Cell Coverage in the United States.
High resolution cell coverage data is envied by businesses all over the country.  Unfortunately, providers and cell tower owners keep a tight leash on cell coverage information.
Recently, I was asked by a telecom company to produce a cell coverage base map where they could overlay their assets and customers; helping them to quantify their need for, and best locations of new cell tower construction within their service area.

So how is it done?  Simple. The basemap is a compilation of screenshots from a cell providers' interactive coverage map.  If you look closely you can see some artifacts of geo-referencing the images.  But no matter, its a free solution that works!


11/30/2011 14:49

Hey Thad, part of the problem is that carrier's coverage maps aren't usually very accurate. That's why we're trying to crowdsource the same information over at opensignalmaps.com. Would love to hear your feedback on it.

Thad Wester
11/30/2011 15:12

Hey Sina,
Your right! Sometimes they aren't accurate. I would say this is more likely in urban areas, where obstructions are the greatest. The above map is largely rural and meant to be used as a tool for general planning, so it works well enough for that purpose.

I have actually seen opensignalmaps.com. I was refereed there by an esri rep a few weeks ago. Definitely impressive. Would be interesting to try and use the data you have collected and interpolate it based on existing FCC cell tower locations. See if you could fill in some of the void spaces where you know cell service exists.

11/30/2011 16:24

Oh sweet - glad that you'd already heard of us!

You're right about rural areas being more accurate, though in suburban areas terrain can also make things a bit tricky. Your maps look great though, I particularly like the visual style.

We did try look at FCC tower data, but there are a few problems with it. Firstly, only towers above a certain height need to be registered, which means that a large portion of towers aren't on there at all. The towers are usually registered by third parties, with different carriers sharing them, so we often don't know exactly who's on there. And finally, we don't know what sort of technology the towers are using or what power the cell towers are operating at. For those reasons we sort of gave up on the idea. If one of the carriers was willing to share there tower database that'd be grea , but we haven't been approached by any as of yet.

11/30/2011 21:00

Hi Thad --

We make an iOS app called 'Coverage?' that is also based upon the carriers self-reported coverage maps, and it actually allows you to interactively overlay and browse the maps for the major carriers. It is an incredibly useful tool for travelers, and has gotten great reviews.

We are also big fans of the opensignalmaps.com project - but it solves a very different problems and works at a much more localized scale.

Anyway - just wanted to say hi.


- Chris // www.technomadia.com

Thad Wester
12/01/2011 06:12

Sina. Thanks for the complements on map design. Very true regarding the FCC data, and I would think that you will not find anyone willing to share that information with you, unless you were somehow able to make it worth something to them. Have you thought of recording areas of no signal?

Hey Chris. Very nice app. Great solution to a simple problem.

05/21/2012 02:58

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