Wireless Coverage Issues and Reports - 2019 Season

Nov 18, 2006
1,231
296
11
Chicago, IL
I use both VZW and AT&T.

I run the same VZW jetpack with no boosters/antenna I have been using since 2013 and it's worked just fine for me this year. I was told by a VZW associate that the unlimited plans sometimes get throttled since they're typically the biggest consumers. Im on a pre-paid 8gb/mo plan for $50 - I don't use much data and its worked just fine - about the same as every other year. I'll lose data for 10 minutes here and there in typical dead spots but thats it.

My cell phone is AT&T to supplement when VZW is down and vice versa. I find between the two I am rarely without some sort of coverage. Over the years I've found AT&T has gotten as good as, if not surpassed VZW in terms of coverage, especially in the N plains.
 

B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
261
67
11
Most of you guys know I don't go out west, at least not yet.

That being said, for a report on Northeast and Atlantic, and the most-hated-by-chasers carrier out there:

I use Sprint. I'm currently running the following devices in my household:
- 2x Kyocera Duraforce PRO Android smartphones
- Samsung Tab A 10'5" Android tablet
- Kyocera DuraTR Android-based feature phone
- Kyocera DuraPlus SDC-Legacy-based feature phone
- Sprint/Sierra Wireless AirCard 402 wireless card
- Cradlepoint COR-IBR-650 mobile router

Both Duraforce PRO phones, the Samsung Tablet, and the DuraTR are fully capable of 4G/3G operation, with the remaining phones, cards, and routers being capable of 3G/2G operation only (EVDO Rev A in the case of the card and router). I have found some things about Sprint that I consider to be positives:

- Less throttling
- Higher data caps
- They will still place 3G devices online, and they have announced no plans so far as I know to abandon 3G (yeah, they said the same thing about Nextel iDen about a year before they turned it off, too).

Sprint pursued WiMax technology as their route to high-speed data for a lot longer than anyone else, then had to about-face and embrace LTE like everyone else, way late in the game. This is the reason that Sprint has sucked for several years. They've been playing catch-up. That being said, they have been playing catch-up fast. I can say that Sprint's coverage area has been amazing me as of late. Sure, there's plenty of areas where there's no 4G or 3G signal at all still, but those areas are getting smaller. They've been on-lining massive amounts of LTE tech in locations that didn't used to have service. The only place I've been this year where I had no connectivity at all has been out in north-central PA in the mountains, in a national forest.

Funny thing about Sprint's service, though - I have been in remote areas of PA and OH in the past 6 months where my newer smart devices dropped to nothing, and did not default to 3G, while my Duraplus and EVDO internet devices still had a booming 3G signal. I've also noticed that, in some extremely remote areas, when everything else wouldn't work, my old DuraPlus candy bar phone was able to make calls. I've also been in some areas on 3G where signal seemed good, but I couldn't make phonecalls or use the internet, but Sprint Direct Connect Plus PTT has worked wonderfully, while the same feature will occasionally fail to work at all with a full 4G signal in my living room.
 

Matt Salo

EF1
Feb 22, 2015
51
36
11
Minneapolis, MN
In the past I have used a Verizon JetPack for data, with and without an amp. This year, I have been using the hotspot on my AT&T phone, with a Maximum Signal amplifier. The only issues I've really had with signal dropouts has been either a few high chaser density areas (5/20 Oklahoma), or in the TX Panhandle when I drop down into Palo Duro Canyon. Other than that, AT&T has been surprisingly solid this year. (compared to previous years).
 
Jun 28, 2007
246
69
11
Machesney Park, IL
No noticeable change for me with Verizon over the past two years, ever since I went to a Jetpack and installed the Maximum Signal amp I rarely lose coverage. Previous problem areas in NW Oklahoma now get coverage the only area I was without coverage for longer than a few minutes this year was in the Palo Duro.

Looking back over the years my coverage experience has improved immensely. From 2007 to 2012 I had Sprint and while coverage did improve during that span it was very spotty and a far cry from my coverage today. The switch to Verizon made for a vast improvement but the aircard/antennae combo I used still made for spotty coverage and while chasing I’d encounter numerous and extensive data gaps. The move to the Jetpack plus amp was well worth the investment, I’ve driven over 10k miles using the devices and rarely ever find myself without data and on those occasions I do lose coverage it’s usually only very temporary in nature.

Thanks for sharing that info about Verizon and that data hole in Illinois, Jesse. I always thought it was inevitable the area would get covered by Verizon but now realize the status quo could remain for years. Even though I’ve chased that area each of the past 3 years I can’t personally see the justification of adding another carrier to cover that hole, especially since I rarely encounter such holes elsewhere.
 
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Not much changed for us this year using VZW and AT&T, as others say between the two you rarely have no coverage.

I was limited though this year to using only HDSPA+ with my new phone on AT&T, but this was hardly a problem as speeds were good and I often held onto towers longer than my chase partner who had the access to the LTE. Nebraska has been a long-standing problem for me though and I always get black-holed in west Neb - apart from the bigger towns like Ogal. and Sidney.

Some notables:
  • Still got that problem of a big Verizon black spot in central Texas (greater Brownwood area) where AT&T works just great.
  • Got completely kicked off the AT&T network on the Mangum day (like as if they took the sim card out) for a good two hours.
  • Montana coverage with VZW getting much better - drove by a cell tower where you would not expect one, only servicing a few people and a state road with next to no traffic.
 
Jun 4, 2018
61
55
11
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San Angelo, TX
I have a Verizon jetpack and use 2 external antennas and had almost no problems this year. I chased all over TX, a lot of OK, and even some AR and LA. My chase parter has AT&T on his phone, and the biggest hole was in Concho Valley (San Angelo) and Big Country (Abilene) even in towns. That was intereating given that is some of the first areas in the country to get cell phone coverage given the old GTE R&D presence in San Angelo. I suspect it has to do with that area being dominated by a local carrier West Central Net.
I live here in San Angelo, and everyone I know with AT&T complains about issues. I have VZW and have no issues in town. I also had hardly any problems up between here and Sweetwater, and even north of I20 when chasing on the 20 May. My biggest issues have been along 87 and 83 between San Angelo and Junction, then along the I10 corridor between there and San Antonio. All of which was pretty accurately shown by the map @Quincy Vagell made
 
Jun 21, 2004
1,528
32
11
Kearney, NE
bigstormpicture.com
For me, this year has some dramatic problems with throughput, making my Verizon connections almost useless at times. The actual cellular connections were usually quite strong (I use an amp), but in areas of chaser convergence the effective data transmission speeds were so slow as to make it impossible to even pull radar grabs at times. This feels like either a backhaul issue or just a straight up lack of bandwidth on the LTE frequencies.

I’ve been with Verizon for a long time now, hopefully the 5G rollout will fix these issues.
 
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Bill Hark

EF5
Jan 13, 2004
1,254
171
11
51
Richmond Virginia
www.harkphoto.com
I had issues with Verizon in parts of northeastern Colorado and northwestern Oklahoma/northeastern Texas Panhandle last May 2019. I used a JetPack. When the data went out, I just used Mobile ThreatNet and had no difficulty since it's satellite based.