US LTE 230The growth of LTE networks continues to astonish even those of us who meekly predicted near-ubiquity as far back as 2009, US Telecom's Pat Brogan estimates LTE coverage at 99.5% of the population, based on company data reported to the FCC. Both Verizon and AT&T claim 98% coverage and T-Mobile almost as high. They have different unserved areas, so 99.5% amongst them is plausible. 

The real figure may be as low as 95-96% because coverage data is notoriously unreliable, with companies having incentives to inflate claims. I remember AT&T telling the FCC a while back the FCC didn;t need to test wireless availability because the companies could provide accurate maps. I checked AT&T's map of Manhattan and saw it claimed as 100% covered. I live here, and at the time was hearing numerous complaints of deadspots.

It's much better now. I've never failed to find a signal on T-Mobile or Verizon in Manhattan in the last two years.

The maps are made based on computer models of cells and terrain. They aren't perfect. When I worked on an LTE project in Vermont in 2011, both Alcatel & Ericsson sent in top analysts. They were frank about the limits: accurate on average, but not in particular details. 

In the diagram, US Telecom's 99% estimate is to the left, then Verizon's 98%. It's nearly impossible to see the yellow representing those not covered. The uncovered bar remains minimal even at 96% served, which assumes serious lying by the reporting telcos. 

dave askJuly 2018 Verizon's $20B 5G build is starting to add customers in 2018. Gigabit LTE & Massive MIMO became real in 2017. Verizon U.S. 5G mmWave 5G is firm. Almost all the other "5G" is mid-band, 70%-90% slower + hype. Europe is mostly pr. The term 5G has been bastardized, unfortunately.

Being a reporter is a great job for a geek. I'm not an engineer but I've learned from some of the best, including the primary inventors of DSL, cable modems, MIMO, Massive MIMO, and now 5G mmWave. Since 1999, I've done my best to get closer to the truth about broadband.

Send questions and news to Dave Burstein, Editor. I always want to hear from you, especially if you catch a mistake.