Networks with Coverage Scores of 8 or higher are expected to perform well for the large majority of people in San Francisco. All of the major networks score 8 or better in San Francisco.
While all of the major networks are expected to perform well, Verizon’s network is predicted to offer the best performance in San Francisco (view coverage map). AT&T’s network comes in a close second place. T-Mobile takes third place.
The model’s confidence is rated as medium to high in San Francisco. The model’s predictions are probably accurate. However, portions of San Francisco may have worse coverage than the model predicts.
San Francisco Cell Phone Plan Recommendations
Best Cheap Cell Phone Plan
US Mobile’s Super LTE service runs over Verizon’s network and is expected to perform well in San Francisco. US Mobile offers a variety of plans. Most plans come with unlimited minutes and texts, and some plans include unlimited data.
Example plan: Unlimited minutes & texts with 12GB of data for $20 per month
Recommended Performance Plan
Verizon is precited to offer the best coverage in San Francisco. Moderate and heavy users of data may be best served by Verizon’s unlimited plans. If you want top-notch performance, I recommend going with one of Verizon’s plans with an allotment of Premium Data. The Play More Unlimited plan is often a good option
Example plan: 5 lines on Verizon’s Play More Unlimited plan for $40 per line each month.
Xfinity Mobile runs over Verizon’s network and is available to Xfinity Internet customers in San Francisco.
Xfinity Mobile’s prices are excellent. All of the carrier’s plans include unlimited minutes and texts at no charge. Customers only pay for data. Xfinity Mobile has two plan types: (a) unlimited data plans for $30-$45 per line each month and (b) pay-by-the-gig plans starting at $15 per month.
While I’m a big fan of Xfinity Mobile, subscribers should be cautious about becoming locked into Xfinity-branded services. If an Xfinity Mobile subscriber ceases paying for other Xfinity services, extra fees will accrue.
Example plan: 2 lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 3GB of shared data for only $15 per line each month.
The tables below are based on extrapolations from data network operators shared with the FCC about coverage in San Francisco, CA.1 Network operators often report coverage inaccurately. While the Coverage Scores involve adjustments for potentially misreported data, I don’t make adjustments to this data.2
San Francisco Coverage (Any Technology):
San Francisco LTE Coverage:
Coverage estimates are weighted by population. The estimates don’t reflect the percent of land area covered.3
California Coverage Scores
Verizon is expected to have the best coverage in most of California.
Coverage In Similar-Sized Cities In California
National Coverage Scores
If you frequently travel outside of San Francisco, especially to rural areas, you may want to give substantial weight to the National Coverage Scores.
What’s The Best Cell Phone Plan In San Francisco?
The best cell phone plan for one person in San Francisco won’t be the best plan for everyone in San Francisco. People vary in the amount of data, minutes, and texts they use each month. Further, people differ in how they want to make tradeoffs between prices, coverage quality, and other factors.
For those struggling to choose between two phone plans, I often suggest trying the cheaper option first. If you have a good initial experience with a cheap phone plan, you can stick with it and save month after month. If you have a bad experience in the first month, you can switch to another phone plan.
Switching between phone plans is getting easier. Most carriers have phased out long-term contracts. Phones also tend to have better compatibility across networks than they used to. Just beware of installment plans. Cell phone carriers often run deals that entice people to purchase expensive phones on installment plans that last two or more years.
Data Priority In San Francisco
Network operators assign different levels of data priority to different users. When cell towers are not congested, priority levels are unimportant. However, during periods of congestion, subscribers with high-priority data may experience better speeds than subscribers with low-priority data.
Congestion varies by location. With the data I have, it’s not easy to assess congestion in San Francisco.
While direct subscribers with the three major network operators usually have high-priority data, other carriers that piggyback on the major networks often don’t offer high-priority data. Accordingly, these carriers may receive Coverage Scores slightly lower than the Coverage Scores received by their host networks.4 The downward adjustments I make to some carriers’ scores are usually not based on location-specific information about congestion.
About The Coverage Model
Coverage Critic’s predictive model crunches tens of millions of rows of data to assess cell phone coverage quality in cities throughout the U.S.
I believe the model is better than anything else on the market, but it’s far from perfect. I plan to make improvements to the model, and I expect the underlying data collected by the FCC will improve over time.
On another page, I list the best internet service providers in San Francisco.
The Coverage Scores assess how good the coverage is from cell phone networks in San Francisco, CA. The Coverage Scores don’t account for other factors like prices or customer support quality. Here’s an outline of what different Coverage Scores mean:
- 8.5+ – Nearly all subscribers using a network with a score above 8.5 in San Francisco will experience a strong signal in outdoor areas by their residences. The large majority of people will experience a strong signal inside their homes. Few if any dead spots will be found when out and about in San Francisco.
- 7-8.5 – The large majority of people will experience a strong signal in front of their residences. Most people will also have a strong signal inside their homes. Dead spots may exist within the city or town, but most people won’t encounter dead spots often.
- 5-7 – Most people will experience acceptable signal strength at their homes, but a substantial portion of people won’t have adequate service. In most cases, people should opt for a network with a higher coverage score. People who aren’t adamant about having high-quality service and/or lack other options may still have a satisfactory experience with networks that score between 5 and 7. I strongly recommend looking at coverage maps and talking with neighbors before choosing a network that scores in this range.
- 0-5 – If possible, opt for a network with a higher score. Consult carriers’ coverage maps if you have no better options.
Again, the model may not accurately reflect the quality of cell phone coverage in San Francisco. A data-confidence rating for San Francisco is listed above.
The Price Ratings and Support & Experience Ratings aren’t specifically estimated for San Francisco. The ratings give a quick impression about factors other than coverage quality. I don’t pretend there’s a sophisticated or scientific process behind the ratings. These simplistic ratings ignore nuance and collapse complex realities. For example, it’s tough to come up with a single price rating for a carrier that has great prices on some cell phone plans and terrible prices on other plans.
Tower & Base Station Map (Beta)
Dots mark locations of cell towers and other base stations. Dots’ colors indicate the network.5
Do you have feedback about the coverage ratings or opinions about the best cell phone plans in San Francisco? Please leave a public comment below or reach out directly. Additionally, if you work for a company that collects data about the performance of networks, carriers, or phone plans, I’d love to hear from you!
Page last updated on 11/17/2021
- The data comes from the December 2019 release of the FCC’s Form 477 data on cellular coverage.
- In most cities, data specifically about 3G and 5G coverage is available, but the data may be unreliable.
The table below shows estimates of 3G coverage based on the December 2019 version of the FCC’s Form 477 data. It’s likely inaccurate. Over the past few years, networks have been phasing out 3G technologies.
Verizon AT&T T-Mobile 100.0% 100.0% 99.3%
December 2019 data suggests AT&T led in 3G coverage in San Francisco.
The December 2019 includes information about 5G coverage. Since 5G deployments expanded rapidly in 2020 and 2021, the 5G coverage data is no longer reliable.
5G (All Types):
Verizon AT&T T-Mobile 0.6% 0.0% 0.0%
In the 2019 data, Verizon led in 5G coverage in San Francisco. In the time since the data was released, T-Mobile has established itself as the nationwide leader in 5G coverage.
Network operators usually publicize when they bring millimeter wave 5G to new cities. I keep tabs on these announcements and maintain a database of cities where major networks offer millimeter wave 5G. I last updated the information in May 2021.
5G (Millimeter Wave):
Network Millimeter Wave 5G Verizon ✓ AT&T X T-Mobile X
- The underlying data is at the census-block level. In census blocks where carriers report partial coverage, I multiply the reported coverage level by the portion of the block that is covered. My approach isn’t perfect. Covered portions of census blocks may be more densely populated than uncovered portions of census blocks.
- Data prioritization procedures are complicated. For example:
- While major network operators usually give direct subscribers some high-priority data, subscribers may have limited allotments.
- All the major operators offer at some cell phone plans that entirely lack high-priority data.
- A few carriers that piggyback on the major networks offer plans with high-priority data.
Since the implications of low-priority data are different on different networks, I make carrier-specific adjustments to the Coverage Scores. Xfinity Mobile receives Verizon’s Coverage Score with no adjustment since by-the-gig subscribers have priority data.
- Red marks Verizon, blue marks AT&T, and pink marks T-Mobile. Gray dots mark base stations from other networks.
Medium-sized dots mark 4G base stations. The largest dots mark 5G sites. The smallest dots mark older cellular technologies.
The underlying data comes from the OpenCelliD Project and is licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. My maps of base stations are in an early stage. Location data about base stations doesn’t directly impact Coverage Scores at this time.