Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with line of service from Verizon. No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise positive feedback. All opinions are my own.
At the rate new devices hit the market it can be hard for consumers to keep up. That recently sparked some thoughts of mine on the infrastructure in place to support them. Weather you have an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy S5, you want your service to be fast and reliable. Manufacturers argue over processors, networks argue over coverage. What makes coverage different between carriers? How is my speed affected by location? What is bandwidth? Any of these questions sound familiar? They are all relevant to how fast your mobile device operates when it’s connected to your cellular service. Let’s take a look at all of these questions.
Coverage Between Carriers
Over the course of my ‘tech life’ I’ve had four different carriers; U.S. Cellular, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Back in the day when I had my first phone, the internet didn’t even work very well on my computer so we didn’t have smart phones. It was all about dropping calls, we didn’t even have texting. Coverage was horrible, I dropped calls constantly and it was crazy expensive to even have a phone. With the evolution of networks and the digital device landscape, now no matter what cellular network I’m on, it’s faster than dial-up used to be. I’m not going to go into the difference between GSM or CDMA, because I don’t want this to turn into a boring wiki tech discussion.
Now with 3G and 4G speeds, networks can support a lot faster speeds than ever before, if you’re IN the network. My current carrier is Verizon. They have the most coverage and the largest network. I recently switched because I was dropping important business calls with my other carrier, who shall remain nameless. Since switching I haven’t dropped any calls. It might be important to add that I have used multiple smartphones on all of these networks. One thing I’ve learned is that an iPhone is an iPhone, and a Blackberry is a Blackberry. You could have a brand new iPhone that performs badly in the area in which you live. You could also have an old Samsung Galaxy S4 smart phone that performs well because of your location.
Where do you use your phone the most? At home? At work? Outside? These are all important when trying to decide how well your network works. Most people don’t worry about their data speeds at home or work because almost all the devices being made today have Wi-Fi capability. It’s just like anything else, it isn’t a problem till it is. If you’re stranded on the side of the road, you need that call to go through, for real. I can’t comment on other networks, because I’ve been with Verizon for a while now. All I can say is, be sure you phone is going to be able to get reception on where ever your daily commute takes you. Of course it’s nice to always be able to use your data when you’re away from Wi-Fi as well.
As I said earlier, I don’t want to get too technical, but I think the word bandwidth is something everyone should be able to define. I once had an acquaintance who worked in the mobile industry, and every time he was in a meeting and couldn’t answer a question or didn’t understand what was being talked about, he would say “I’m not sure what the bandwidth limitations are on that”. It got him by for many years, because even people in the industry didn’t understand it.
Merriam-Webster defines bandwidth as follows:
Examples of BANDWIDTH
- The modem has a bandwidth of 56 kilobytes per second.
- Graphics use more bandwidth than text does.
Now that we have cleared that up, what does it have to do with your network? Everything. Here is where the fight for data comes in to play. Anytime you use the data connection on your cellular device, it uses up bandwidth. Every streamed video, every music download, every tweet uses up your carriers bandwidth. Which means they have to spend more money maintaining and growing their network capabilities. It’s either that or stop taking subscribers, but that’s not very good business.
We are all usually aware of how much data we use, because if we go over, we have to pay a premium for it. Some carriers cap your data, and there have been many reports of companies throttling their customers data as well. Pay attention to slower speeds later in the month. If your carrier is giving you unlimited data, make sure the speed doesn’t change based on your usage. These are tough questions to get answers to, but they are necessary to ask if you are unhappy with the speed of your device.