Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Coverage Leader: TracFone!

In our latest project, one of our contributors switched to Prepaid, so he built up a web site dedicated to finding the best Pay-As-You-Go plans, CellularByTheMinute.com. The surprise he came up with is which company has the most extensive coverage for Pay-As-You-Go plans. TracFone, it turns out, has the most coverage without additional roaming charges. Verizon Wireless, even with the recent addition of Alltel properties, does not have as great Prepaid coverage.

The difficulty with TracFone's coverage is that it is handset-dependent. To get their best coverage you need to purchase one of their CDMA handsets, and you can only buy one if you live (or want a phone number in) certain CDMA markets. You need to do your homework, but TracFone does give you a list of phone models on their coverage page. Most of the phones offered by TracFone are GSM, often based on the AT&T network. AT&T is good, but GSM coverage isn't as extensive as CDMA coverage, especially in the rural west. Check before you buy from a retailer's shelf.

Remember, this is all for Prepaid. Verizon Wireless and AT&T both offer thorough coverage with their 'postpaid' plans, but most carriers limit Prepaid coverage to just their own network. That is greatest with Verizon's network, but there are still holes. TracFone serves those holes. We also give credit to T-Mobile's Prepaid for offering included coverage in a larger number of roaming areas than AT&T GoPhone, and Alltel U who offers included coverage in more areas than Verizon's Prepaid.

TracFone...go figure.

8 comments:

ROGERSBIZ said...

NICE BLOG.

Ian said...

You can get CDMA phones in GSM areas, it just erquires massaging the Tracfone store URL and putting up with decidedly crapier phones whose signal strength probably will make up for the additional coverage CDMA is supposed to have.

At any rate, Tracfone's coverage is identical to Verizon or AT&T's postpaid coverage 99% of the time depending on whether you get CDMA or GSM. The other 1% of the time Tracfone chooses a smaller carrier to serve an area, but that doesn't happen much anymore.

My parents use Nokia 2126i's on Tracfone-by-Verizon (you can tell it's Verizon by, among other things, the phone numbers they were assigned by the system). Coverage is great and the phones are great, though I wonder what'll happen when one of the phones breaks (I'm sure it'll happen eventually). 2126i phones are hard to find these days, and they're the best phones Tracfone has ever had on CDMA.

One of my brothers on the other hand has a Motorola w376g, which is of course powered by AT&T. He hasn't had any coverage problems either, thanks to AT&T buying up Dobson CellOne, who had in turn bought up the local CellOne, which had fine coverage here. I like Verizon better than AT&T though...VZ has EvDO here though that doesn't really make any difference for a Tracfone.

Bill Radio said...

Ian,
It definitely looks like TracFone has an incentive to offer AT&T over any others. I couldn't find more than a few Zip Codes where they offer CDMA phones, and good luck finding a CDMA TracFone on retailers' shelves. Shopping online may be the only way to get the network you want.

Rogersbiz,
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hello Tracfone customer my name is Elston and I am a Tracfone Employee and I am her to assist anyone that is having a problem with their phones. you can contact me at 1.800.626.4883 ext 6107 or by email elombillo@tracfone.com.

Greg Treft said...

Love TracFone. Have never had a problem with my phone and adding to it.

Smartest move I ever made was to dump AT7T!

Mr. Mann said...

Though some people bitch about AT&T, they do have the best coverage. And the fact that TracFone mostly uses AT&T is no surprise.

Verizon is said to be the most reliable network, so if Tracfone uses both, it makes sense.

Good post. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I've had ongoing trouble with coverage on my Tracfone, especially in large cities and metropolitan areas. Every time we go to the Twin Cities we get the dreaded "searching for network" message, without success. Thanks for the info on handset dependency. Maybe a different phone will help.

Will Powter said...

I've used my Tracfone all over the country and always get a signal. It's a cheap phone but the coverage is solid gold.

Love my tracefone. Great value!