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Old 23-08-2017, 08:15   #1
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Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

Searched the forum but could not find an answer. What is the best cell provider for the Chesapeake Bay, on the water? I have T-mobile and frankly it sucks when you are not in a city. From anchorage details on Active captain looks like AT&T and Verizon are the best. Any opinions other wise, or between those two?
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Old 23-08-2017, 08:19   #2
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

I researched this a few years ago and Verizon came out on top. Most of these companies have coverage maps on their websites.

I have used my Verizon cell phone and hot spot from the top of the Chesapeake Bay to south Florida with the only dead spot being near Lake George in central Florida.

Verizon is not the cheapest but it seems to be the best if you want reliable coverage.
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Old 23-08-2017, 09:25   #3
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

In the southern bay there are some dead spots on AT&T because of distances to land and lack of population. It is fine near Norfolk and from Tangier and north.
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Old 23-08-2017, 10:09   #4
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

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...Verizon is not the cheapest but it seems to be the best if you want reliable coverage.
Having spent three summers sailing up and down the US east coast (none of them with Verizon foolishly) I'd have to agree.

T-Mobile was great when we were down in Florida, but other than urban/high population areas, it sucked most everywhere else. In the Chesapeake specifically, it stopped working just north of Hampton and other than near to a US Airforce base on the western shore it never connected again until we were approaching Annapolis; we went up the Potomac too and were at least half-way to Washington before we got any signal up there.

Friends with AT&T did slightly better (it semi-sucked) and when neither of us could get a signal (eastern side and around Deltaville I remember particularly) we could usually get a weather forecast off someone who'd got a Verizon phone.

One summer we also had a Virgin-mobile internet dongle, which seemed to do slightly better than the T-Mobile phone, though I understood that they shared cell towers? I can't explain why.

Further north all seemed OK until we went through the Cape Cod canal and sailed up to Maine, where other than Verizon (which still sucked!) they all just died.

It appears that US mobile-phone services are purely market/profit driven, unlike in the UK where to get a licence, the operator is also obliged to provide at least some coverage to the less populated/profitable areas too. So with long stretches of the ICW and the lower/eastern-shore parts of the Chesapeake being well away from both centres of population and major highways, there simply aren't any towers to connect to.

So, if you're heading that way, get yourself set up with Verizon; sadly this will mean buying a complete phone rather than just a sim-card as it seems that Verizon phones are on a different system to everyone elses.
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Old 23-08-2017, 10:51   #5
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

We got back from a two week Potomac/Chesapeake trip a month ago. We have Verizon and had service every time we went to use the phone. We were even streaming music for a good portion of the trip and didn't have any problems.
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Old 23-08-2017, 11:17   #6
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

Agree, Verizon is the gold standard on the Bay.
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Old 23-08-2017, 11:21   #7
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

We have prepaid AT&T on Android smart phones and have used it coast wise from Florida to Boston, including most sections of the Chesapeake. It has served reasonably well, sometimes in remoter locations signals strength gets to one or two bars, ok for a phone call and slow internet. We find the higher we can stand on the deck the better, can make a difference of a bar or two. We did also purchase a cheap phone and plan from Walmart - Family Mobile it is hopeless, hardly works anywhere we have been.
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Old 23-08-2017, 12:52   #8
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

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...........It appears that US mobile-phone services are purely market/profit driven, .........
Yes, capitalism has served us well despite what one political party would like us to believe.
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Old 23-08-2017, 13:16   #9
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

For what it's worth...

What is not well known yet is that t-mobile just acquired the biggest spectrum of all carriers this year. Its just now coming on line and it will makes t-mobile the largest provider spectrum-wise in the USA. Unfortunately, there are no phones that currently support this spectrum but the next round of phones come out this fall will all support it.

Also, check out the site with the most accurate maps of coverage across all providers. I always encourage people to add their software to their phone and contribute.

https://opensignal.com/

One more thing... if you are using the iPhone 7 there are two different modems used.. one by Intel and one by Qualcomm. Not sure if these are used in other phones. The Intel modem is quite poor and commonly found iPhones bought through a T-Mobile store. So always buy your iPhones direct from Apple, which for this model have always contained Qualcomm modems.

https://www.extremetech.com/mobile/2...w-signal-areas
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Old 23-08-2017, 22:24   #10
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

At anchorages, sticking your hotspot phone and a portable usb phone charger in a waterproof iPad case and raise it to the top of the mast with the main halyard and a downhaul. You'd be amazed the difference 40-50 vertical feet will do for signal strength and data bandwidth.
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Old 24-08-2017, 05:01   #11
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

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At anchorages, sticking your hotspot phone and a portable usb phone charger in a waterproof iPad case and raise it to the top of the mast with the main halyard and a downhaul. You'd be amazed the difference 40-50 vertical feet will do for signal strength and data bandwidth.
Agree have done this a few times in the Bahamas as well, I do get concerned at how hot the unit gets sitting in the sun in a case with no airflow.
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Old 24-08-2017, 06:51   #12
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

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Agree have done this a few times in the Bahamas as well, I do get concerned at how hot the unit gets sitting in the sun in a case with no airflow.
Most phones will shut down automatically if they get too hot.

Mine has shut down on it's own before when I left it in direct sunlight in my vehicle
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Old 24-08-2017, 06:55   #13
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

On the lower bay, I have no problems with my phone's connection .......Verizon, and I'm many times 10 miles offshore or more.

The internet though is spotty. I'm using a Verizon Jet pack

It works great anchored off Kiptopeke and anchored near the York River.
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Old 24-08-2017, 08:29   #14
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

We have used Verizon on the bay for years and have been very happy with the coverage.
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Old 24-08-2017, 08:41   #15
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Re: Cell Phone Coverage Chesapeake Bay

Did the Delmarva loop in June. Verizon coverage was never below two bars.
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