network, which itself is currently undergoing a reorganization and massive update to “5G Evolution,” Donovan said, adding that the upgrades to LTE will be in place in 400 markets by the end of this year with a nationwide roll out expected by mid-2019.
Donovan added that pending LTE network upgrades will support peak speeds of up to 400 Mbps, in part thanks to new LTE LAA technology, which will be coming to “parts” of “two dozen cities” by the end of 2018.
Cricket’s speed cap is easily the single most glaring problem with its service when compared to its prepaid rivals, like MetroPCS (recently renamed Metro by T-Mobile) and Boost. Average download speeds are always on the rise, and with many networks hovering around 30 Mbps in many of the cities we tested, 8 Mbps feels very, very antiquated.
The situation is even more dire when you compare Cricket’s LTE network (which operates on AT&T’s towers) to the 3G infrastructure of old. Back then, 4 Mbps throughput was the norm. Today, many carriers are discontinuing their 3G networks — Verizon made one such announcement in September — and yet Cricket continues to enforce a measly 3 Mbps cap on its cheaper $55 Unlimited plan. >>