According to Daily Tech, these are the raw facts:

TownHall reports that AT&T has spent $308 per customer on its network over the last three years compared to $353 per customer from Verizon and $310 per customer from Sprint. AT&T spends more on its wired network than it does on its wireless network according to analysts.

What it means in practical terms for us consumers is this. If we forget about AT&T (which, most intelligent and objective people interested in the subject will concur has a sub-par network), we see Verizon spends $ 353.00 per customer compared to Sprint’s $310. However, it is important to see this number in the context of the network size of each of the wireless carriers.

Here are the comparative coverage maps for Verizon and Sprint.

Fig 1: Verizon’s nationwide coverage map

Fig 2: Sprint Nationwide Coverage Map

Just looking at the two maps above empirically, the following conclusions can be reached:

  • Verizon Wireless, by far, has a much larger native coverage across the United States including sparsely populated areas of the country
  • Sprint’s native coverage is centered around the more populated areas of the country

What this means for all of us (and hence this post) are the following:

  • If you live in a rural or sparsely populated part of the country – it makes the most sense for you to get your service from Verizon wireless. There may of course be exceptions depending on where you live – but statistically speaking, the best bet you have is Verizon Wireless
  • If you live in an urban area, your choices get a little tricky. Remember Sprint spends $310 per subscriber compared to $353 that Verizon spends. However, Verizon’s network coverage is far greater. What that means is that Sprint spends a fairly comparable amount to maintain a network that is a lot smaller in footprint. Just logically that means better coverage in areas where Sprint has native coverage. (And this may explain Sprint’s stellar 3G coverage in most urban and semi-urban areas).  Also, Sprint has free roaming on all its plans now – which means that you can roam into Verizon’s very impressive network without additional charges. However, if you travel a lot to the less traveled parts of the country or if you dont mind paying a significant premium that Verizon charges – I would argue that Verizon will be a better choice.

I live in the New York metropolitan area. I travel every week across the country to different client sites for work. However, I travel mostly to large cities or mid-size towns. And for me, Sprint has absolutely no issues. I love the 7 pm night and weekends, the blazing 3G speeds and no roaming (though, in all fairness, I don’t need to be on roaming very often).

Disclaimer: I am posting this just to provide my perspectives based on my experience. None of this implies that I recommend one provider above another. However, I hope this provides some perspectives for folks looking to change providers or getting a new connection. I have tried to be as objective as I can and substantiate this with publicly available data