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Verizon vs AT&T vs T-Mobile vs Sprint: Choose the best 5G carrier - CNET

Once upon a time, people who were away from their home had no way to stay connected unless they found a phone booth and had plenty of change hidden away in their pocket. For decades, people have been depending on their cellular phones to stay in touch with the world, but the world has moved on, and you can now find something better in the form of a satellite phone.

The truth is that you can find yourself without service for your cell phone when you travel through rural areas or in various countries outside of America. Your cell phone sometimes fails simply because of the way that it works, and that can cause problems. Ultimately, the MTSO controls every cell tower, and all cell phones must be registered with the control channel so that the system is able to find each cellular phone and provide it with service.

Chances are good that your cell phone will also become useless if you plan on camping in the woods, hiking in the outback or hitting the slopes high in the mountains during a ski trip.


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This is usually because your friend is using a cellular provider that works with a tower with a different form of technology that is not recognized by your particular cell phone. About Satellite Phones Absolutely no cell tower is needed for a satellite phone to work.

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How Satellite Phones Work Whenever you turn on your satellite phone, it will immediately send a signal out to any number of compatible satellites that your phone is registered to. At this time, Globalstar has 48 satellites and Iridium has 66 satellites that orbit the earth and are fully functioning. These two companies are currently the top providers of satellite phone services. And something to keep an eye on: Sprint is live with 5G in nine cities, but a potential bump for Sprint's -- and T-Mobile's -- 5G rollout is the pending merger of the two companies.

The merger could give the newly combined company and its merged network a running start at 5G. Wicked-fast networking speeds. Coverage that varies block to block. Unexpected switches between 5G and 4G.

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Large parts of the country -- both urban and rural -- with no 5G at all. A map of Atlanta, showing T-Mobile's 5G coverage.

To check for yourself whether 5G is -- or isn't -- available in your area, Ookla is tracking the global rollout of 5G networks through its Speedtest. The Speedtest interactive map lets you drill down to the city-level to see which companies have deployed 5G. The map, however, doesn't tell the whole story. As a next step, compare where you live and work or attend school with each carrier's coverage map. If you're frequently near a carrier's hotspots, that might push you to 5G sooner rather than later.


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  5. Ookla is tracking the rollout of 5G networks across the US and globe, updating its interactive map weekly. The 5G rollout across the US will happen slowly. Apple , for example, is rumored not to be launching a 5G phone until at the earliest. One analyst predicts sales of 5G phones won't eclipse those of 4G devices till And T-Mobile is marking as the year it all comes together.

    In the meantime, 4G networks will continue to carry the wireless load for the mobile carriers, just as 3G saw us through the transition to 4G. Another word to the wise: Be aware of unusual claims about 5G coverage.

    Competing Spectacles

    If you don't need a 5G phone at this minute, watch for 5G deals and promotional bundles from your carrier, once 5G goes live in your area. Consider switching carriers, too, if one has a better deal or better coverage in your area when you're ready to move to 5G. Know that wherever you live -- urban or especially rural -- service most likely won't be widely available for some time. Before you make the move to a 5G phone and service, ask your carrier how you'll know when you're connected to 5G and about its return policy if you're not getting acceptable 5G speeds.

    You'll often get a day grace period for returns -- make sure you have a backup phone to use if you just want to try 5G out but aren't sure of it.

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    Remember, 5G is the technology that will carry us through the next decade, so waiting won't be a bad thing: Costs should come down, a broader selection of phones should come online and coverage will expand. Whether you decide to jump in now or wait, check back here -- we'll keep updating this as new 5G phones come in and as mobile carriers improve their coverage and tweak their data plans to meet demand.

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