Helpful Links

Data coverage: San Francisco


Data coverage: San Francisco

I have an iPhone 3G since July (first day available). I have been able to use it on my home 3G network (AT&T) as well as on roaming networks. I do not really use my iPhone for voice (about 5 minutes per month) but a lot for data use.


When I am in Canada or in Europe, my iPhone is a fantastic data device. Outside the USA, 3G coverage is amazing. One positive side-effect of a better coverage is that my battery charge last much longer. 


Here in San Francisco, I have to say I have been disapointed by the 3G coverage.


Yesterday night I was on Powell Street, between Market and Union square (this is downtown for people unfamiliar with our city). I was seated near a pretty large window at the second floor of the building. Duringmy diner, the data coverage was as follow: NONE: 30% 3G: 30% EDGE: 35% and GPRS: 5%. 


I live in the outer sunset (43rd. Avenue, near the Golden Gate Park). The usual coverage at that point is: NONE: 20% EDGE: 60% 3G: 20%.  This is when I am outdoor. When I go inside the place where I wash my laundry (Irving St. and 41st. Avenue) it is: NONE:80% EDGE:20% 3G:0%. 


I use the N-Juday street car to comute from Outer Sunset to my work place (near the AT&T ball park). Once again, the coverage varies. There are many black (no coverage) spots on the way. 


The coverage type (3G, EDGE or GPRS) is one issue. The strength of the signal (raising the bars!!!) is another. However, some days, even with 4 bars and 3G the actual data transfer could be very low. 


That situation should be compared to the kind of service I have got when I was in Montréal (Québec, Canada) during the last hollidays. On the Montréal island the 3G coverage was everywhere and it was at least 3 bars but most of the time it was 4 bars. In many subway stations, the 3G service was available. In Canada, the 3G service seems to be available and performant. I never have droped to the EDGE or GPRS network. 


One problem with the iPhone (maybe with every 3G device) is when the device switches between the 3G and EDGE networks. I was watching You Tube when such a switch happened. At that time, I had more than 50% (of a 10 minutes clip) already loaded with a good 4 minutes in the buffer. For about 2 minutes, the iPhone switched from 3G to EDGE and back to 3G. Even if the 3G was back for a while, the You Tube application has not resumed the download of the clip. That situation is very annoying.


Any comments?



Message 1 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

Well, for what it's worth.  I was in SF yesterday.  I got off the Bart at the Powell station.  Walked on Mission to 4th to Howard.  To the Moscone Center for the Macworld convention.  I had solid 3G even in the Bart station (underground).  Inside the Moscone Center it was a bit slower.  But once I was back outside it was screaming.  Had lunch at a bar/deli inside it was good there too.


If I were you, I would make an appointment  at your local Apple Genius Bar and have them check it out.


Hope this helps! 

Message 2 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

I'm in a simlar sitaution to you.  Here are my experiences at home, work and on the move in the City:


  • Home (48th/Quintara), Although the phone indicates close to full coverage both on 2G and 3G, it switches between 3G and EDGE frequently, sometimes it keeps switching back and forth so often it makes data unusable.  When I have 3G data speeds are pretty bad (150kbs-500kbs or even less)  I have WiFi at home so this isn't a big deal.  In general when I'm west of 19th Ave I switch 3G off as the HSDPA network seems very patchy out here.
  • Work (Market/Montgomery) - Solid 3G connection with reasonable speeds.  Occasionally it will switch back to 2G when making a call, but not very often and usually when I do something predictable like use it in an elevator.
  • Commute (Muni L-Taraval) - As stated earlier I've pretty much given up on 3G for most of the above ground portion of this journey.  EDGE seems to be far more reliable for this stretch. 

In summary I think 3G coverage and capacity is terrible in SF.  I was down in Daly City and there I had a really good 3G signal with consistent speeds of 1.5Mbs+
Message 3 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

I live on Castro near 15th and coverage at home is just terrible. I have to sit in my living room to make calls and even then the voices suddenly become garbled for many long seconds. Dropped calls are a constant headache. Friends tell me that they can tell someone is calling from an iPhone in just a few seconds, but I suspect that the problem is the AT&T coverage in SF.


A friend who had service in SF for over a year recently moved to Massachusetts and reports that all his problems with iPhone coverage have disappeared. We both have found that this city is plagued with dead zones. When I first got the iPhone, I presumed that AT&T would improve service here, it being so central to Apple, but there has been no improvement whatsoever. I use my iPhone as infrequently as possible, given that conversations of more than 1 minute or while moving are practically impossible. 

Message 4 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

Something has changed during the past 2 weeks. I went to Montréal for 8 days and when I came back, the 3G network coverage has been improved.


To perform a real life test, I use an application named "Public Radio" to listen streamed music. When my iPhone switch between the 3G and the EDGE networks, the data streaming stops and I don't listen music anymore. I can restart the process in a EDGE zone but when I am back in a 3G zone or when I change EDGE cell (EDGE to EDGE, EDGE to 3G or 3G to EDGE), the music stops again. However, in a 3G to 3G situation, the music continues uninterrupted.


As I have said, I use the N-Judah street car to commute between home (43rd. Avenue in Sunset) to work (near Ball Park), a 45-50 minutes commute.


At this time, this is the situation:


From Ocean Beach to Sunset Boulevard: no 3G service, EDGE service can be spotted.

From Sunset Boulevard to 19th. avenue: Better 3G service when the street car reaches the top of hills. Spotty in valleys.

From 19th. Avenue to 4th. Avenue (including the Irving/9th Avenue/Judah segment): Good 3G coverage.

From 4th. Avenue to Carl/Cole: EDGE only. No 3G coverage near UCSF Hospital. 

From Carl/Cole to Duboce/Noe: This is a tunnel. Some service but not reliable.

From Duboche/Noe to Duboce Church: Recovering from the drop in the tunnel can be long.


Here the service depends of the direction of the street car. When the train leave the Market tunnel, you can have 3G coverage for few seconds and then you are switched down to EDGE. This is probably due to the fact that too many people in the street car try to register with the 3G network at the same time. When a streetcar leave the Market tunnel (where no service is available), all passengers with 3G enabled device start the registration process. By the number of iPhones I see around me during the afternoon rush hour, that could mean 50 or 100 devices showing up at the same time.



Message 5 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

Without the specifics which I have not had time to gather, I am in the Upper, Haight-Ashbury - Golden Gate Park area of the city. Although I have noticed a slight improvement in coverage, all in all out here, the coverage is poor. When you purchase the iPhone they showed me a coverage map that represented the entire city coverage as excellent. In my computer design studio, (wireless, bluetooth, electronics, remote controls, etc.,) I get almost no signal at all, even if I am near a window or within 6 feet of a window. In Golden Gate Park the 3G coverage is spotty at best. Most of the time it reverts to Edge. Boy, I sure would like to go into the park and listen to all of my radio apps!!!!





Message 6 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

the coverage where i live is terrible--twin peaks. i had to install a land line in order to make phone calls since my iphone does not work period. the minute the iphone is supported by another provider i am switching.
Message 7 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

I used to live around the Castro-Twin Peaks area. Nothing works perfectly well there, at least when I lived there. It's just the nature of the hilly San Francisco terrain.


Message 8 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

Coverage south of Market Street is typically good for all phone services as the area is flat, especially around Moscone Center. As one gets near upper Market, performance drops precipitously. The Sunset is also flat, but the coverage there is shockingly spotty.


A friend with a non-iPhone AT&T service says that the device is hopeless in the Castro, which is the geographic center of the city. 

Message 9 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

I have a Fuze and have spotty 3G coverage in SF as well, so it's not just the iPhoney.  The coverage is greater walking around the financial district, but in other places, just not as good.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Prev. devices: SGS, Note 2, SGS3, Galaxy Nexus, T-Mobile, G2x, iPhone4, HTC HD2, HTC Fuze, HTC StarTrek, BB Bold
Message 10 of 11

Re: Data coverage: San Francisco

I live at Marina and Cervantes in SF, can see the bay from my couch and still get terrible service. My phone drops calls everytime the phone actually works, usually < 30 seconds in. 


This seems to be a San Francisco bay area issue, my phone works fine when traveling to other major cities - Chicago, NYC, Boston. 


At the very least, they should be providing free microcells to those of us who cant even use our phones at home. 


I have called support several times, they claim there is not a known issue, which is a total lie given that a quick google pulls up many results on the topic. 


Message 11 of 11
Share this topic

Is the iPhone X worth it? Find out why it totally is!

Find out how to track your iPhone's delivery!

Let us help you Give the Gift of AT&T Wireless this holiday season!

Additional Support