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Thread: Tracfone coverage in rural Maine?

  1. #1
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    Question Tracfone coverage in rural Maine?

    I recently bought a cingular gsm phone with gophone paygo service and quite frankly I was disappointed in coverage area. GSM service in Maine is a joke. My husband will probably be able to use it as I believe he should get coverage where he travels (Bath/Brunswick area) but it looks like I need a CDMA phone. We live in Bowdoin (04287) but I work in Skowhegan (04976) and we travel to northern Maine (Millinocket area) quite often. The tracfone coverage maps confuse me. They list all kinds of phones for national coverage area but when I go to choose a phone the only one that comes up is the Nokia 2126 (in zipcode 04976). Is that the only CDMA phone they offer? And will it work in the areas I need it to? Then there's the issue that the coverage in my home zipcode is not the same coverage as my work zipcode so I guess I need to figure out where I will use the phone more (1 unit vs. 2 units).

    Any thoughts would be helpful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by f2guser
    ... it looks like I need a CDMA phone. We live in Bowdoin (04287) but I work in Skowhegan (04976) and we travel to northern Maine (Millinocket area) quite often. The tracfone coverage maps confuse me. They list all kinds of phones for national coverage area but when I go to choose a phone the only one that comes up is the Nokia 2126 (in zipcode 04976)...
    Yes, their site is confusing. All Tracfone "Single Rate" phones are GSM, and Tracfone prefers to sell GSM to everyone they can, based on your zip code. Tracfone's primary GSM carier is Cingular, meaning you would get about the same bad coverage with the other phones that you have with a Cingular Go Phone. (Qualification to my last statement: Tracfone does roam on other GSM networks. Also, is some areas they use T-Mobile as the GSM carier too.)

    They offered you the 2126 because they only have a CDMA partner in your area. The 2126 is a very good phone. Tracfone does have other CDMA phones, but the web site will only offer what they have in stock. You may find other models in local stores. If you would like to, ask here about models you find locally, because it can be hard to tell a CDMA from a GSM phone (and some stores may still have TDMA models).

    Your best advise would be at:
    http://www.cellguru.net/index.htm
    an a valuable site for anyone looking into pre-paid service, and it specializes in New England.

  3. #3
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    If you had a GSM TracFone, you'd be roaming on Unicel according to your zip code. I will agree that cellguru is the best site for info abut New England cell phone service, both post paid and pre paid.
    T-Mobile’s new marketing campaign for Vermont and Western New Hampshire:
    “Try T-Mobile’s blazingly fast GPRS data network. We’re faster than iDEN and TDMA combined!”

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    Tracfone's CDMA uses US Cellular. That's the better pick for rural Maine.

    Unicel's GSM coverage in Millinocket is not that great.

    --Droo, @Network

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    After just getting back from middle of nowhere ME, I agree Trac CDMA is better than Trac GSM. I'm not sure why, but the GSM signal does not go as far as Unicel TDMA or AMPS. Of course TDMA is on its way out, but it works better than GSM when you are several miles from the nearest tower.

    I had problems roaming on Unicel GSM, I had to reboot several times. Same thing happened in NH last week. Never a problem on USC CDMA.

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    I've had the same question. I've noticed for the last couple of years that if I tell Tracfone that I want to purchase a new phone for use in the Bath-Brunswick area, they offer one kind of phone, and if I tell them that I want to register a phone for use northwest of Augusta (where my current Tracfone is registered), they offer a different phone.

    For the last several years I've been using an ancient, clunky old, Nokia that was one of the first phones Tracfone ever offered and it gets great reception in a lot of parts of Maine where my wife's fancy new cell phone doesn't work so well. Based on that, I'm buying in to what everyone else has contributed to this thread and, now that my old Nokia is in need of a new battery for a cost that is more than what Tracfone will charge for a new phone, I'm ordering the Nokia 2126.

    I'm a little concerned that I'll have problems registering the new phone in the Bath-Brunswick area, or transferring my minutes from the old phone to the new one (TracFone has the worst customer service of anyone I've ever dealt with). If that happens, I'll post info to this thread. But if this all works the way I hope, then if I go off fishing in some remote part of Maine and an emergency comes up, my best chance of having cell service seems to be with the Nokia 2126 - at least, until the rural towers upgrade to support the newer technologies.

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    Bath/Brunswick is in a solid Cingular GSM850 market, and once you get up past Augusta, Cingular has very limited GSM1900 coverage (except towards the coast S,SE of Bangor).

    You should have no problem registering your 2126 in the cities you mention. If there is a problem with your zipcode, the downside will be that you will have to get a number from out of town.

    I'd suggest getting the CDMA single-rate LG 3280 rather than the 2126 so you don't have to pay the 2x roaming rate. The cities you mention are Verizon markets, and Tracfone prefers Verizon over U.S. Cellular. If your underlying provider is Verizon then you'll end up roaming quite a bit at 2x the rate (unless you choose the LG 3280).

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    You can find batteries on eBay for about $10 shipped. If the phone works well, try that before buying another phone (unless you take advantage of the phone and two cards for the price of just one card special -- that is the best deal on the site). The Nokia 2126 will work on analog like your current phone, but you have to manually override if there is any digital signal at all, even if it is unusable.

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    Considering T-mobile to Go offers roaming on Unicel and Cingular in Maine (in areas as needed) and is as low as 10 cents a minute (if you buy the 100$ card), I don't see the point in being a Tracfone GSM customer here.

    There is more CDMA coverage in the Tri-state area, but it all depends on where you're going to be.

    --Droo, @Network

  10. #10
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    Similar situation here, rural Maine (Augusta - Farmington - Rangeley).

    I just ordered a GSM TracFone - since Cingular GoPhone eliminated the roaming with the mandatory TDMA - GSM upgrade. At least the TracFone will allow me to roam to make emergency calls.

    The TracFone maps & phones confused me as well. Talked to a TracFone rep on the phone, and everything is based on zip code, plus phone are primarily GSM and change based on availability. There is one Nokia 2126 & one LG 3280 (latter being a terrible phone, I've been told) still on the old system. Those were not available for online ordering or phone order for me. Rep told me to see if I could find one in store.

    I fully realize that for Maine I may be better served with a TDMA phone one as well, and may pick one up in store.

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    At some point in the near future (if not already), Trac is not going to let you activate a TDMA phone. Cingular announced 99% of its minutes are now carried on GSM. Adding to that, the shut down of the Cingular Prepay system on 3/31, the demise of TDMA is here. Its going to start degrading big time over the next few months. It's already unusable in several areas such as central FL and central NY where fast busy signals are now common.

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    The best serving in Maine is probably going to be on CDMA, not TDMA. There hasn't been a TDMA rack added in a Loooooong time in this region and some were even turned down.

    --Droo, @Network

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    Thumbs up TracFone CDMA is a winner for us.

    Sorry if I'm confusing the technology names. I'm really not up to date on phone technologies and probably misunderstood that first letter

    Anyway, I wanted to respond that (before the web ordered GSM TracFone even has arrived in the mail) I picked up a Nokia 2126 CDMA yesterday at Sam's Club. There were only two left on the shelf. After Activation & updating through the web, I was so floored * by the excellent signal strength, that I ran back to the store wanting to snap up that last one. Of course when I arrived at the store they had added two boxes with another dozen - haha. That just to say that the stock on these has not run out yet for those needing one of these puppies.

    At home, inside the house I am talking NO Cingular GSM Prepaid signal (Motorola C139) vs 4-5 bars on the CDMA Nokia Night and day difference. Driving around town, Capitol area it has a much stronger signal than I ever saw even on ATT/Cingular with roaming on our older phone, pre GSM.

    Even though we consider these cellphones more emergency phones than anything else, we can't wait to see where we can get a signal. Right now, we couldn't be happier; and I think CDMA is the way to go.

    I'm not sure now if I will activate the TracFone GSM. If the minutes are on cards I will probably use them towards last night's phones. If I do activate it, I will let you know how it goes.

  14. #14
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    Does your phone say Tracfone on the screen or Roaming? You need to be aware of that when you place and receive calls because the 2126 charges double minutes when the screen says roaming. Another little secret about the CDMA phones is that if you keep your total conversation (including ringing time) to less than 15 seconds, NO units are charged for the call. Example: RING: Immediate Pickup: WhadyawantHoney: BringHomeMoreMilkTheKidIsHungry: OkayHoneyBye: CLICK VOILA: Free calling from Tracfone... :-)
    I guess I don't know the right people, because I can't get away with anything around here... Rest assured, though, I will never maliciously properly quote anybody again!

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    I guess Cingular GSM and Tracfone don't roam on Unicel here.

    Augusta region is a heavy Unicel market and I have coverage there on both T-mobile to Go Prepaid and on T-mobile postpaid.

    --Droo, @Network

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