We use mobile phones every day: to look up directions, send text messages, email, and, of course, make calls. We are becoming increasingly more reliant on our mobile devices and expect ubiquitous voice and data coverage everywhere, all of the time, especially as remote workforces continue to grow and become more commonplace. In moments when calls become spotty, or emails won’t send, phones aren’t the primary factor rather mobile networks are of key consideration.

The U.S. is home to well over 345 million mobile subscribers, and network access is in a constant state of rush hour traffic as demand for bandwidth continues to grow. Missed or dropped calls, delayed texts and apps that simply won’t load or connect all seem commonplace which may give the perception that networks are not improving, when in reality they are. To stay viable, operators have had to engage in network upgrades, new technology deployments, and constant performance testing – i.e., benchmarking. Benchmarking is critical to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of an operator’s network (benchmarking is a rigorous, controlled process of conducting drive and in-venue tests that measure and assess key network performance elements such as access, capacity, coverage, and quality). With this in mind, there are several factors that influence mobile network performance, each one significant—and there are steps you can take to ensure you receive the best coverage available.

Choosing a Reliable Mobile Network – Location Matters

Mobile networks often make marketing claims such as being “the most reliable” or having “the fastest 4G data network.” These claims indicate the value of quality wireless connections, and though they may seem arbitrary they are generally legally supportable claims backed by benchmarking studies. This information is critical and can help you take into consideration key network factors such as coverage versus location. In urban jungles such as New York, architectural obstructions including in-building glass and other building materials can significantly reduce wireless signals. Additionally, larger swaths of landscape and natural obstructions (such as hilly terrain, dense forests, etc.) in more remote areas can, by nature, make it difficult to receive quality service. These kinds of barriers require considerable investment and resources from network operators. This said, by researching benchmarking claims and network information that is publicly available, you can make informed decisions that will deliver the best possible coverage in line with your location and expectations.

Operators are Constantly Enhancing Their Networks – Keep Tabs

Today’s heavy mobile device use—both individually and across workforces—is forcing operators to continually improve services and upgrade networks. Whether your mobile ecosystem depends on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon or another operator, networks are constantly upgrading their infrastructures by increasing speeds and addressing the proliferation of new data-saturated apps. For example, several operators are actively deploying LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network features that will eventually result in faster data speeds and improved network capacity. Furthermore, some operators are enabling HD voice to enhance bandwidth, capacity and voice quality, and aggressively adding smaller cell sites in their markets to better manage congestion and to fill in dead spots. Because such services are being rolled out regularly, it’s to your benefit to stay up to date on the latest mobile developments. That way, when you are selecting a mobile option that best suits your needs, you can be an informed consumer, selecting the plan that makes most sense in accordance with the demands you’ll be putting on a network.

Cost – Plan Ahead

It takes an incredible amount of resources—and investment—for operators to build and maintain both agile and reliable networks. In turn, consumer or business investment in a mobile presence also comes at a price. To ensure your investment is worthwhile, map out the mobile demands you anticipate making. Will you need the fastest data upload and download speeds possible, for app use? The most reliable Wi-Fi? Uninterrupted calling? Need local, regional or nationwide coverage? Mobile networks can vary in this regard – some perform better than others depending on the question. While operators all invest in, expand and routinely test their networks (benchmark) for optimum performance, no two networks are alike – they offer different services, deploy different technologies and have different core network strengths. Do your research, and think about how you’ll integrate mobile use into your day-to-day processes to ensure the best possible mobile experience for your company.