How Do You Determine If You Live in a Cellular Carrier's Coverage Area?

The Federal Communications Commission suggests several ways to research and determine whether a cellular carrier's coverage extends to a customer's area. These suggestions include asking neighbors, colleagues and friends, visiting certain Internet sites including the carrier's online coverage map, and testing the cellular carrier's plan on a trial basis. contains a list of specified dead zones, or areas where users can't get reception, that are voluntarily submitted by users. The dead cell zones are organized by area and cellular carrier, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. The website contains links to coverage maps and other research information about the quality of carrier service.

Besides checking out coverage maps online, users can also check out coverage maps inside a carrier's store. However, the coverage maps usually only provide very general information for an entire region instead of a specified location or address. The maps also contain a disclaimer that states actual coverage may vary from what is shown on the map.

Some carriers allow users to test a phone on a trial basis before committing to a long-term plan, but users should be aware that carriers often won't refund activation or usage fees incurred during the trial period. If using a trial period, it's a good idea for users to test the phone in locations they will most frequently use it to determine whether the coverage meets their needs.