FCC publishes first-ever standardized 4G LTE coverage map

Decent broadband mapping has become extremely urgent as the government is poised to infuse billions into broadband infrastructure in its effort to close the digital divide. (screenshot of FCC map)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published its first map that shows 4G LTE mobile broadband coverage across the U.S.

The map shows coverage as of May 15, 2021. Users can click boxes to show the coverage of each of the nation’s four largest mobile carriers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and UScellular. These four wireless service providers voluntarily submitted the coverage data to create the map.

Specifically, the map shows where customers can expect to receive 4G LTE service at a minimum download speed of 5 Mbps and upload speed of 1 Mbps.

To use the map, consumers can enter in specific addresses or zoom in to locations to see where 4G LTE mobile data and voice service is available. Users can also click boxes to show broadband and voice coverage on separate layers. Or they can click all the boxes to show the gaps in coverage across the U.S.

The FCC, under its Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, is determined to get more thorough and accurate maps of broadband coverage across the country. Under her leadership, the Broadband Data Task Force was created in February 2021 to implement long-overdue improvements to the FCC’s broadband data and maps. The new 4G LTE map was created by the Broadband Data Task Force.

Other maps are coming

The new mobile map provides a preview of how mobile data will be collected by the FCC in the future as it improves the specificity and consistency of its broadband availability data.

For fixed internet service, the FCC aims for its maps to show broadband internet access on a house-by-house, location-by-location basis. “Broadband internet access” means that service is available or could be connected within 10 business days with a standard installation.

The FCC will standardize location data through the use of a common dataset of all structures in the United States where mass-market fixed broadband internet service can be installed. It will also validate provider-submitted data and allow users to challenge the information shown on the maps.

Decent broadband mapping has become extremely urgent as the government is poised to infuse billions into broadband infrastructure in its effort to close the digital divide.

For instance, the FCC recently said it was ready to release the first batch of funding — some $311 million — from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. But in the same breath the agency revealed a long list of winning bidders have already defaulted on their obligations and hinted many more could soon follow suit.

RELATED: RDOF winners already defaulted on $78M in bids — much more could follow

The main reason that RDOF bidders are backing out of their commitments is because once they dug into the details of their service areas, they discovered that many of these areas were already served — the maps they had initially relied on just weren’t accurate.