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AT&T and Verizon Wireless are well positioned with sub-1GHz wireless spectrum. By contrast, Sprint and T-Mobile are not in a great position here. High frequency spectrum is not worthless, by any means. It can pack in more capacity, but because it travels over shorter distances, carriers need to put the towers closer together. This makes building a network more costly. And for this reason, carriers with a lot of higher frequency spectrum generally serve densely populated areas like cities more easily than suburbs and rural communities.

The FCC is preparing an auction for 2014 in which it will auction off lower frequency spectrum from broadcast TV stations, The big question is whether carriers such as Sprint, T-Mobile and even smaller players like Leap Wireless, iphone 6 qi case which owns the Cricket brand, will get some of this lower frequency spectrum, If AT&T and Verizon Wireless once again end up with the bulk of it, it will make it difficult for smaller players like Sprint or T-Mobile to compete, The rules and policies around this auction are being discussed now, Just last week, the FCC opened the issue for public comment..

Roaming agreements with larger operators could help smaller players fill these coverage gaps. But big carriers, such as Verizon, have resisted an FCC rule requiring them to offer reasonable roaming rates to competitors for data service. Verizon is even suing the FCC to block the rules. That said, Sprint and T-Mobile have joined the Competitive Carrier Association, a group formerly known as the Rural Cellular Association. This group represents more than 100 smaller regional carriers. So there's a chance that Sprint and T-Mobile could work with these carriers to extend their footprints to more rural areas. And the rural carriers could work with Sprint and T-Mobile for better urban access.

But one thing is clear, network coverage still matters, And unless smaller players are able to cobble together networks of their own or roaming agreements with other carriers, my options and yours will continue to be limited mostly to AT&T and Verizon, Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions, The column now appears iphone 6 qi case twice a week on CNET, offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice, If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you, Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com, And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header, You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page..

Ask Maggie offers advice on choosing between the two hottest smartphones on the market: iPhone 5 or Galaxy S3. And she explains why she didn't consider Sprint's iPhone 5. There are so many factors to consider when buying a new smartphone and choosing a wireless service. The truth is that what's good for one consumer may not satisfy the needs of another. Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy, which we encourage you to read. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion.