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The Truth About Coverage Maps

A free smartphone, a low-cost plan, unlimited data, or a free caffè latte is meaningless if you don’t have a usable signal where you live, work, play, and travel. At Ride Mobile, we make it easy for you to be covered in more places, with your primary carrier and Ride!
coverage maps

The Truth About Coverage Maps

At Ride Mobile, we think about coverage a lot. After all, our mission is to connect you in more places by connecting you to more carriers via our Global Roaming Data Network. Just add Ride via eSIM on your dual-SIM smartphone, and when you hit a coverage gap or black hole on your primary carrier’s network, Ride detects and connects you to any other cellular network with a usable signal. With your primary carrier and Ride, you will have the best available signal everywhere you go. Outside the U.S., we embraced the same strategy of connecting you to more carriers for extended coverage, not just in the dense urban/suburban areas but beyond, where adventure travelers go to see the countryside and experience more.

Here’s what you should know about coverage maps

  1. Coverage maps are marketing tools, not necessarily accurate representations of the actual coverage you will experience when you need service in a particular place at a given time.

  2. Cellular radio signals can be affected by weather, terrain, foliage, network capacity, construction, and network upgrades. Even dust particles or smoke in the air can weaken cellular signals.

  3. If you are indoors, different building materials – glass, shingles, dry wall, insulation, concrete, metal, masonry, wood – affect reception to a varying degree. This is why so many people step outside when their signal is weak, which helps when the building is no longer between you and the serving tower.

  4. Coverage can be disrupted by events that are outside your mobile provider’s control, including environmental conditions, power or network outages, transmission errors, equipment damage or repairs, system capacity limits, governmental actions, riots, terrorism, or acts of third parties, not to mention increasingly common extreme weather events.

  5. As the number of subscribers and use of data has grown dramatically, the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] has freed up and licensed several new blocks of radio spectrum to meet growing mobile demand. Each block of spectrum has its own unique characteristics as to transmission distance, building penetration, range and coverage, and older handsets may not have compatible radios for these newly released spectrum blocks.

  6. There are still vast expanses of U.S. territory, wilderness, rural and agricultural areas, parks and forests, deserts, backcountry and boondocks which have limited or no cellular service.

All of which is to say that coverage maps are not a reliable predictor of signal strength and reception, especially around the edges of the network. At best, coverage maps are an optimistic rendition of what a carrier’s coverage might look like under optimal conditions, flat terrain, and no other active users in the vicinity.

What does coverage look like in the U.S.? In the map below, the areas in Blue have no carrier and the areas in Green have a single carrier – but not necessarily your carrier or a roaming partner on which you can roam. The coverage map was prepared by the FCC in 2018 as part of its initiative to fund the development of LTE and 5G in rural areas lacking adequate coverage. You may Zoom in on any geographic area to get better detail, although the above coverage considerations apply:

But that one carrier is not the same carrier; sometimes it’s AT&T, sometimes Verizon, sometimes it’s T-Mobile, sometimes another carrier

We created Ride Mobile to enable mobile subscribers with dual-SIM handsets to add multi-carrier data roaming via eSIM on the second SIM slot so that U.S.-based subscribers could keep their primary carrier and gain data access to new areas when they encountered a coverage gap or black hole that was covered by another carrier. Importantly, today’s iPhones automatically revert to your primary carrier when a usable signal again becomes available. When this feature becomes available on Android devices, Ride will offer its service on Android smartphones as well.

Coverage is indeed complicated; at Ride Mobile, we make it easy for you to be covered in more places, with your primary carrier and Ride!