MADISON (WKOW) -- These days, most of us live attached to our cell phones. But, unfortunately, they don't always work perfectly. dropped calls are a problem for most cell phone users. But, some more than others. Elishah Oesch dials up some answers to the question... which carrier will make you say... "Can you hear me now?"
Tate Reynolds uses AT&T. He looks at his phone and says, "I have one bar." Charles LaBelle uses Sprint. He looks at his phone and says, "It's on roaming right now."
Does any of that sound familiar to you? Dropped calls and poor reception frustrate cell phone users every day. Not to mention waste a lot time. Natasha Woods uses AT&T. She looks at her phone in dismay saying, "it's thinking... still thinking... and it's still thinking!"
And while our cell phones think, we get creative. Tate Reynolds an AT&T user says, "I wave it around, I walk through the aisles, I get closer to the outside of the building."
Cell phone reception in the Madison area is particularly bad. An independent research company called Open Signal Maps looked at the top 100 cities in the United States for cell phone reception. Madison ranks 87th on the list. Meaning, we're the 13th worst city in the nation for coverage.
Natasha Woods says, "this is the new age of phones? It's not a good sign!" Dropped calls are caused by several factors. like wire mesh walls, the direction you face, and not enough towers. The reason for that being, towers range up to 350 thousand dollars, plus associated costs. But most importantly, it's your carrier. Bret Watterman has AT&T. He says, "if you drop calls, it is not good coverage."
So the question is, which carrier has the best coverage? We wanted to help you find out. So, we went to four different spots and looked at AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and U-S Cellular. We started in Sun Prairie.Those with AT&T were not too happy. Tate Reynolds says, "I have to walk out of my house to get cell phone reception." Verizon users felt the same way. Anne McRoberts says, "I do have dropped calls in stores, yes I do!" Sprint customers were a little happier. Charles LaBelle says, his Sprint coverage is "alright. It works so far anyway." But, U-S Cellular customers were different. Danielle Johl has U-S Cellular. We caught up with her in the middle of a call and asked her who she was talking to. She says, "right now? I'm talking to my Grandma. I'm not having any problems. Nope!" Overall, U-S Cellular worked the best in Sun Prairie.
So, what about downtown Waunakee? Tracy Hallow has U-S Cellular. She says, "I absolutely have the best coverage." She and every other U-S Cellular customer we spoke with said the coverage is second to none. Tracy says, "we never have any dropped calls or problems with our coverage." As for Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T though, the coverage ranged from fair, to spotty, to bad.
So, what about Fitchburg? We went inside a busy apartment complex building, where they use AT&T. Natasha Woods says, "I do not like my coverage." Verizon and Sprint worked out ok when we tried them, as did U-S Cellular. So, we tested all four in another area: my basement level apartment.
Elishah Oesch has Verizon. She says, "What I have right now is one bar in my own apartment, one bar!" That happened with Verizon and AT&T. Sprint went through, but not as well as U-S Cellular, as noted by my mother, Linda Oesch. I gave her a call on all four phones and her response was only positive for U-S Cellular. When asked if she could hear well, she responded, "I can hear you pretty well on what you have!"
After that, we went to Camp Randall on game day. Experts say, big crowds cause dropped calls too. Some AT&T and Verizon users agree. Bret Waterman has AT&T. He says, "you can 't text, you can't do anything in the stadium that I've found." Jake Lambert has Verizon and says, "it can get bad at times." But Sprint and U-S Cellular customers say, they do get reception.
Corinne Burgermeister says, "I changed to U-S Cellular and it's a lot better." But before you go and change your carrier, which could cost you a cancellation fee, you can get a cell phone repeater.
Matthew Wirth works at Verizon Wireless. He says, a cell phone repeater "will increase your signal by 5000 feet." Repeaters can be put in your home or office and they do eliminate dropped calls. However, they are not all alike and some require plans with carriers. On average they cost anywhere between 100 and 300 dollars. Still, as for the ones Verizon sells, Matthew says, the "feedback we've got on it is very good."
If all else fails, keep these tips in mind: Reception is better outside than in, so walk to a window. Cell phones work best near towers, so hold your phone up. Also cell phone carriers want your business, so speak to them about your reception. It might turn your dropped calls into a dropped price tag.
For more information on Open Signal Maps and their study, you can click here. A simple breakdown of the coverage in our area from their study is as follows: For cell phone signal strength Madison doesn't do very well. Out of the top 100 cities by population Madison comes down in 87th place. According to their measurements AT&T was the worst network, followed by Verizon, and Sprint. This is based on a sample size of 33,000 separate signal readings taken across all networks in Madison in the last 12 months. The exact average signal levels by network in order of worst to best are: AT&T: -90.61dBm, Verizon: -87.02dBm, and Sprint: -85.81dBm. Open Signals did not test U-S Cellular because they are in one of the top four major carriers.