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Old 09-25-2018, 04:29 PM   #1
Titanium Spork
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Pointe-Claire, Quebec
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Cell service in general and Canadians in particular

Being from Canada, I turn off my phone when I cross the border in a southerly direction, to avoid roaming fees (though they're not as onerous as they were). Now that we're venturing into the high peaks, and winter is coming, I'm wondering whether I ought to have some emergency comms device.
  • In general, is there a cell provider that gives better service? AFAIK AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM (the kind of phone Canadians have), while Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular use CDMA (needs different phone hardware).
  • Canadians, do you carry your phone and switch to roaming on the fly if necessary? If so is the GSM voice service acceptable? I have a Virgin SIM and Mrs. Spork has Koodoo, I wonder if they use the same physical network in the ADKs?
  • If it's strictly for emergencies only, perhaps better to carry a VHF radio? I'm planning some small craft activity in the Atlantic next summer, so I need one anyway.

Touch wood, we don't actually need any of this stuff
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Old 09-25-2018, 04:36 PM   #2
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You might want to look into getting a Spot device or a Garmin InReach.
Cell coverage is spotty anyway.
The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.
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Old 09-25-2018, 05:02 PM   #3
Trail Boss
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Be advised that you'll only get GSM service, from AT&T, in the Lake Placid area. Practically speaking, it means you'll get (spotty) coverage from the summits of peaks (line-of-sight with Lake Placid). Heading south along Adirondack Loj Road, service cuts out south of the Meadows Lane junction.

There's no GSM service in Keene and Keene Valley (it's CDMA only). As Canucks, we're SOL on that side of the High Peaks. When heading back to Montreal from Keene Valley, I pick up AT&T again as I approach Ausable Forks.

If heading to Upper Works, I get GSM from T-Mobile around exit 29 and then nothing west from there.

There's spotty GSM coverage in the Sewards (perhaps from service out of Tupper Lake). I've picked up a signal at the Raquette Falls trailhead (the so-called "winter trailhead" if the Coreys Road gate is closed). Head farther east along Coreys Road and now you're rolling the dice.

Although I bring my phone, I enable airplane mode and use it to record a GPS track and/or take pics. The few times I have bothered to check for (GSM) cell coverage indicate it's only adequate for "fun" and insufficient for true emergencies.

FWIW, all this is based on having been a Fido customer (Rogers). I recently switched to Koodo (Telus) but have not visited the US yet. I don't imagine it changes anything since all three major Canadian carriers ("Robellus") work with GSM systems in the US.
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Old 09-25-2018, 06:23 PM   #4
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The Palmer Hill fire tower is used as a cellphone tower north of Ausable Forks. I thought it was T-Mobile, but I could be wrong.
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Old 09-25-2018, 06:28 PM   #5
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If we had any sense at all, several of the remaining tower like features would be used for co-located cell antennae. If you put antennae for all the major providers on the tower on Hurricane and on the tower on Whiteface, this whole problem would be eliminated.

But bear in mind there is a considerable contingent that are virulently opposed to you having the ability to communicate. As an example, a couple of years ago I read a letter in ADK magazine from some Jackass from California who comes to the Adirondacks, but somehow does not have the ability to turn off his cell phone. He's bothered by the phone service, so he wants to destroy it for all the people that actually live and recreate here. Not kidding, these people are really out there...
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cdma, cell, gdsm, vhf

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