After decades of growth, consolidation and advancement, todays wireless carriers are bigger and stronger than ever. Even so, some will give you much better experience. Finding the best one for you is the challenge. So, the only question you should be concerned with is which is best for you. Let’s take a look at the state of the industry today, at each wireless carrier and the best way to choose the best one for you.
The big four wireless carriers, by customer count are Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile and Sprint. Verizon and AT&T are too close to matter. They are the carriers with the largest 4G footprint. The most innovative carrier is AT&T, being the first on many important trends like smartphones, iPhone and wireless TV.
AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint
The wireless world is splitting into two parts. In one part, AT&T and Verizon are in many different areas including wireless, wireless data, wire line, high speed Internet, pay TV and much more. In the other part, T-Mobile and Sprint are on the wireless only side of the fence. Although T-Mobile is talking about getting into the pay TV business later this year.
T-Mobile is a distant third, but they are also the most rapidly growing competitor. Five years ago, T-Mobile was crashing and burning, but bringing in a new CEO has really helped them recover. They are now number three and have passed Sprint.
Sprint has dropped to number four. Like with T-Mobile, their quality and reliability has improved over time, so their drop doesn’t seem to make sense. However, but they still have a problem attracting customers. Perhaps they need to ratchet up their marketing like T-Mobile has done.
Each of these are master brand competitors. They each also own different and smaller brands. Marketing in the post-paid and pre-paid world of wireless can be very different, but the quality of the call and data connection is the same today, for the most part.
Many times, lesser known brands of the larger master brands are often less expensive and use the same network. However, they often have restrictions like the amount of data usage before the high-speed connection drops to a slower speed.
Google Project Fi, Pixel and Android
There are also a growing number of smaller services like Google Project Fi. This is the company behind the successful Android OS. Google has not been as successful in the handset sector or the services sector. Not yet anyway. Although Google is now in all three parts of the wireless business, which is something.
There are also other long-time players in the pre-paid space like Tracfone, StraightTalk and others. This sector is inexpensive. Their service offerings are good for people with little wireless usage needs.
There is also another sector that we must start to pay attention to. The cable television world is entering wireless. It is starting first with Comcast. Next will be Charter later this year. We also hear Altice talking about entering wireless.
Comcast and Charter re-sell Verizon Wireless. Altice may re-sell Sprint. I also expect to see other cable TV companies enter the wireless space as well.
Comcast Xfinity Mobile, Charter Spectrum, Altice Wireless
Xfinity Mobile is becoming a real growth engine for Comcast, but their strategy is very different from traditional wireless carriers. Xfinity Mobile is not approaching wireless as a competitor to the major players. Instead, they see wireless as one slice of the pie for their customers.
They are using wireless to hang onto their television customers as the pay TV sector continues to transform. So, they won’t advertise and market the same as other wireless carriers. They are not interested in selling wireless to users who are not their TV customers.
Comcast sees wireless as a way to create a sticky-bundle of services. A strategy that has worked for the last decade or two in other sectors. Now that pay TV is being reinvented, traditional cable television competitors need new tools to both hang onto existing customers and to grow. Wireless helps them do just that.
So, the wireless industry continues to grow and to change. In fact, if we pull the camera back and take a longer-term look, the entire communications industry continues to do the same thing. We will see wireless continue to transform and to grow. Some competitors will use it as part of a larger bucket of services. Others will focus on wireless only. Still others will use wireless as a tool to help them stabilize and grow as their industry changes.
C Spire Wireless, US Cellular, Tracfone, StraightTalk
So, within this world, how do you choose the best wireless service for you? The answer is much simpler. Consider the wireless networks. There are only four, large, national, wireless networks to choose from. Let me clarify, there are other, smaller carriers like C-Spire Wireless and US Cellular, but they are not national. They resell other carrier networks in a large part of the market.
That means most customers can really narrow the choice down to four, AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint. So, your job is to determine which of these four gives you the best quality, reliability, speed and reach. And you are the only person who can answer that question for you.
Advertising is great for helping the competitors stand out. However, advertising does not tell you which is best for you. It depends where you are when you use your device. Where is your home? Your office? Where do you shop and travel to during an average day? Where to you vacation to regularly? All sorts of questions that all focus on one thing. Where are you when you use your phone?
The secret to choosing the best wireless carrier for you
The reason this is key is simple. Every carrier is not equal. Some will be stronger at your home. Others may be stronger at your office. Some may have a strong signal outside and weak signal inside. Some will have a strong voice signal, but a weak data signal.
The reason is every wireless carrier does not use the same towers. And every area of the city does not always use the same technology. That means speed, reliability and reach will vary within each carrier, and carrier to carrier.
So, choosing the best one for you is up to you. Don’t count on advertising to answer that question. In my home, one carrier has the strongest signal. In my favorite Starbucks, just up the street, it’s another carrier with the strongest signal. So, you may have to determine the most important places to have the strongest signal.
Sorry, there is no easy way. It’s a challenge to choose the best carrier for you. But it’s important to do just that. Otherwise, your iPhone or Android smartphone will be nothing more than a very expensive paperweight much of the day. So, don’t shortcut yourself. Choose carefully.
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