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Ask Slashdot: Who Has the Best 3G Coverage In California and Nevada? 134

Posted by timothy
from the good-luck-with-finding-rental dept.
New submitter derchris writes "We will be on vacation in the U.S. next month for about 3 weeks. We are going to do a road trip between San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. To not use roaming for data, and get a heart attack once back home looking at the mobile bill, I was looking at so called 'MiFi' devices, portable 3G Wi-Fi hotspots. As far as I know, more or less all of the U.S. carriers have such devices available. But as I'm not from the U.S., I have no idea what would give me the best 3G coverage in the areas we are travelling. Another question would be whether I can buy one of these devices off eBay, and use it with any SIM card. Let's hope there are users available who could give some advice on this topic."
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Ask Slashdot: Who Has the Best 3G Coverage In California and Nevada?

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  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:03PM (#39340411)
    For a question posted on a worldwide forum this is a very geographically specific question. Shall I also ask Slashdot which carrier has the best coverage outside my front door? This isn't even a question that requires the unique expertise of the /. crowd; just go on the 3, maybe 4 carrier websites and check the relevant maps.
    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:12PM (#39340549)

      And if you're not aware what the major US carriers are, they're Verizon and AT&T, followed by T-Mobile and Sprint.

      Verizon has better coverage in most of the country, but as you'll be sticking to big cities and major highways the others should have good coverage as well.

      Also, Verizon and Sprint don't use SIM cards, while AT&T and T-Mobile use different frequency bands for 3G. Make sure you know the device you buy will work with your choice of carrier.

      • Also, Verizon and Sprint don't use SIM cards, while AT&T and T-Mobile use different frequency bands for 3G.

        This.

        There's very little choice in carriers in the US, and if you're planning on using your existing handset, check who uses the same frequencies as your existing phone. While voice should work on any GSM handset on any GSM network (assuming they're still running 2G networks), data won't work at all unless your phone supports the same frequencies.

        You'd be better off buying a burn phone with a prepaid card. In that case, it won't matter.

      • by zoloto (586738)
        t-mobile subscriber here, prepaid plan. never had a problem between St. George, UT; Las Vegas, NV; and LA with the exception of a couple valleys and long stretches of road w/o signal. (No one's going to build in the middle of a desert for tumbleweeds right?) I say between there and all the way up the 101 to portland, OR and Seattle, WA were 95% covered during my trips.
        • Also with T-Mo (albeit in Northern Nevada). The only carrier with consistent coverage outside of the "major" cities is Verizon. However, going between L.A., Vegas, and Phoenix I haven't had a problem with T-Mobile's "4G" coverage. The problems are on Highway 95, thankfully there are several very helpful brothels along the way. A few summers ago I was making the trek and had to stop at one when my car's radiators decided that it no longer needed fluid.
        • Neither Portland nor Seattle are on Hwy 101. T-mobile coverage in Oregon, outside of the I-5 corridor is abysmal. In Oregon, Verizon uber alles.

      • by Hummdis (1337219)

        VZW uses SIM cards for 4G connectivity. Take it out and your phone stays on 3G.

        http://support.verizonwireless.com/information/4gsim.html [verizonwireless.com]

      • by wgoodman (1109297)

        Verizon does indeed have good coverage, but very restrictive data usage policies. For 3g (not 4g) I would suggest Sprint. Anyplace they have coverage (which is decent) you have unlimited data and no throttle. If you are in an area without Sprint coverage, you roam to Verizon, but there is an absurd amount of data roaming covered per month so you get the best of both services. If you go over the roaming data, they still won't charge you, just throttle and then stop roaming until the end of the month. I tried

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:17PM (#39340633) Homepage

      According to those maps (at least the ones from AT&T), there's great coverage inside a particular canyon in Arizona, a particular valley in West Virginia, and a particular marsh in northern Michigan, all of which I've visited and can personally verify there is no usable service. Those maps don't come from the providers' engineers. They come from the marketing department, and should be trusted as much as any other advertisement.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You may be interested in www.sensorly.com. Users run smartphone apps that record location/signal strength data points and report them to sensorly's servers. They then generate coverage maps based on actual data instead of carrier marketing.

        There are flaws. For one, carriers could be reverse engineering the protocol that the app uses to report data to the servers and feeding the servers false data. Also, there's no way to tell whether a particular data point came from a user outdoors, a user indoors or a use

      • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

        Yep. I have AT&T and my iPhone got updated to say I have 4G. "3G" doesn't even exist on the coverage map anymore. The worst part is the service is exactly the same, it was just a name change. AT&T is pissing on everybody and calling it rain.

        • by Aryden (1872756)
          And even with the corporate discount AT&T offers to my company, I would have to pay almost double what I pay to T-mobile for less services.
        • (Disclaimer: I live near Dallas, Texas. AT&T's HQ is located here.) I'm going to go against the "geek grain" here at the risk of mod points (like I have any...) and say that AT&T IS actually good in some places but has some weak points. Verizon, believe it or not, isn't perfect and has weak points and does have bad customer service in some regions of the country (away from "geek havens" like California and New York). If you plan on visiting the southern or southwestern U.S., AT&T will tend to
      • AT&T's coverage maps lie. I took a trip to eastern Oregon a few winters ago, and according to their maps, I'd at least get 2G coverage the entire trip. It was not comforting to be in the middle of a snowstorm getting no service. That's the trip where I learned that cell phone GPS is never going to supplant a full GPS navigatiopn system. Seeing your position in the center of a blank screen really isn't very helpful.

        • by wgoodman (1109297)

          With an android phone, you can cache several sections of map in advance and not have to worry about having cell service to get the maps for you. It is 100-150sq miles that you can cache if I recall properly.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      I'm going on vacation in California and Nevada soon. Which brothel provides the best service? I was thinking the "Pimpin' for Paul" one I saw advertised on RT's Alyona Show, but I'm open to suggestions.

      >>>This isn't even a question that requires the unique expertise of the /. crowd;

      Yeah you're right.
      What was I thinking.
      ;-)

      • Skip the Brothel and just open the phone book if you are in Vegas. They will send several choices to your room. Cheers.
    • For a question posted on a worldwide forum this is a very geographically specific question. (Score:5, Insightful)

      Meanwhile... [slashdot.org]

    • by janeuner (815461)

      I would recommend:

      http://www.howardforums.com/forums.php [howardforums.com]

  • While it's possible to find one device that supports multiple carriers, it generally only supports one carrier well due to frequency differences. If you're looking for a device that'll work with multiple carriers, look for "unlocked". I'm not entirely sure there is a way to unlock the mifi things.
    • Since OP is going to be in major cities, then most carriers are sufficient... If they don't need really high speeds (since the MiFi type devices have really low data caps, and really high rates after), it may be better to buy a cheap (rootable) android phone from "Straight Talk" "Boost" or "Virgin Mobile" and use a tethering app. This may well serve you better... YMMV though.
      • by lazybeam (162300)

        The rates will still be a lot less than international roaming, which can be tens of dollars per megabyte!

      • by wgoodman (1109297)

        Data caps depend on the carriers. AT&T/VZW have low caps. T-Mobile has 5GB then throttles. Sprint has no cap and roams to VZW for no charge.

  • Verizon (Score:5, Informative)

    by commodore73 (967172) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:04PM (#39340425)
    I had AT&T in California and Verizon in both CA and NV, and Verizon was definitely better - almost no issues, where AT&T was terrible. I didn't travel extensively (mainly the bay area and Incline Village), but I would certainly avoid AT&T, and I would actually recommend Verizon,
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I also would recommend Verizon's My-Fi which is now available in 4G.

      • Re:Verizon (Score:4, Informative)

        by crazycheetah (1416001) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:34PM (#39340865)

        This. The 3 main areas mentioned have Verizon's 4G coverage as well (and I am sure that AT&T and T-Mobile also have 4G to some degree in these areas, though, as they're pretty significant areas to get covered). Traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back with Verizon, I had pretty decent coverage the whole way (with a few holes). Same for Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back (a few more holes in the desert than the other, but I doubt you're going to avoid that with any carrier).

        Although, specific areas (less than a square mile and less some times, even--this is especially true when you're in the more hilly/mountainous areas in the region) of those can still be different. I've found T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon to be pretty consistent throughout, but there are definite areas where one beats the others and areas where that same one loses to the others, along with some pockets that they all suck. Generally, though, if you're just traveling through and not getting stuck in a specific area for extended amounts of time, they are all pretty decent. I don't mention Sprint, because I have the least experience with them, so I can't be sure how they are in the areas, but I would be surprised to see that they suck too bad throughout, considering how important most carriers would probably consider those cities...

    • No SIM card. That said, as long as you stay near I-15 or in town it's pretty good. Off the freeway and away from towns there's little reception, whatever the maps say.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      AT&T was practically unusable in the bay area due to iPhone overload, but has improved quite a bit over the last year or so. Verizon is probably still better though.

      (The problem with AT&T was not "coverage", but dropped calls & internet congestion.)

      For tourists visiting Disneyland and the Vegas Strip, it's probably not a huge difference as all companies focus on covering those areas.

    • by dwillden (521345)
      Verizon does seem to have the most consistent coverage. As to your trip as long as you stick to the major highways when traveling between cities you should maintain decent coverage, and in most communities with service 3G is for the most part standard, though there are some gaps as always.

      And the MiFi is Verizon's trademarked device/service.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      I wouldn't count out T-Mobile. I've found that just about everywhere they they have data is 4G (with 3G support as well).

      If you're going to be going out into the woods then they're a bad choice. However, if you're going to be within a few miles of an interstate or a small city the entire trip, then you'll almost certainly have good coverage.

      In the years that I've had them I can count on one hand the number of times I didn't have good coverage (though you still run into 2G a fair bit). That includes numer

  • Dunno, but if you make it to Texas I have a suggestion [slashdot.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Top result on google for "global ready mifi" is Verizon's MiFi 4510L. It'll use the Verizon network, and supports a SIM card.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As above. AT&T or Verizon will be your best bet.

    AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM, so if you have a phone you like you could buy a pre-pay phone and just swap the SIM card into it.
    Verizon and Sprint use CDMA, so you'll have to use their phones, but Verizon's coverage is arguably better and they have less dropped calls.

    FWIW, I have T-Mobile, but that's because they're the ONLY cell provider in the US that recognizes that they subsidize the phone on contracts, so when you're out of contract, they charge you

  • Verizon probably has the best coverage for you... the down side is they are CDMA and not GSM so you will not be able to use sim cards. This really leaves only AT&T or T-Mobile for sim cards either one's coverage I usually find limited to Verzion's coverage sadly.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Verizon's coverage seems to only be better than T-Mobile in really out of the way places. If you are going to primarily be in even moderately populated areas, T-Mobile is just as good as Verizon. Summer of 2010 I took a family road trip between California and Wisconsin. We drove the southern part of the country on the way there, and the northern part of the country on the way back. While my wife drove, I worked with my laptop tethered to a remote desktop at the office. The coverage was great except for
      • When you're actually on the major highways, there's no difference. In and around towns? Huge, huge difference. At my last workplace there was no signal for T-Mo or AT&T, but 3G on Verizon. When we went to Disney World? Verizon was 1-2 bars of 1xRTT in the parks, AT&T was 4 bars of 3G.
        • by Rich0 (548339)

          That is true for towns in the middle of nowhere, but not ones near major corridors, including most vacation areas. I do agree that if you spend lots of time in the hills or in areas where deer outnumber people you'd do better with the major carriers.

          In Disney World I had great coverage with T-Mobile.

          • I'm in a small-to-medium city, depending on how you view these things - metro area 400k. Even being half a mile off the highway can matter quite a bit if there's a large building or a hill in an inconvenient place. I've seen this effect all over. If you stay close to the highway, you're fine. If you start exploring, even around fairly large towns / small cities, you can be in a very developed area and have no service. (There's a little cell service divot three blocks from me that is basically in a very smal
  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:07PM (#39340483)

    All of the major carriers have coverage maps that are more or less accurate.

    Verizon: www.verizonwireless.com/wireless-coverage-area-map.shtml

    AT&T: http://www.wireless.att.com/coverageviewer/#?type=data [att.com]

    Sprint: http://coverage.sprint.com/IMPACT.jsp [sprint.com]?

    T-Mobile: http://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/pcc.aspx [t-mobile.com]

    Other Sites that may be useful:
    http://www.cellreception.com/coverage/ [cellreception.com]
    http://reviews.cnet.com/cell-phone-coverage-map/ [cnet.com]

    Behold, the power of Google.

    • Re:Coverage Maps (Score:5, Informative)

      by Quantus347 (1220456) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:19PM (#39340659)
      http://www.cellularmaps.com/3g_compare.shtml [cellularmaps.com]

      This is a useful map, it compares: AT&T, Cricket, Metro PCS, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon.

      One thing you should know however is that most of the companies actually share their networks to one degree or another, and there are options lesser known options that offer the same actual coverage. Check out: http://www.cellularbackdoor.com/alternative_networks.shtml [cellularbackdoor.com]

      From the site: Same Network, Different Carrier - These are separate, "alternative" companies that use the same wireless network, also known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), wholesale networks, or cellular "re-sellers", of the major carriers. You get your phone and customer service from these companies instead of the underlying carrier. Some companies use more than one network and the type of wireless device determines whether a CDMA, GSM or WIMAX carrier is used. All features may not be available. This is where to look if you hate your carrier but love their network.
      • Fun Fact #1: Verizon and Sprint have a reciprocity agreement where customers can roam on the other carrier's network for free (agreement expires in 2016)

        Fun Fact #2: Even though Virgin Mobile is owned by Sprint, this agreement apparently doesn't extend to it.

        At least Virgin is cheap. $35 for unlimited everything.

        • The reciprocity agreement only covers RTT voice and data. I've gotten 4 bars on a Verizon cell phone the same place a friend with a Sprint phone gets 1xRTT roaming service.

    • by Momboleum (257861)

      I live out in the middle of nowhere, also known as the Marin-Sonoma coast, which is 60 miles northwest of San Francisco and 20 miles west of Petaluma. We get Verizon service out here and if you're using T-Mobile, their phones work on the Verizon network. AT&T devices only work closer to larger urban areas in Northern California in my observation.

  • I'll probably be in the minority here, but I would say go with Sprint. Sure their data speeds aren't the fastest, but they are a good bit cheaper than Verizon, and their speeds are still plenty useable for web browsing, Pandora, and Netflix. Plus you get the added bonus of free roaming on Verizon's network if you're outside of Sprint's coverage areas. Pretty much anything is better than AT&T.
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      I'll probably be in the minority here, but I would say go with Sprint. Sure their data speeds aren't the fastest, but they are a good bit cheaper than Verizon, and their speeds are still plenty useable for web browsing, Pandora, and Netflix. Plus you get the added bonus of free roaming on Verizon's network if you're outside of Sprint's coverage areas. Pretty much anything is better than AT&T.

      If you want good coverage while you're in between cities, stick with AT&T or Verizon.

      On a recent road trip between SF and LA, there were many places where my Sprint phone (work phone) lost coverage but my Verizon phone maintained coverage (I know this because we had some issues going on at work and I was getting a lot of emails - in many instances, I could hear some emails come in to my Verizon phone, and it wasn't until 10 - 15 minutes later that I'd hear a group of queued up emails hit my Sprint phone

      • I have a Sprint phone so whenever I travel US 95 I just let it roam freely. As far as my experience goes I've never seen roaming charges when it locked on to a Verizon tower to maintain service (including light data usage) during the entire route between Reno and Vegas.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Sprint resellers are sometimes even cheaper, e.g. DataJack, though you lose the ability to roam on Verizon's network.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd go with a pre-paid data/phone vendor.
    You can get a Virgin Mobile 3G phone and/or 3G MiFi-type device at many discount store retailers, no contract needed.
    It uses the Sprint network. Sprint does not use SIM cards.
    There are other pre-paid 3G phones and mifi-type devices available too.

    • Second. I have VM service on my LG Optimus V that I occasionally use as a hotspot with my Linux laptop no problems. It's not teh awesum bandwidth, but it's usable.

      Sprint's network (which VM piggybacks on in the US) is pretty good in the bay area and they're not nearly as price-gougy as VZW or AT&T.

      $130 for the mifi, $50 for "unlimited" data (throttled after 2.5G) for a month. Resell the device on eBay if you want when you're done. VZW is at least 2x for the device...

    • by b0bby (201198)

      The other thing pointing towards a pre-paid vendor is that most of the devices you'll see for the big carriers will be the price with a one or two year contract - someone coming from abroad may not be aware of this & buy something they don't need. I have used the Virgin Mobile 3g dongle:
      http://www.virginmobileusa.com/mobile-broadband/ovation-mc760.html [virginmobileusa.com]
      and it works well in areas where Sprint has coverage. You should be able to pick one up at a Radio Shack or Walmart (the Walmart ones will actually give y

  • virginmobileusa.com (Score:4, Informative)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:16PM (#39340603)

    They use the Sprint network..... no idea if it's the "best" but it's affordable. $50 for unlimited internet, and it works anywhere that a cellphone works. Plus no contract so you can use it 1 month and then done.

    I have tried Wifi in my hotel, and it barely works at all (slow and drops connection frequently). I don't recommend that route.

  • by qmaqdk (522323)

    If by best, you mean adequate, the answer would be nobody. But I guess AT&T would be least worst (at least when I was last there).

  • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:17PM (#39340613)

    I hope you realize just how far apart these cities are and how little there is to be seen in between. I suppose 3G till take the edge off the many hours of drudgery.

    At least consider taking 395 for the North-South portion.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There is plenty to be seen between these points. There are three National Parks between SF and LV (Yosemite, King's Canyon and Death Valley). Between LA and SF there is the Pacific Coast Highway. The only boring stretch is LA to LV.

  • Why use a phone. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300)
    You are on vacation. You should escape the ties to your phone. Bring your phone, keep it off except for an Emergency during the day. When you are at the hotel, use the Wi-Fi available.

    While I am at the other End of country I found that most plans AT&T Verizon, sprint... Don't really care about you crossing into different states. And normally a Dead Zone for AT&T is a Dead zone for Verizon.
    • You are on vacation. You should escape the ties to your phone. Bring your phone, keep it off except for an Emergency during the day. When you are at the hotel, use the Wi-Fi available.

      That's my thought too. When I'm on vactaion last thing I want is people being able to access me. There again, vacations are extremely rare for me- last time I took more than two consecutive days off was probably 4 or 5 years ago. (if you don't consider national-holidays as a day off- in which case I normally take a day off in addition to Xmas day each Xmas).

    • by vlm (69642)

      Strongly advise against. Need maps, restaurant and tourist trap recommendations... If poster is not 100% fluent in English you need inet access.
      It just makes the trip easier and more fun.

    • by Zapotek (1032314)
      Oh for f's sake someone asks a question regarding cell coverage and you reply with "Why bring a cell phone? I wouldn't!". Have you, by any chance, got any more personal, unsolicited and irrelevant life lessons for the rest of us simpletons? How will we ever survive without your offtopic input...
      • Well more to my point is that you shouldn't need to worry too much about coverage. Use Wi-Fi while you are in your hotel. And don't use it while you are out.
    • And normally a Dead Zone for AT&T is a Dead zone for Verizon.

      Not way out west. Here there's a marked difference between AT&T and Verizon. Verizon is magnintudes better if you leave the city. AT&T doesn't have a lot of coverage outside of big cities and major corridors, and when they do it's a lousy 2g signal. Verizon has 3G wherever they have a tower.

  • Remember, we have free wifi at almost every coffee shop and McDonalds. Here's a pre-paid 4g hotspot: http://www.amazon.com/T-Mobile-1661-4G-Hotspot/dp/B005MKERVQ/ref=dp_return_1?ie=UTF8&n=2335752011&s=wireless [amazon.com] http://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/pcc.aspx [t-mobile.com]
  • Pretty much all the carriers have decent coverage in the metropolitan areas. And pretty much all the carriers have bad to no coverage outside the metropolitan areas.

    Buying the device on eBay and then putting in any SIM card you can pretty much forget it since all the major carriers in the US have different and incompatible systems. Sprint & Verizon don't even use SIM cards at all. T-Mobile & AT&T are SIM based but they use different frequencies for their 3G network, 1700MHz for T-Mobile & 85

  • Prepay (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642)

    Attention visitors.... Note that 99% of the advertising and marketing budget in the USA is oriented around "free device with minimum two year service contract" business model. Most of the civilian population does not know any other cellphone business model exists... Unless you're planning on your trip taking 2 years, you're best off with a prepay provider.

    There are providers that are non-contract aka month-to-month who will helpfully automatically bill your CC every month until you find a way to stop them

    • by vlm (69642)

      Whoops almost forgot the other unique thing about the USA mobile market is unlike almost everywhere else, the devices and service are tied. Its Extremely Unusual to not get a device from your provider.

    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      And for a good laugh ask to see your hosts "hot water heater tank" I am told we're the only country in the world that doesn't use tankless, its a trip, they're these giant closet sized steel tubes.

      Not true, hot water tanks are plentiful here in Australia too. Personally, my home has a conventional 'tank' style water heater, though it's natural gas fired, not electric.

      Admittedly Rinnai tankless water heaters ~are~ relatively common here (certainly more common than in the US), but they don't represent 100% of hot water heaters. I'd say it's about 50/50 here, and usually depends on when the home was built (the Rinnais became very common from the mid-90s onwards or so).

      Fully agree about US power cords th

  • Reasonable Question (Score:1, Interesting)

    by erick99 (743982) *
    Come on, folks. It's a reasonable question. He is going to two large states and is asking about coverage. There is no need to ridicule him for his request. If you can't answer it or are not interested than move on. I doubt SlashDot would have posted it had they thought it wasn't a reasonable request.
  • Well... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:26PM (#39340765)

    I have lived in Vegas and San Francisco. I'm assuming you're going through central CA for your trip. As far as I'm concerned, Verizon (for me) had the best coverage in Vegas and SF. I've had clear reception all the way to Salinas- your mileage may vary beyond that. Those I knew that had AT&T hated it (poor reception).

    T-Mobile isn't good in Vegas - I had it for a few years there and the coverage was bad.

    Now, if you're driving through the middle of NV, then forget it. Your reception will drop off around Yerington and not return until you hit Indian Springs. You'll have to wait to upload the UFO pics you snap on the way.

  • Verizon.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've lived in Northern Nevada for a little over a year, and have been assured multiple times that Las Vegas is in fact, not in Nevada.

  • Reality check (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @01:36PM (#39340889)

    For 3 weeks, just learn to look for free WiFi hotspots.

    Seriously.

    It's 3 weeks. You'll survive if you can't tweet every 5 minutes. If you were talking about 3 months, I could see why it would be worth the trouble and expense to set this up but 3 weeks? No.

    If you're set on it, go for pre-paid. You'll have to spend $50-100 on the device, possibly a setup fee of $35-50, and a month's service at $35-80 depending on the carrier. Last time I checked, Millenicom [millenicom.com] was offering 50 gig plans on Verizon's network (the best, most consistent data network IMHO) for $70 or so. It's far more data than you'll be able to push over Verizon's network for that price on any of Verizon's plans.

    Seriously, tho, it's 3 weeks. Every hotel you stay in will have WiFi available for $0-10/night. Many businesses (especially restaurants) offer free WiFi.

  • Virgin Mobile ZTE Peel is a Mifi-like device with a value proposition that's hard to beat for lower-end users (500 MB for $20 for one month) and the device is like $30 IIRC. Perfect for Waze or Google Maps or e-mail checking or light web. Not good if you watch videos or skype or download podcasts. Sold with iPod touch original gen in mind but actually works as a universal wifi gateway. Plus it's non-contract. Coverage map is Sprint's- they don't do their own.

    These devices are sold at Radio Shack and Be

  • CA is a mighty big place, and I haven't traveled all that much of it. However I do happen to have phones on ATT's 3G network that can act as hotspots, and USB networking devices for VZW and Sprint. I don't have T-Moble because the coverage map looked like it wasn't really useful. I also have an RV, and have left "major city areas" quite a bit. I don't currently have any 4G networking gear (unless you count all the 3G stuff the ITU reclassified, in which case I have 4G but no LTE).

    In my experience the

    • CA is a mighty big place, and I haven't traveled all that much of it. However I do happen to have phones on ATT's 3G network that can act as hotspots, and USB networking devices for VZW and Sprint. I don't have T-Moble because the coverage map looked like it wasn't really useful.

      I have no data for Nevada. Last time I was in Arizona I didn't have a VZW device, but ATT seemed fine pretty much everywhere.

      If you want AT&T's network but don't like the price, H2OWireless uses ATTs network and has better prices than ATT prepaid...but don't bother calling tech support unless you have 3 hours to burn (hiring a single person for tech support calls must be how they keep costs low!).

  • You could use Roam Mobility which is designed for cheap US pay-as-you go (6 cents per megabyte).
  • I live in Las Vegas and have made plenty of trips to Northern Nevada, and Northern and Southern California. While I am personally a T-Mobile subscriber, the people on the road trips that have the best and most consistant signal are the Verizon guys.

    There's still a lot of dead space around here so... that's life.

  • If you have a GSM device, just pickup a prepaid sim card when you get in the US. Either T-mobile Pre-paid or H2O Wireless (uses AT&T's network). Check which 3G frequency your device uses and save the $$$ from buying a new device. I've used both T-Mobile Monthly Pre-paid and H2OWireless and would recommend T-mobile for reliability, but both work well.
    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      It'll generally be H2O or AT&T that you'll want to use if you're visiting the US from another country. AT&T uses fairly standard frequencies that are common in the rest of the world (basically, most modern tri or quad-band phones with the usual 2100/1900/900/850 frequencies will work fine). T-Mobile on the other hand uses a weirdo 1700 Mhz frequency for 3G (HSDPA, HSPA, HSPA+) which is supported by virtually zero non US-market devices.

  • by munozdj (1787326)
    I'm interested in driving from LA to SF by the PCH. Any word on how the coverage is? I'm constrained to a GSM smartphone, so Verizon and Sprint are off the table. I know the coverage won't be good, but which one has the "less-worse" option?
  • I have traveled all over southern Nevada and California.
    Verizon is the only choice.
    I make it a habit to go to some strange and out of the way places, Verizon just works, even in large parts of death valley and the Mojave desert.
    I even had service out in Rachel Nevada near area 51, while my friends who were with me and have T-mobile had none.
    Buy a cheap device from E-bay and activate it on Verizon on the bring your own device plan.
    Just make sure the device is a Verizon branded device.
    Choose a high feedback s

  • The best offering between San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles would be Sprint. Coverage for the region is excellent and the cost is acceptable with no data cap on their mifi unit. I recently read a review [pcmag.com] of one that PCMag Recently did and I'd say this is probably your best bet though I have no idea how it would work for you.

  • by jon3k (691256)
    dear god why is timothy still allowed to post articles this is insane
  • You should bring aboard one of these (http://nyconvergence.com/2012/03/ny-marketing-firm-uses-homeless-for-sxsw-wifi-beacons.html) homeless people and you'll have 4G internet. You won't need as much internet on the trip, either: with a homeless companion you can sing "spanish ladies" for miles, share stories about the down-low in whichever city they're from, and food, as you find the best dumpster diving joints on the interstate.
  • Thanks to everyone who replied. There were some very informative comments. As for the whole "Dude, it is vacation, leave the phone home" discussion, there are always two sides. I use my mobile service a lot here in Europe. I like statistics, that is one of the reason I try to tag/login to any places possible using my mobile. Let it be Facebook/Twitter/4square. That is also how I keep all my friends updated. And I don't want to miss that opportunity while we are in the US. From what I got out of all the com
  • Im not sire what your online needs are and how constant it needs to be but you can always rely upon Starbucks as a ISP. They are predominantly everywhere (Except in Yosemite national forest). alternative While i havent personally researched this you could try to find some place that does rentals. I go to Japan quite often and I end up renting a phone over there because its just easier and hassle-free. I use to rent a SIM card but now the phone w/ sim is cheaper than renting the sim card. I have no idea if

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