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Thread: Phone coverage

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    Phone coverage

    Hi all,
    I'll be attempting (attempting being the operative word) the transam/western express route later this year, and have a question about mobiles (cellphones) in the US; I'll be travelling solo and hence would like to carry a mobile in case of emergencies, but is the network coverage sufficiently good to warrant the cost, ie. I buy a phone when I fly in, but then can't use it for most of the way anyway so it would be rather pointless?
    Also roughly how much could I expect to pay for a basic pay-as-you-go phone?

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    Take a look at Tracfone. It's expensive at around 45 cents per minute, but you don't have to buy a gazillion minutes to get started. For your purpose, it's actually cheap. 911 is free and domestic long distance is no extra cost. You'll probably be roaming most of the time at a 2:1 cost and if you're too far from a tower or a mountain blocks the signal, you won't get any service. I wouldn't let the risk of being out of range keep me from carrying a cell phone. They are good, cheap insurance and most of the time you'll get some sort of signal. I know people who buy a Tracfone and get the free time when they are going on a weekend trip then throw it away when they get back home.


    If you initialize the phone from their web site, they will give you 20 minutes free that is good for 2 months, but I don't know how long that will be in effect, it's usually just 10 minutes. A Tracfone Nokia 1100 can be bought in stores for $20 (mine was from Wal Mart), and the time can be bought from their web site or the cards are pretty common and can even be found in supermarkets. You can use library computers to get online to initialize the phone or add time. I don't recommend their call-in customer sevice or reconditioned phones.


    http://www.tracfone.com/home_page.jsp?b=i&flash=YES&p=W
    Last edited by Hal Hardy; 03-29-06 at 09:01 AM.

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    In many rural areas of the US, there may be no digital cellphone coverage. Most areas will have analog service, if you phone supports it, but my experience is that the battery in a digital phone will not support more than a few minutes of analog calling.

    Generally, digital service in rural areas is limited to narrow zones along interstate highways and other high traffic roads. To make matters worse, the coverage will vary considerably depending on the phone company.

    When I tour, I leave my cell phone at home and take a prepaid phone card. While it's not useful along the road, I can make calls from a payphone in town.

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    Hi,
    I rode the Northern Tier route last summer. With my Verizon tri-mode phone, I had a connection to call home for all but 3 to 4 days. Analog capability helps a lot.
    I would guess the coverage on the Trans-Am is not as good, especially in the western mountains.
    Regards,
    Lee
    http://bikerlee.home.comcast.net/

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    jon bon stovie
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    while i understand the need for a cell phone on tour, there is one topic i am curious about myself. how do you keep it charged?

    dynamo hubs can be modified to charge a cell phone, but not very helpful if you don't want to rebuild a wheel. and hand cranks seem like a real pain to crank just to make what could be a long phone call home. you could do small charges at restaurants along the way, but unless you are willing to sit there for a few hours (much to the dismay of the local waitstaff) you are still out of luck.

    the only thing that i can think of is a solar battery charger for cell phones. there appear to be several models out there. but has anyone used them? what experiences have you had? and can they be purchased (as all thing should) cheaply?

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    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Really depends on the phone and service provider. Nearly all towns & interstate highways will have cell phone service. I did a tour from South Carolina to Texas last year and had roaming charges in Abilene, TX but always had coverage in every town. The roaming charges got me for 70 cents a minute. Sometimes I would lose coverage in remote areas or have analog service.

    Before you go, get a coverage map from providers and base it on the route you will be taking.

    Good luck.

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    Commercial campgrounds have outlets for charging. I also charged the phone while dining at restaurants or staying in motels.
    I didn't have a problem keeping the phone charged.
    Regards,
    Lee

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    Senior Member jnoble123's Avatar
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    I took a cell phone with me when going around Lake Erie because I had to use it to rendevous with a friend the first day of the tour. I used it later to attempt to call a cab when crossing the border in Detroit.

    Since then I haven't bothered carrying a cell phone. For me I can generally find a pay phone to handle both my pocketmail journal/email uploads and my calls home.

    I've often wondered about the utility of a satellite phone for a long, world wide type tour. Of course the cost to purchase the phone is expensive but outside of that considerable issue how useful would it really be?

    ~Jamie N
    Interested in Bicycle Touring? -- Bicycle Touring 101

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    Hi. I'm in Delaware. Robbykills's Avatar
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    tracfone kinda sucks.

    I got rid of mine and I'm pretty happy with TMobil to Go

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    Thanks very much, I can't say I would have thought of whether I should get a digital or analogue phone. $20 dollars is incredibly cheap for a phone, you could probably only buy a phone cover for that much in the UK.

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    Senior Member jcbryan's Avatar
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    Cell Phone TA

    Might try these guys. Heard good things about them from other tourists, cheap and it works!

    http://www.simplefreedom.net/SimpleF...verageArea.htm

    I had a Trac Phone and it was a waste of my money, in the western part of the TA.

    Hope it helps, John

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    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evilbee
    Hi all,
    I'll be attempting (attempting being the operative word) the transam/western express route later this year, and have a question about mobiles (cellphones) in the US; I'll be travelling solo and hence would like to carry a mobile in case of emergencies, but is the network coverage sufficiently good to warrant the cost, ie. I buy a phone when I fly in, but then can't use it for most of the way anyway so it would be rather pointless?
    Also roughly how much could I expect to pay for a basic pay-as-you-go phone?
    I'd look @ Virgin Mobile. Start at about $50.00 or a little less, and Airtime is btwen .10 &.25/minute. Coverage is good and Walmart carries ther cards. Same basic coverage as Sprint PCS as far as area. You will hit some dead zones, but what carrier doesn't have them!
    Virgin Mobile: www.virginmobile.com
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Stormcrowe
    I'd look @ Virgin Mobile. Start at about $50.00 or a little less, and Airtime is btwen .10 &.25/minute. Coverage is good and Walmart carries ther cards. Same basic coverage as Sprint PCS as far as area. You will hit some dead zones, but what carrier doesn't have them!
    Virgin Mobile: www.virginmobile.com
    I have Sprint PCS and my experience is that if you plan to ride along interstate highways, it would be great. If you are riding on rural routes, leave the phone home.

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    The "simple freedom" coverage looks mighty impressive if it is accurate. Virgin looks a bit more sketchy, but seems to mirror the route to a certain extent. Thanks again for the info everyone

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    Senior Member toolboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikerlee
    Hi,
    I rode the Northern Tier route last summer
    I did part of the NT in '04 with a Canadian Rogers phone. Yipes! When the trip was over and I got my cell phone bill I was sick! Around $500 due to exhorbitant roaming charges. I had asked about this problem before I left but was assured it would be about $1 a minute. Bad enough but nothing like the $4-$5 a min I eventually was charged. Rogers and I eventually reached a compromise but it was an expensive lesson!

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