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Old 24-03-2012, 12:45   #1
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Verizon/ATT 4G data - how far offshore does it work?

Will be sailing from Seattle to LA in May. Don't want to pay $50 reactivation +$30/mth for Sirius XM WX, thinking that I could nip closer to shore every 2-3 days to grab a fresh grib file with an iPad (and load email while at it). Does anyone have any practical experience with Verizon LTE or ATT 4G service in coastal areas? What's the range -- 5mi, 10mi, 25mi?
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Old 24-03-2012, 12:59   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by earthbm
Will be sailing from Seattle to LA in May. Don't want to pay $50 reactivation +$30/mth for Sirius XM WX, thinking that I could nip closer to shore every 2-3 days to grab a fresh grib file with an iPad (and load email while at it). Does anyone have any practical experience with Verizon LTE or ATT 4G service in coastal areas? What's the range -- 5mi, 10mi, 25mi?
A good rule of thumb is 12-15miles from a shore-based tower - this can vary greatly however. If you happen to be connected to a tower which is either located in a densely populated area or next to a very busy highway, you can expect the 'weakest' signals to be dropped. The cell-architecture assumes that you'll handover to a closer tower as you roam - which isn't the case offshore.

You can buy boosters which will give you a stronger signal locally on your vessel, but even a booster can fall prey to low signal strength and/or cell overload prioritization.
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Old 24-03-2012, 13:59   #3
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When I was headed to So Cal I came into 5 miles offshore fairly reliably getting signal for con calls and Skype. I am now experimenting with using a Cradlepoint wireless access point with my cellular modem in it. I use a light gauge extension cord and hoist it up with a halyard. I hope to get 15 miles from the top of my mast and work has been none the wiser. ;-)
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Old 24-03-2012, 14:07   #4
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Re: Verizon/ATT 4G data - how far offshore does it work?

With my iPad 1 on the Atlantic Coast, I usually within 15nm get at least an E signal. Off of populated cities, I would do better. Off some areas in the Carolinas or Hatteras, I loose any signal.

I'd guess you'll loose your tower signal off areas of Oregon and Nor Cal.
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Old 25-03-2012, 10:33   #5
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Re: Verizon/ATT 4G data - how far offshore does it work?

A cellular system engineer once told me that the maximum range is 32 miles, regardless of your equipment or power. This is because the systems (all of them) use software designed to look at the time lag in your signal, and if the tower itself 'sees' that you are 32 miles away, the system is designed to say "Well, there must be a close tower for him" and it will not connect you to the system. Period. That's done to prevent strong signals from going "chatterbox" and engaging too many towers and overloading the switching logic in the system.

For distances less than 32 miles, you still need adequate signal strength as the cellular system uses the "FM capture effect". That is, if a tower can handle 100 calls, it takes the 100 strongest signals. If you are the weakest and a local passing motorist comes on--you get dropped, they get picked up instead.

So if you are looking for offshore range, plan on being well inside 32 miles, and using a bidrectional amplifier, and a gain antenna. With just the phone in your hand, your range may be only 3 miles. It all depends on how your carrier has their towers set up, and how much competition there is to use them.

I've played "bar bar, who's got some bars?" and even 2-3 miles can be zero coverage if your carrier has their towers set up to handle the area where most users are--on shore, not off.
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Old 25-03-2012, 13:47   #6
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Re: Verizon/ATT 4G data - how far offshore does it work?

Don't know about the west coast but have made the trip down the east coast and once we were more than 5-6 miles off shore no one on the boat could connect with voice or data, Verizon or ATT. We could see 5 bars on the screen up to 10-12 miles off so we were seeing the towers but did not have enough power for them to see us. Three on the boat with three different phones, two different carriers, no signal booster, external antenna or other helper.

Same results on all four of our offshore legs, NY to Delaware Bay, Delaware to Chesapeake, Little River SC to Charleston and Charleston to Jacksonville.
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Old 25-03-2012, 14:11   #7
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East coast it gets a little thin on the lower Delaware. About 15 miles south of barnegat it gets week.3 plus miles out. your better off getting out of cell range when doing that stretch. I had to hug up and be connected Diego work and a major IRS screw up where all my assets and funds were seized. IRS was great fixing this but it needed immediate attention. Bank of America sucked. I got ammed by nort winds and a slow cold front. Very ugly short chop from barnegat to new York.
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Old 25-03-2012, 23:15   #8
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Re: Verizon/ATT 4G data - how far offshore does it work?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
plan on being well inside 32 miles, and using a bidrectional amplifier, and a gain antenna. With just the phone in your hand, your range may be only 3 miles.
Thanks! Does anyone have these installed?

Sirius XM WX is beginning to look better and better in comparison. I was hoping the new "4g" LTE connections had greater range (at least they do use more power), but looking at the coverage maps neither of the carriers has 4G coverage along the Wash-Nor Cal coast. ATT looks like it does, but that is some enhanced 3G protocol from what I hear.
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