Which provider is best?


Hi, I don’t mean to sound like an idiot, asking “Which provider is best?”, but I’m serious…

I started off using 3G IoT devices. Some were GSM with SIMs which could connect to ATT or T-Mobile. Some were CDMA and, of course, didn’t use SIMs and could connect to Verizon. In Urban and suburban areas I would deploy the GSM devices because coverage was generally good either way, and my costs for Verizon (CDMA) were almost twice as much as for GSM.

About half my customers are in rural areas and CDMA coverage wasn’t always perfect, but it was almost always much better than GSM. My understanding is that Verizon had their CDMA equipment hanging on twice as many towers as anyone else.

Verizon’s CDMA network is slated to be shut down at the end of this year, and that have forced me to LTE.

Okay, so now I’m using NovaM devices for Cat M1 (NB-IoT isn’t widely deployed or accessible yet). The NovaM seems to be faster registering with a tower when it is told (AT+UMNOPROF) to connect to a single provider (as long as that provider is available) and to seek only Cat M1 conections (AT+URAT) rather than letting it try whatever is available.

Okay, where I live (which is just a sample size of 1) I get a weak ATT signal and strong Verizon signal which doesn’t surprise me. My expectation (based on nothing more than my 3G experience) is that Verizon will have the broadest coverage. In urban areas and lots of suburban ones ATT and Verizon will both have good enough coverage. In rural areas Verizon–I suspect–will generally have better coverage than ATT. But I have no empirical evidence for any of this.

So, here’s my question: are other folks finding that Verizon is generally as good or better than ATT (coverage-wise)? I’m hoping the answer is yes, and then I can just configure all of my NovaM devices to connect only to Verizon.


Really? More than 20 views and nobody is going to chime in here with their own connectivity experiences?


In working with the Nova devices for the last week, and not specifying a provider, my Nova has auto connected to Verizon the first four times and AT&T the last five times. I’m in upstate NY.

From power on to network connect is on the order of seconds. I disabled NB-IoT. I have not had to specify a provider. What makes our experiences different? I have only sent data from the CLI to the Hologram cloud and back though. I haven’t managed to get a PPP connection established yet.

Apart from the Nova, and anecdotally, I’ve used Verizon the last 15 years in several different states. On road trips, Verizon seems to have better coverage than AT&T when looking at two phones side by side. Not terribly scientific. Then there’s this:



Thanks for reporting…

It sounds like you are confirming my own impression that Verizon coverage seems broader than ATT.

Regarding the coverage maps, my experience and impression is that while the carriers certainly know–accurately–where they do and don’t have coverage they simply refuse to share this information. They love to talk about 97% coverage, but they are always referring to population coverage, never geographical coverage. Fact: " Rural areas cover 97 percent of the nation’s land area but contain 19.3 percent of the population." So, with coverage of just 3% of the geography one can capture over 80% of the population.


Even if they’re inaccurate, the coverage maps do tell a story. Out west on t-mobile maps you often see circular coverage arcs and then you know they just have one tower somewhere and project coverage out to the max possible range, which you can’t achieve most of the time anyway. Not to mention tower overload, etc. I travel quite a bit through the western deserts and mountains and Verizon coverage is just better than the others. Then AT&T and forget T-Mobile. But if you stick to the interstates it doesn’t really matter that much. In other parts of the country it may well be different, I just don’t know.

WRT costs,I use US-mobile’s “super-LTE” SIMs, which are on verizon. 1GB of data costs ~$14 incl taxes and all. It’s easy to change plan and to add extra data if I run out. I’ve been quite impressed with the customer service, they’ve actually helped each time I’ve chatted with them, which is a completely new experience for me…


Good point about the coverage maps. Those circular coverage arcs are, at least, an honest positioning of the tower–as you point out. My disdain is reserved for the map regions showing substantial coverage with dead zones too. They are usually just a substantial overstatement of coverage.

I didn’t know about US-mobile’s “super-LTE” plan with 1GB of Verizon for $14/month. My reading their web site indicates that Hologram charges $20/month for 1GB. That’s good to know about for high data volumes. I only need 1 - 2mb/month for the devices I deploy. So, I’m also interested in pricing for small data quantities.

It’s always surprising to me that when I contact a network service provider, I only really ever have two very basic questions,

  1. how much do SIM cards cost
  2. how much does it cost for 2mb of data/SIM/month

yet I almost never get a straight answer. I also have hunch that no matter who else calls them, all callers want to know, “how much are SIM cards,” and “how much does x mb of data/month cost.” Invariably, I’m told the provider will have to get back to me with a quote (as though I’m asking new and novel questions), or prices are quoted with provisos that “it depends on…,” or, “…but I can probably get you a better on…” as if we are anything more than total strangers and he can help me out because of our special relationship.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to get a straight answer to the question: How much do SIM cards cost? With almost no exceptions, I find that if I complain about the SIM card price I will be offered a discount.

Which raises the question: how much are folks out there paying for SIM cards? SIMs are available in “commercial” or “industrial” grades. For now, let’s focus on “commercial” SIMs.

Hologram charges $5/SIM (according to their web site). What are folks out there paying for SIM cards?


I bought a Verizon pre-paid sim a few months ago for $10 in-store. Obviously this is a different flavor than what you’re looking for (not Cat-M1), but that gives some upper-end context.

Didn’t you just buy 56 Novas? I know this is a technicality, but since you are using the NovaM, don’t they each come with a free SIM? Mine did. Further, in bulk quantities, Hologram offers a number of price points, down to $3ea per 1000 cards, right in their website store.

Finally, just a casual google search finds that Ting Mobile currently sells SIMs for a buck a piece, and they even come with a $25 service credit. Their published plans are $6/month, plus $3/month for 0-100mb of data, though I think its prorated for what you use. I also see “Ting IoT” (and “Ting Business”) links on their site, which I imagine have even lower, unpublished rates. However, the Hologram dashboard and associated tools (CLI/SDK, Tunneling) seem incredibly useful. Not sure what you’ll find elsewhere.

Of course, not all networks are created equal, and whichever you choose, obviously it has to have towers where you’re expecting your devices (buses?) to function.


Yes, I purchased 56 Novas and they came with SIM cards. Still, the question remains for me because I have deployed many non-Nova devices and will continue to deploy a mix of Nova and non-Nova devices. The Novas appear to be working well, but they are pricey. In many urban/suburban areas 3G GSM still works well and 3G USB devices cost under $10. For those devices the questions remain: which provider offers best mix of price (SIM and monthly fees), quality, functionality and service.

I didn’t notice on the Hologram web site that SIM prices drop in quantity. Thanks for pointing that out!

And, I agree that Hologram’s dashboard is very well done.


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