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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My mobile phone bills from the first two Rally America events have convinced me I need to subscribe to a US-based service. My Canadian GSM phone worked but the roaming charges were brutal. Who has the best service in rally hotspots like Bemidji, Houghton, Rumford, Colorado Springs or Wellsboro? Feel free to tell me that I'd get equal reception by just yelling into the forest. If not for the dreamers who'd be left in our sport?
 

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eating dust taking photos
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Verizon and T-mobile work sporadically on Pikes Peak. When there isn't a BFM (first word big last word mountain) between you and the Cell towers they work just fine. People with verizon got more reception last year than I did on t-mobile.

You'll want to support analog for the hartzel area if I remember right and having a triband phone for Cog will make life easier.
 

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Faster !!!!
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Verizon works for me at virtually every rally in the US
(including out on the stages when ... ahem .... necessary)

The places where it has been most sporadic were Sno*Drift and Maine
( the most remote rally locations in the US ??? )



I've actually called home from the side of stages at Bemidji,
Cherokee Trails, Wild West, Oregon Trail, STPR, Colorado,
Pikes Peak, and RIM ....


And of course, the BFM rule always applies to Cell Coverage ;-)
 

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Hi Lawrence.

I've got a GSM phone with Rogers and I think I've had ok coverage everywhere last year ... except maybe Maine. Anyway, I'm with you on the crazy roaming charges so this year I've decided to purchase Rogers' add-on long distance packages for while I'm in the States. It's surely not as convenient and probably not as economical as just having a US-based plan ... but that's what I went with. It's something like $40 for 60 minutes ... or $60 for 120 minutes. (For some reason I think Fido has a better option for US minutes.)

Anyway ... just fyi. Let me know if you find out anything worthwhile in your research... maybe that's where I should be headed too.

- Nath
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the advice everyone. Nath, you'll be #1 on my new speed dial. If you don't hear from me it's only a BFM.:)
 

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Lawrence and Nath, if it's any consolation, americans get creamed on roaming when north of the border (cellular reciprocity?). My cell bills from Challenge sur Glace, Tall Pines, Rocky, Defi, PN, & Baie last year could have put some nice new gravel tires on our car instead.

Down here, I use ATT Wireless (now merged w/Cingular) One Rate Plus, a great setup--fixed rate for ample minutes, you choose how many you need/want per month. With a digital phone, reception is as good as it gets, even in the BFMs. ATT/Cing has the most no-roaming agreements with the podunk cell companies that you often encounter in remote rally locales, so the monthly costs are usually pretty stable. ATT/cing also has add-on cov'g for Canada, I just haven't gotten it together to change my plan yet.


Dave G
www.lastditchracing.net

"...Embrace loose gravel, beware big trees..."
 

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Hey Lawrence,

One issue facing ralliers is that most of our venues are in very rural areas, which have not been the targets for license purchase or construction by the major carriers. Unlike Canada, we do not have just 6 or 8 wireless operators; all of the market licenses can go to anyone, large or small. So our rural rally markets often are served by smaller wireless carriers. Houghton is best covered by Dobson, who I think sells as Callular One in that area. USCellular is best in the Rumford area. There is another smaller regional operator in the Wellsboro area.

Your best bet is to get service with a major carrier who has roaming agreements with the smaller operators in these markets. The best way to figure this out is to look at the major carrier service maps on their websites. Make sure you look at the map that matches the plan you are considering! For US residents, it's best to get one of the flat rate, monthly, nationwide roaming plans, where their roaming charges are taken care of in the regular bill. For someone who is not in-country too often, I am not sure if a flat rate monthly serivce is the best deal.

Verizon Wireless seems to be the most ubiquitous; Cingular would be the other best choice. They both tend to be stronger on one end of the US or the other; VZW is stronger in the eastern half and on the west coast. But again, look at thes service maps.

Make sure you purchase a phone that will work on analog mode. These are often referred to as tri-mode phones, or dual-band, dual-mode phones. Do not purchase a digital only service; make sure you get analog service too. Also, do not get Nextel service; it is fine service, but due to the technology being used only by Nextel, and their different band of operation, you cannot roam with Nextel on anyone else. (That will change eventually when they merge with Sprint PCS.)

FYI to everyone, analog service will be terminated eventually in the US. I think this is about 5 years out. For rural use, GSM will probably be the best replacement; the technology lends itself best to longer distnace coverage as opposed to CDMA. However, CDMA seems to be gaining ground overall; we will have to see which dominates.

Good luck!
Mark B.
 

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Feeling like an "old timer."
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>...Who has the best service in rally hotspots like...Rumford...

Believe it or not, your Canadian phone service will probably work best there (in Maine). The analog signal we were getting in the Rumford area has been spotty, but when we popped out of the woods above Oquossoc a few years ago we were getting a very strong digital signal - from a tower in Quebec :D

Matt Kennedy
www.RockyRoadRacing.com
 

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Just a thought here as I work for TELUS Mobility, but I am pretty sure that Rogers has plans that cover the roaming charges in the U.S. TELUS Mobility has Talk North America plans that cover all long distance and roaming anywhere in Canada and the U.S. in the rate plan. You get a bucket of minutes in the plan and then only have to pay the extra minute rate if you go over the allowed minutes, even if making long distance calls or are roaming in the U.S.

Given the competitive the cell market in Canada, I am sure that Rogers has something similar.

Another thing to consider is which network you will roam onto in the U.S. As Rogers is a GSM based network, the choices for roaming in the U.S. are limited. TELUS Mobility has roaming agreements with Verizon so you would always roam onto that network if it is available.

I could go into things like PRL's and other details that effect roaming but the reality is that if you really want the best possible coverage, try a 3 watt analog bag phone. In rural areas often the best coverage but as analog is slowly being phased out in most parts of Canada and the U.S. night only be useful for a couple of more years.

If you want more info, let me know and I will give a email address.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The classic 3-watt analogue bag phone is a questionable fashion statement, but you're right, it usually works. I remember buying phones for the Calgary Olympics back in 1988. It was like lugging a 5kg car battery with a handset attached. Motorola whimsically called their product "an executive dialysis machine".

Apart from the retro-dork factor, we have to answer the more fundamental question of "who are you going to talk to if you've got the only working telephone?" Which leads to the obvious observation that our sport is still held back by lack of affordable communications. Imagine the advantages of a rally that ran inside a big-city-calibre cellular zone: the event management, safety, scoring, PR, spectator, TV production and internet implications would be huge. The WRC solved the problem (at colossal expense) with their fleet of aircraft which are essentially shared communications satellite platforms. Had all of their rallies been in Europe they could probably have created a GSM mobile phone solution because the coverage is so pervasive.

Despite the continued rollout of cell towers, the areas where we rally will likely be the last to get coverage. It's a Catch 22situation. The very communications that our sport needs could be a harbinger of its death. The arrival of cell towers could be the first clue that we're going to lose access to those roads.

Do any of you in the mobile phone industry know if it's possible to set up temporary cell "towers"? An official cellular supplier to Rally-America would be an awesome technology partner. I mentioned "dreamers" at the start of this thread. Case in point.
 

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I would think that your best option is to find a service either North or South of the border that covers both Canada and the US.

Cel. service is generally cheaper in the US.

Once upon a time...

There was a wonderful little Cel. service provider in Canada called Clearnet. A company that billed by the second, gave GOOD freebies and coupons with every phone bill, and had really cool advertising with Gecko's, and other animals.

Then one day the big bad wolf (TELUS) swallowed up Clearnet and abolished the per second billing, and all the free features, but managed to maintain the cool advertising for all their other products as well as Telus mobility.

No one lived hapily ever after....

:-(
 

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Since I'm from the U.P. of Michigan, I only have the choice of Alltel or Cellular One. While working rallys in MN, MI, ME, OR, WA and PA, I've noticed that my Cellular One handheld phone, which changes to Extended Range through AT&T I believe, has worked much better than expected. The only time I've ever paid roaming on this phone is in Sault Ste Marie, MI, because the signal is carried by the Ontario towers. Ugh.
 

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I recently just switched to alltel from cell one. Cell One felt like doubling my bill without telling me. I've found that Alltell works just as well. Also, I know Cingular will work up here in the UP too.
 

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Cingular has a flat rate North American plan. I've never had any reception problems. If rally has made you a North American citizen, as it has me, I recomend the plan.
 

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We had a small sponsorship for Colorado Cog last year and we were given an unlimited us Sprint phone that worked well. Combined our team has AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Qwest, and Nextel. Verizon is by far been the best for us so far. Nextel by far the worst, though considering their target market that is not surprising. Qwest is pretty ridiculous too. One friend lives about 10 blocks from the Qwest building in downtown Denver and his coverage is horrible. Really the best and most inexpensive solution would probably be to leave your cell phone at home and buy a phone card to call back home with. Rallyists survived for years without them. Or I guess you could buy one of the prepaid cell phones that you just prepurchase the minutes, then you'd only pay for when you were using it. Verizon I believe has these. Good luck.
 

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Trac Fone pre-pay, there's a way to rig the memory of the phone to make it beleive its contract, while the towers still think its pre-pay. It freezes your minute bank and lets you call until your 90's between buying phone cards is used up. $10.00 card every 90 days = $40.00 yearly service. Great reception out at Sno*Drift.

Theres also a way to go into the memory banks of almost any phone and change the local settings to a seperate carrier. Most phones have three options built in, mostly for employees of cell companies. That way they can use thier sister companies towers without getting charged an arm and a leg for roaming. The best way to go about it is to leave your carrier as your primary source, then set the other two to major carriers, one U.S., one Canadien, that way it lets you access virtually anywhere.

Simple online search should get you all the info, or go to www.cellphonehacks.com
 

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We've had luck with Verizon in the UP and Northern MN. When we went off at LSPR and at OFPR we were able to call our service crew both times from the woods.

-Dave & Stacy
 

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STPR Update:
With my old Nokia phone and Cingular on the old TSM or whatever the old network is, I had full digital reception at the Bilo in Wellsboro. 2 bars at the airport. 2 bars at the watercrossing. 1 bar at the Colton Point spectator spot on SS5 & SS8. No reception at SS4.

Other folks with snappy fancy new phones had nothing. Secret might be to find a Nokia 3360 if you want good rally coverage.

Pete
 
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