My old POS Cingular phone works ok at Sno*Drift (must be the towers for the snowmobiles) and Rim. Can't get anything at STPR. Can't get anything at Maine except for stage 1. I don't think I tried it at LSPR, but I'm sure it didn't work there (worked at the practice stage).
Edit: The above is for being on the actual stages. I have coverage in all the host towns.
yup I tried many cell phone services, they all sucked, Safety is a big deal with our team, so we aproached WCC a sat phone company, they provide us with sat phones for all events, they are great, at the end of the stages we call the stage times in, as well as call the crew to tell them we are safe and the condition of the car, when we have had problems, the crew are informed before we get to service so it speeds things up
I like the safety side best as we can call for help if needed, they offer a SCCA Pro rally Widgetracing discount if you are interested, go to www.widgetracing.com
Half of us have T-mobile, which seems to work some areas and not in others, and the other half has AT&T which seems to work in more areas than T-mobile.
For instance, in Vernonia, the T-mobile phones had no service but the AT&T phones did. Both sets have service in Shelton, but the AT&T ones have no service at the ORV park in McCleary.
Mark's AT&T phone had service at the top of Del Sur, because he called me on it to chat while waiting.
I don't even bother with the cell phone while rallying, it's usually off until we're done for the day. Lack of service was one motivator for getting my HAM license and a radio! Now if I could just get the rest of the team to go for it....
Just like Leon says we use the satellite phones and they work. Go to widgetracing.com and you will get a discount. You can rent them for just a event and send them back. It works!
The CEO of the company was a Solo 1 competitor. A very nice guy and Colleen Houck is very nice to work with and she will take care of you. Also, the minute cost has come down considerably to a $1.34 a minute. What is a cost if you are only calling in to your service crew or even worse to get help to you immediately due to injury and you are between communication blockadges on a long stage.
Came through on Sno-Drift, Rim, STPR, Oregon Trails so far.
I have AT&T One Rate Digital, a flat fee anywhere with no roaming or long distance charges and have been pleased with it, I even got coverage while on a stage on the top of the mountain (large hill) at Rocky Mountain Rally in Calgary. Of course there are some holes in places, but that is to be expected. Overall I would give it high ratings and nice that there is no hidden charges for roaming
Avoid AT&T's new GSM service like the plague though, I had it for less than a month and I could not even get good service in the middle of Boston
Nextel has NO coverage of any of the State of Pennsylvania other than the 2 major cities.
There are NO Nextel cell towers in the area of Atlanta Michigan. The nearest tower is over by Gaylord. Nextel is only along the major highways other than the bigger cities... Grand Rapids, Detroit, Lansing, Big Rapids, Caddilac, etc. Nextel has NO towers north of the Bridge that I know of.
We conducted a little user test last weekend. We were a long way from anything on the Schaefer Glade Road in western Washington, call it south of the Olympic Mountains, west of Shelton, east of Tahola.
Nextel, Cinqular/ATT had no service.
Verizon worked like a charm.
I swithched to Verizon in Jan. and it worked well everywhere at Oregon (even on stage 5, where we broke),
It worked at Rim, even on the press stage,where we broke again.
In most places at STPR, and Headwaters.
It was 50/50 at SnoDrift and 100AW.
My old Alltel and Deb's Nextel were awful everywhere.
Be sure you get a phone that is Digital and Analog.
jeffy (can you hear me now)
If you get phone service with digital only service, you will have far less luck in rural areas. Although anlog service is being phased out, it tends to hold on longest in the rural areas and gives the longest distance coverage, albeit scratchy in the far areas.
If you get Sprint PCS or T-Mobile in the US, their networks are digital only and at the PCS band (1900 MHz) ONLY. The only way these can work on analog is if you get a dual band phone AND get a nationwide, maxiaml roaming, rate plan from them.
You are far better off getting service from a network that has significant portion of their network in the cellular band (800 MHz). The signals propagate far better in that band, and all the analog service is there. Companies in the US that have substantial portions of their network in the 800 MHz band:
The first 3 are your best choices as they have by far the most ubiquitous coverage. BUT, you have to make sure you get a 'tri-mode' phone (which will do 800 MHz analog) AND get a service plan that includes maximum nationwide roaming at no charge. Then you will have the best plan to get the best shot at coverage in the rural areas.
The rural areas are covered by a hodge-podge of wireless providers who sell service under a variety of names. For example, the LSPR area is best covered by Dobson, which sells as Cellular One in No. MI, and roams well with AT&T. You can roam there with Verizon, but may have to pay for air time. A similar situation exists in No central PA, with a rural provider, but Verizon roams well there in addition to AT&T. What little area is covered at Maine is US Cellular, who roams with Verizon but probably still charges for AT&T roamers. East Tenn is best covered by Verizon. Alltel is best at Cheraw, with digital coverage in part of the area, with Cingular GSM (in the PCs band) being second best. So, you see, there is no one best provider.
One provider to avoid for rallying is Nextel. They are the only widespread user of the iDEN technology in the world, and since they offer service in the trunking band (not cellular or PCS), they cannot legally roam onto cellular or PCS, either analog or digital. You are dead in the water with them if you run off their netowrk; NO romaing with anyone else.
So, for rally use, look for service from one of the big 3 (soon to be the big 2) cellular band service providers, and make sure you get a tri-mode phone (which means it will operate on digital or analog at cellular band, and digital on PCS band), and get as large a nationwide, free roaming, service plan as you can.
I have Verizon Wireless here in the east with a tri-mode phone and their America's choice plan, and it is by far the best coverage service I have had over a very wide area I travel most everywhere east of the Mississippi); I was on AT&T for a long while, but it is not as good, except up at LSPR.
If you REALLY want to do something wild, one might go to eastern KY and see if Dobson, Ramcell, or Bluegrass Cellular are still selling the old 3 watt in-car digital + analog mobiles. Those things are still polular in the coal mining regions. What you could get for wide spread roaming plans would be the question, but you would have the most power you could have for cellular.
One other idea: I could figure out if there are some mobiles to which one could attach a small yagi antenna and coax; that would help coverage a lot. Only certain mobiles have external antenna connections, so this might be restricted to certain service providers. Any interest in such kits? And no, you could no put them into your pocket.....
(Wireless Industry Engineer for 10+ years)
Corsico RF Engineering Inc.
Edit about Rally WVa: PS: Don't be surprised if no cellular/PCS service works in that part of WVa. That area is deep inside the 'radio quiet zone' that surrounds the Nat'l Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank. (You can see the dishes from Snowshoe.) Plan on sat phones or ham radio.
>yup I tried many cell phone services, they all sucked,
>Safety is a big deal with our team, so we aproached WCC a
>sat phone company, they provide us with sat phones for all
>events, they are great, at the end of the stages we call the
>stage times in, as well as call the crew to tell them we are
>safe and the condition of the car, when we have had
>problems, the crew are informed before we get to service so
>it speeds things up
>I like the safety side best as we can call for help if
>needed, they offer a SCCA Pro rally Widgetracing discount if
>you are interested, go to www.widgetracing.com
So Leon, why did you have trouble getting to your crew from the green at STPR to get the light pod?:+ Remember, we had to try the ham net (and the fax).
Good info. USCellular concentrates on the rural markets; in fact, the only metro market where they hold licenses is Chicago, and that was purchased just last year. They still have a high concentration of analog service in most areas. Their holdings are primarily in the eastern US.
Verizon offers the "America's Choice" plan, or a "National XXX" plan.
I have National 600 (600 minutes free roaming anywhere, blah, blah, blah.)
The "National" plans have much more coverage than the America's Choice plan according to the maps and the dood selling me the phone. I have had service at stages at on nearly every national rally, but sometimes you have to walk around a bit or struggle with a bit of static.
Before that I had Voicestream...now T-mobile. I was lucky to not get dropped in metropolitan areas, let alone at rallies.
I have Cingular and I had 4 bars of service all around the town of Wellsboro. I could walk around town, call my mom, friends, w/e, absolutely no problem. Once I got out of Wellsboro I had little service of course and near the stages none.
At Rim I got service pretty much everywhere. (Didn't check on those far-out stages though)
At Maine, I actually got service on top of a hill in a clearing on Parmacheene Long after the Kennedy and Barnes crashes. Rumford I believe was ok.
I have no friends with Nextel...(probably because I'm in PA)