Best Cell Phone Coverage in Illinois

22 September 2017

Illinois has contributed much to the United States and the world—Abraham Lincoln, a large portion of America’s corn, soybean and wheat production, jazz and blues music greats—but what I really want to highlight here is the invention of the ice cream sundae. It originated in Evanston, Illinois and has been bringing joy to myself and many others ever since.

O.k., I guess I’m obligated to mention one other notable Illinois invention here: the cell phone. Martin Cooper came up with this world-changing technology in 1973 while working as head of Motorola’s communication division.

It would be a real bummer if the state in which the cell phone was invented suffered from poor cell phone coverage. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Coverage is generally good statewide, even in the agricultural regions. Still, the quality of your reception is going to depend largely on which carrier you’re with. Read on to learn which ones provide the best cell phone coverage in Illinois.

Coverage in Illinois At-a-Glance

The state in which the cell phone was invented boasts good overall coverage, scoring an 91 out of 100. Here's a full list of coverage ratings by state

What we love
  • Coverage from AT&T very strong
  • Coverage from Verizon good as well
What could be improved
  • Sprint coverage o.k. but not on par with the other major networks
  • Coverage always along certain stretches of highway or in rural areas of the Illinois

All four major carriers are well represented throughout the state, as are a multitude of smaller MVNOs that run on their networks. 

AT&T has the widest network reach in Illinois, and takes the title for the best network in the state. 

Verizon comes in second, and T-Mobile is in third. Sprint's coverage lags a bit, but customers can connect to other networks where Sprint has roaming agreements. 

Best Coverage in Illinois by Network
NetworkCovered Area %

Illinois has 1,575 zip codes, and the state's best network, AT&T, covers nearly all of them! Here are the network rankings by zip:

Coverage in Illinois by Network & Zip Code
NetworkZip Code AvailabilityCoveredArea Covered m2Zips with 4G
Coverage data generated Q2 2017 from carrier maps

The most important part of the process is to ensure that the areas that you are located in and travel to are well-covered. 

You can check your own coverage by entering your address here

Numbers on a page are one thing, but the coverage maps tell the full story. Fortunately, you don't have to go to all of the carriers' websites to get this information--you can see what the coverage is like from the four majors below: 

Coverage Maps Illinois

The maps confirm that AT&T provides the most robust coverage in Illinois, followed by Verizon. T-Mobile has pretty decent coverage, especially in Chicago. We break down the 3G and 4G network coverage below. 

Coverage in Illinois (56,340 m2) by 3G/4G LTE
3G 56,168 47,869 41,352 33,606
4G LTE 53,960 52,766 41,632 39,984

Illinois is broadly covered by both 3G and 4G LTE technology. 3G is the network that some older phones run on, and the one newer 4G LTE-capable devices fall back to when unable to reach a primary network.

Big Carriers vs. Small Carriers in Illinois

Did you know that there are dozens of small carriers that run on the major networks, but charge a fraction of the price for service? These companies are known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators, MVNOs for short. MVNOs purchase network service from the major providers at wholesale prices, then pass the savings on to consumers. 

If you're interested in Verizon's coverage, for example, but are looking for a better deal, Straight Talk Wireless, Twigby and Red Pocket are just a few of the smaller providers you'll want to check out. 

Click on the logos below to see which carriers run on which major networks: 

Verizon Wireless
Getting the Best Plan & Coverage

WhistleOut's new coverage check feature supercharges an already robust comparison engine by allowing you to instantly see what coverage is like at your location. All you have to do is punch in your address and we do the rest. This feature is the first of its kind, and empowers consumers to make better decisions when it comes to wireless. 

In addition to showing you a map of your area with the coverage from all four major carriers, we filter through the available cell phone plans and present only those from carriers who provide good reception to you.  

Compare Carriers to Find the Perfect Cell Phone Plan


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