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Best cell service for long rides in the boonies?

Old 12-22-05, 11:09 AM
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Best cell service for long rides in the boonies?

OK, two of my family's cell phones are on the blink, so before we sign a new contract to get new "free" phones for all of us, I wanted to get people's opinions on the best cell service for randonneurs. I live in the DC area, so most of my long rides are out in rural areas of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. But I may do BMB this year, or one of the other 1200's, and may do PBP next year, and who knows where I might end up doing a long ride on vacation. Is there a consensus wisdom on the best cell service for your average randomly chosen long ride?

My recollection is that the advice is to make sure the phone can get analog signals for rural areas, and I thought that my current phone (Cingular service, Nokia 6340) is supposed to do that, but I don't know if it actually does. Sometimes it says "Cingular Extend" as the network. And many times it just gets no signal at all, out in the boonies. There are places where it got no signal but other people's phones got a signal; but other places where it got a signal while other people didn't.
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Old 12-22-05, 11:47 AM
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Everywhere is different, the only thing you can do is get coverage maps from the different phone companies and see where the towers are. Then you would need a map with elevation to see where the hills and valleys are. The only other way is to talk to people in the exact areas you plan to ride in and see how the coverage is. Generally speaking the towers are along highways and near large towns, not in the uninhabited areas. A satellite phone might work.

In other words........who knows?

Originally Posted by thebulls
Is there a consensus wisdom on the best cell service for your average randomly chosen long ride?
No.
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Old 12-22-05, 01:01 PM
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According to Mobile Computing magazine, Verizon has the largest "footprint" in the Continental USA. There are a very few places you can't get on with them, but in general, they're MUCH better than other carriers in my experience.

You also want to make sure you get a "tri-mode" phone that will access not only Verizon's network but also the digital and analog towers of other services. That way, you can "roam" on anyone else's network as well.

Happy shopping!
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Old 12-22-05, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by FarHorizon

You also want to make sure you get a "tri-mode" phone that will access not only Verizon's network but also the digital and analog towers of other services. That way, you can "roam" on anyone else's network as well.
Is this what the pre-paid phones like Tracfone do?
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Old 12-22-05, 05:15 PM
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I swore for years that Cingular with a nokia 6340i works the best and in europe and Canada where the GSM network is dominate it probaly still is. But my wife recently switched us to Verizon and I have to say I am getting a better signal and fewer dropped calls in rural areas of northern NY and VT where cell service is always spotty at best .
The verizon phone I got was a trimode Verizon (audiovox)CDM 8615 with a little pull up antenna that actually worth a bar or two of signal when you pull it out. it folds and fits in a ziplock sandwich bag very well thank you. Down side is the battery is only good for a couple of days on standby. Phone is free if you sign-up for Verizon on the internet.
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Old 12-22-05, 06:36 PM
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I've been many areas that have only analog service. The problem is that a digital phone battery lasts only a few minutes in analog mode. If you need to use analog, plan what you are going to say, and say it fast.

when I am touring in the boonies, I take a prepaid phone card. You can still find payphones in small towns (though they are becoming scarce!) and often a business may let you make a toll free call to use your phone card.

A phone card also weighs much less than a cell phone.
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Old 12-22-05, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by supcom
...a digital phone battery lasts only a few minutes in analog mode...
That has NOT been my experience. What phone do you have? I've had excellent battery life (in both digital AND analog modes) from a variety of phones including Nokia, Samsung, and LG.
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