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Best cell phone coverage on local trails

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Would like to hear opinions on which carriers have the best coverage across all of our local trails. I've had Sprint for over 20 years and have generally been pleased with them. Have never been able to get any real coverage out at RPR or Spider Mtn though (usually have to walk around a bunch to even attempt making a call). Not sure if that will change now that they've merged with T-Mobile. Since I'm getting ready to get a new phone anyway, I'm considering changing carriers if it makes sense. I'm not particularly interested in 5G coverage since 4G seems to meet all of my needs. Would like to hear from AT&T users especially since I might be able to get a bundle deal with my AT&T Internet service. Who do you have and how well is their wireless coverage across some of our more remote trails - RPR, Spider, Mtn, Pace Bend, Pedernales, etc? 

As a side note, what do folks consider the best size phone for carrying in your MTB shorts? Virtually all of my rides of 2 hours or less are packless, meaning my phone goes in the front pocket of my MTB shorts. All of the MTB shorts that I wear have very nice, large front pockets. While my phone is relatively large at 6"x3" (at least by old standards), it's small enough to turn itself sideways in my front pocket, which drives me crazy and has me constantly trying to adjust it during my rides. I've considered just wrapping it in a handkerchief or something to prevent that but then that's just one extra step to remember before jumping on my bike. I'm thinking a larger phone would prevent this, and at 61 my eyes might benefit from a larger phone as well.      

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I have Verizon now and had AT&T about 5 years ago. Verizon has really good coverage on trails, AT&T was equally as good.

Sprint can be sketchy and T-Mobile will be even sketchier. The Sprint/T-Mobile merger will not ultimately help them with coverage. Sprint uses CDMA and T-Mobile uses GSM. TM recently added some new 5G (low end) bands to help with coverage, but expect that as they transition through the merger and technology changes it will take a few years to get that all sorted out. I had dinner with the T-Mobile CTO a few years ago and I am really impressed by them (and their free use when in Europe) but their coverage patterns have always been an issue for me.

As inconvenient as it is, I keep my phone in my pack. I remember being at RPR with someone who lost his phone on the trail. Amazingly someone found it and he got it back. That is a corner case, I would never expect that to happen. If you are on GSM, consider getting a cheap phone for the trial. Then if you damage it, it's no big deal and if you lose it, just get a new SIM at the phone store and you are back in business. That is what I hate about Verizon's CDMA.

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I've never had a coverage problem with AT&T. Well, except at Big Bend.

I carry my phone in my water pack. I'm not answering my phone when I ride. Screen is cushioned by the bladder. Lots of crashes, never a hurt phone.

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Recently switched from Sprint to AT&T. Had sprint for 15 years no real issues except for no service in some remote locations where I occasionally work. AT&T has basically the same issues only at different locations I now get a signal in one of the places I didn't with Sprint but now get no service in areas that I did with Sprint. AT&T has 5G enhanced but I find that my phone is always switching between formats and that causes some call drop issues. The upside is that I save about a $100 a month with AT&T as opposed to Sprint. AT&T 4 phones for $160. The other upside is being able to use data while on the phone which is something I didn't have with Sprint. 

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Posted (edited)

We recently switched from AT&T to T-Mobile (and home internet from AT&T to Spectrum).  For sure the coverage was better with AT&T but only marginally so.  Both had similar low coverage spots inside the lab at work for example.  But the international plan with T-Mobile, and no penalty/no contract was a no brainer for us to try.   Recently the free hotspot has saved us while working from home when Spectrum was out for a few hours.

I carry my phone in a ziplock in my back jersey pocket, or in my hydration pack's phone compartment.  If I wear MTB shorts (super rare) I putt the phone in one of the zippered pockets.

My kids had a pre-paid phone for a while that they were supposed to only use to call for pick-ups, emergencies, etc.  I've thought of either using an old phone for riding, or a pre-paid phone. Changing the SIM card before every ride doesn't seem like a good idea to me so I haven't gone that route.

I did not feel like having both wireless and home internet gave us that good a break with AT&T.  It was still two separate bills, they couldn't even just send me one bill.  Also, if you forget when your 2 years are up, they will raise your prices until you sign a new contract.  Those kind of shenanigans + AT&T not having anything better than 25Mbps in my neighborhood are why I wanted to try something else.

Edited by AntonioGG
added note about package deals
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I've had T-mobile for 17 years and although the rates are really, really competitive, the service is notsomuch. I don't even bother taking my phone on the trail as I don't get service in areas of my home, much less the boondocks. 

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5 hours ago, Chief said:

Recently switched from Sprint to AT&T. Had sprint for 15 years no real issues except for no service in some remote locations where I occasionally work. AT&T has basically the same issues only at different locations I now get a signal in one of the places I didn't with Sprint but now get no service in areas that I did with Sprint. AT&T has 5G enhanced but I find that my phone is always switching between formats and that causes some call drop issues. The upside is that I save about a $100 a month with AT&T as opposed to Sprint. AT&T 4 phones for $160. The other upside is being able to use data while on the phone which is something I didn't have with Sprint. 

"5G enhanced" is not 5G. AT&T got sued over that and lost hard. Basically it is just 4G and I can guess as to why it is dropping and that would have something to do with trying to differentiate a particular connection grade/speed so that it could say 5GE. Without that it would just treat all of the 4G spectrum/connection levels the same and you would not have the dropping.

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Also, there are tons of cheap carriers that resell AT&T's spectrum. So if you see a really cheap deal, dig around and you'll probably find who the original carrier is. The spectrum is divided among only a couple of players and those guys offer "second tier" coverage for resale to smaller carriers. Generally speaking it is identical to the big guys and the only time you'd probably have a problem is if you were at ACL fest or a UT game where the demand is outstripping the carrier capacity. In those cases the second tier guys are throttled, but honestly that rarely happens.

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after being with T-moblie and sprint for years, i finally switched to Verizon last summer before my trip to Colorado. the coverage is insane. it seems like i always have signal.

i'm on the prepaid $35/month plan and its hard to beat (not unlimited). My wife has basically the same deal on ATT through Cricket. its really good coverage too. 

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18 hours ago, AustinBike said:

"5G enhanced" is not 5G. AT&T got sued over that and lost hard. Basically it is just 4G and I can guess as to why it is dropping and that would have something to do with trying to differentiate a particular connection grade/speed so that it could say 5GE. Without that it would just treat all of the 4G spectrum/connection levels the same and you would not have the dropping.

Yeah I know it's not 5G. The way I understood it was that they supposedly have the tech in place for when/if 5G is the new standard.

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Nope, it was pure marketing. 5G includes a completely different set of things than 4G so there is no real comparison. Basically they share some of the spectrum but there will need to be some slicing.

That is like a bike company with an all 26" fleet talking about being ready for 29" because they have a warehouse full of seats and handlebars.

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5 hours ago, AustinBike said:

That is like a bike company with an all 26" fleet talking with 29" stickers because they have a warehouse full of seats and handlebars.

FTFY

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ATT user. Have good coverage. Keep phone in the pack or pockets. Pockets w/ zippers FTW.

5G doesn't spread the 'rona. 5G will talk to the nano-bots Bill Gates is putting in the vaccine. Wake up sheeple /s  <-- sad that I feel I need to include this.

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I switched from Sprint to Verizon about a year ago.  So much better coverage at RPR, I am guessing the coverage would be pretty close to the same out at spider.  I've never ridden there, have driven by though, never checked my service though.

I can be in my camper at the pavilion and watching movies on my phone, couldn't do that with sprint.

 

 

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