http://pages.uoregon.edu/dalbrich/
The Best Provider in Oregon
Last Update Nov 2014

 

Important Precursor: I list the carriers below in the order I would recommend them to a friend asking for new service. There truly is no "best" carrier for everyone and everyone's needs. It all depends on where you want to use your phone and which services you care about. Even the "Best" carrier in Oregon may have terrible coverage where you need it. Get information from friends and neighbors, and make good use of the 14 day trial period where you can quit without penalty. Note, some carriers may have a longer trial period, but be sure to check before you buy.

What Does Dan Care About? Being able to use your phone in the most situtions. Now'a'days that includes using data.

Outside of Oregon, who do I think is best nationally? 1) Verizon, 2) AT&T, Tied for 3) are Sprint and T-Mobile. All of them can be good depending on your needs.

Data Coverage: I think it would be great if carriers weren't permitted to show any data coverage at all unless it was at least 3G. A modern smartphone simply won't be able do much that is useful using any 2G data technology. I'd love to see faithful data maps, and if they excluded 2G, I think you'd see a more accurate representation of what you can use. By the way, if this happened, both T-Mobile and AT&T would lose big chunks of coverage but it would be worse with T-Mobile. Perhaps would could "shame" these guys into upgrading these rural areas. Big kudos to Verizon, who really have long since eliminated 2G-only coverage even in very rural spots.

Verizon -Overall

Overall: Verizon and their roaming partners provide the best geographic coverage in the State of Oregon. Verizon has a massive native network built from acquistions so the odds you'll roam in Oregon are pretty low. Verizon has the most consistent (not the fastest) data network of the carriers here in Oregon. Generally good customer service. Prices are a notch higher than the competition, but they occassionally run competitve promotional plans. I'd give them an overall grade of "B+" here in Oregon.
Verizon Data

Verizon's LTE footprint is bar-none the largest in the USA. I'd characterize their LTE speed in Oregon as below average, but consistent. Users likely see 1 to 5Mb/s with a few locations having significantly faster connections.Verizon's older 3G data network tends to be reliable and comes in at about .5Mb/s to 1Mb/s on average. Verizon isn't rocking fast and never has been (at least for my uses), but their consistency and availability have been exceptional. Verizon is the most likely to have any signal at all in rural locations, and most-likely to have LTE in rural locations. Perhaps not surprisingly, the rocking fast data I do experience on Verizon tend to be these remote rural locations with fewer users.

Verizon Voice

Verizon currently operates two voice networks. Their traditional CDMA 1X which is still the default (dominant) one for now, and a Voice over LTE or VoLTE voice network too. Their traditional voice network is by far and away the most reliable voice network I've ever used. Some of us have gone years without dropping a call and never hearing all-circuits-busy (or congestion related issues). Of course the future is packet-driven and VoLTE and its successors. VoLTE on Verizon for me gets a grade of C-. Good, bad or indifferent, Verizon chose not to implement circuit-switched fall-back. This means a call started on VoLTE will drop if the signal gets weak, even if it could otherwise be carried by the CDMA 1x network in the same location. So the rock-solid voice reputation will take a hit to a certain extent depending on how reliable LTE is in your area. The good side of VoLTE is that by its nature, one can do voice and data at the same time. Notably, the Verizon iPhone 6 is the first iPhone that can do voice and data simultaneously.

Old Notes RE Verizon that are still true Excellent provider with great coverage. Historically, all the "big city" carriers roamed on smaller rural carriers. Verizon purchased Unicel in Oregon (formerly cellular one northwest) and Ramcell (southwestern oregon). The long and short of it is that after these networks converted, Verizon has bar-none the most native coverage in Oregon. The other large rural roaming partner is US Cellular, which shares Verizon's CDMA technology. Verizon customers can roam on them without additional charge. If you simply want best coverage in Oregon, Verizon has it. Good customer service. Coastal and ski area coverage. Verizon has restored actual coverage maps (Hurray!). Excellent coverage for the UO Campus provided by towers both on the east and west side of campus. Verizon seems to do great network monitoring. They do a better job of anticipating voice demand and building out before it becomes really bad than anyone else. The best rural LTE coverage of any carrier. Simultaneous voice and data now available on phones that support VoLTE. Speeds here in Eugene are below average, but I think Verizon provides the most consistent experience of any of the carriers. It isn't awesome but it's consistently good or usable.
Noteworthy Unique Coverage Verizon has unique coverage in many places along 101 between Florence and Yachats. Verizon is the only provider that can make a call at the Devil's Churn or Cape Perpetua. (Sprint phones roam on Verizon, so they technically can too). Verizon has unique coverage out the Lorane Valley. If you go to King Estates for dinner, the only carrier providing service there is Verizon.

 

AT&T -Overall AT&T is a very good (top notch) carrier in Oregon. They're comparable to Verizon in many ways and often a better value. They don't get to have a tie with the Verizon due to lack of rural high-speed data, and lack of consistency relative to Verizon. I'd give them an overall grade of "B" here in Oregon.
AT&T Data

AT&T's LTE network is significantly smaller than Verizon's. AT&T's 3G network can be very fast so a better measure is AT&T LTE plus their high speed 3G areas compared to Verizon LTE. Even so, I'd hazard a guess that AT&T's high speed coverage by geographic area is much smaller than Verizons. AT&T still has hundreds of miles (albeit in rural locations) of 2G GPRS/EDGE which is too slow to be usable for modern applications. While AT&T's coverage footprint is comparable to Verizon's I don't consider its qualiity to be on-par. AT&T can be very inconsistent for data speeds -- it's either rocking fast or really slow, even in some 3G or better areas. Don't get me wrong, AT&T is still at the top of the heap in competition with geographic coverage that is very good. AT&T's pricing tends to be better than Verizon and I see them as a better overall value for many consumers that don't need paramount coverage and rural data speed. AT&T does have some locations of coverage where Verizon doesn't (the opposite being more true-- Verizon has more areas of unique coverage than AT&T). Overall rating for AT&T is a "B" AT&T's customer service is generally good but again more hit or miss than Verizon in my experience.

AT&T Voice The actual sound quality of AT&Ts voice is generally great. I've always preferred the sound of a good GSM cellular connection to the CDMA sound quality. AT&T's voice lacks consistency. Occassional (but rare) dropped calls, and suffering from congestion during the holidays etc. I think this is fair to mention because Verizon seems to have avoided congestion issues at least for voice, even during the holidays. AT&T is rolling out VoLTE, but at the moment it is confined to certain markets and only a few phones.
AT&T Old notes that are still true AT&T is one of the original "big daddy" 800Mhz carriers in Oregon (Verizon being the other). AT&T has one of the largest geographic coverage areas of any of the carriers reviewed here. AT&T has smaller LTE coverage area, but their 3G network is nearly as fast as LTE in many locations. AT&T has some unique coverage (just less of that than Verizon). AT&T tends to be a better overall value for the cost if you don't need or don't want to pay the premium for Verizon.
Noteworthy Unique Coverage AT&T has unique coverage out highway 58 between Oakridge and Willamette pass. Although Verizon has coverage at Willamette pass proper (and points further East), only AT&T users can place a call at Salt Creek Falls. AT&T also has unique coverage at Silver Creek Falls east of Salem, OR. AT&T has usable data coverage at cove pallisades state park (Lake Billy Chinook). Verizon can roam on US Cellular there, but the slow US Cellular data isn't really usable.

 

Sprint - Overall Sprint is interesting because they present a good value. One can still buy a reasonably priced unlimited data plan. Sprint roams as needed on Verizon and US Cellular so if you only have an occassional need to roam, Sprint has you covered and without additional cost for that roaming. Sprint controls their roaming cost by booting any excessive roamers so one must be mindful of data and voice usage when roaming. If your roaming needs are only occassional it's unlikely to be an issue. I like their iPhone for life plan pricing and their family plans are some of the best from a cost perspective. I'd give them an overall grade of "C+" here in Oregon.
Sprint Data Their older 3G network is mature and works well. I haven't yet been able to test their LTE in my area enough to have a strong opinion, but the word is that Sprint's LTE is a bit inconsistent. Some areas good, some not so good etc.
Sprint Voice Sprint's voice is generally good but not as consistent as Verizon. They roam (including on Verizon) but when they roam they'd drop a call in progress. Sprint doesn't currently offer VoLTE. I fear they will miss out on inter-carrier HD (all digitial inter-carrier calling) and even possibly some roaming opportunities becuase they are implementing a non-VoLTE HD Voice.
Sprint old notes that are still true Sprint's a decent provider in Oregon especially when their price plans are competitive. Sprint roams on both Verizon and US Cellular-- one simply cannot roam too much due to their terms of service. They may be a better value for you if they have good coverage where you work and live.

 

T-Mobile - Overall I have to say I love all of their advertised uncarrier initiatives. This is an inspired company. For city-dwellers, T-Mobile is a great option. Oregon being a pretty rural state makes T-Mobile a less good choice. T-Mobile could make one change that would dramatically improve their usabilty- simply allow T-Mobile users to roam everywhere AT&T has service. Sprint does the equivelent of this by allowing its customers to roam everywhere Verizon and US Cellular have coverage. I'd give them an overall grade of "C" here in Oregon.
T-Mobile Data For in-town data use, I don't think you can beat T-Mobile. They really have rocking fast data in-town. Their LTE network here in Eugene is 20Mb/s in many places that I've tested, and their 3G high speed network is fast too. Their glaring weak spot is rural coverage. They don't even have I5 covered for reasonable data use. They roam on AT&T even on I5 with 2G speeds (read unusable). So if you don't head out of town, T-Mobile is a great option.
T-Mobile Voice

Sound quality on T-Mobile (in-town) is outstanding. Voice quality is generally good where available.

T-Mobile Notes T-Mobile allows its users to use data and text for free internationally (120+ countries) on most of their normal rate plans. International voice rates at 20 cents per minute are by far the best. T-Mobile pioneered buying folks contracts to win customers, their JUMP program so folks could upgrade phones more often, music streaming that doesn't count against data allocation. On and On. These guys are really awesome if they work where you need them to.
Unique Lack of Coverage T-Mobile is the only national carrier that doesn't supply native or roaming covearge out 126 (Eugene, Florence) highway. When T-Mobile roams on AT&T, voice works fine, but data is at best Edge speeds-- which really isn't usable even for vehicle navigation or streaming music. Much of T-Mobile's coverage in Southern Oregon is roaming on AT&T- where they permit it. In many locations a T-Mobile phone will show no service, even when AT&T has service in the same location.

 

 

 

-- Rural Oregon Options -- (Please do send me feedback on these)

US Cellular* - These guys actually have a massive rural coverage area which some traditional cellular carriers roam on.

Snake River PCS* - CDMA/Analog - I have no experience with these folks who serve Eastern Oregon at La Grande, Baker City and Ontario. See their coverage map. That section of Oregon is almost more part of the Idaho basic trading area than Oregon due to its distance from larger western and central Oregon cities.

Note: Ramcell acquired by Verizon. Edge acquired by AT&T.

-- In General --

Ask your friends and neighbors who they use and how they like them.

-- Regarding International Roaming --

T-Mobile is the king of international roaming. See my notes above.

Who do I use?

Primary (my phone) Verizon iPhone 6 with unlimited data plan and hotspot tethering. Wife's phone is a Sprint iPhone on an older unlimited data plan. I carry an AT&T phone for remote locations where only they have service, and for testing. I have an iPad air using the free 200MB data from T-Mobile. Off and on I carry various prepaid cellphones for testing (and lend them to family members or friends when on trips).

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