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Thread: How Far From Shore Will Total Wireless And AT&T Tracfone Work In Alaska?

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    How Far From Shore Will Total Wireless And AT&T Tracfone Work In Alaska?

    My wife and I will be going on a cruise to Alaska. I don't want to use the on-board cell connection due to the price. Does anybody here have a general sense of how far from shore we can be and still get service? For example, if we see land and cell towers, can we generally access them? I Seem to recall reading some years back that legacy GSM services, like AT&T and T-Mobile, would get a signal from the phone GPS and stop at about 22 miles from the cell site. Would it be the same for Total Wireless (Verizon MVNO) or does that work father away?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim1348 View Post
    My wife and I will be going on a cruise to Alaska. I don't want to use the on-board cell connection due to the price. Does anybody here have a general sense of how far from shore we can be and still get service? For example, if we see land and cell towers, can we generally access them? I Seem to recall reading some years back that legacy GSM services, like AT&T and T-Mobile, would get a signal from the phone GPS and stop at about 22 miles from the cell site. Would it be the same for Total Wireless (Verizon MVNO) or does that work father away?
    I wouldn’t expect any usable signal past 22 miles anyway. You might get a signal, BUT it’s most likely not going to be usable.

    But remember even if there was any outside signal your phone is going to connect to the strongest signal which will be the ship.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim1348 View Post
    Would it be the same for Total Wireless (Verizon MVNO) or does that work father away?
    Verizon has weak coverage in Alaska. See here on the interactive map: https://www.verizonwireless.com/feat...map=4glte#maps
    Where "extended" coverage is shown is because Verizon roams on the ACS network in Alaska. You won't get that roaming with TotalWireless.
    Even Verizon prepaid doesn't have that extended coverage.

    As for native Verizon subscribers, when on the ship, it's not considered "land", so they are charged more. Even when on shore, close to the ship they still can be charged if phone is connected to the ship. See thread here:
    https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topi...age-in-alaska/

    AT&T used to have even less coverage, but I think they invested fairly recent in network upgrades there.
    https://www.att.com/maps/wireless-coverage.html
    Last edited by SoNic67; 08-17-2019 at 10:55 AM.

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    Also, there isn't all that much populated areas along the coast for towers to be located. And you have at least 1 day when you are at sea out of sight of land.

    I kept my phone on airplane mode except when I was at US ports. (This was in 2015, and roaming in Canada was expensive on ATT).
    iPhone X is my current primary phone. I have older model iPhones and Moto phones available on other lines. Currently prepaid, though would consider postpaid on right plan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim1348 View Post
    My wife and I will be going on a cruise to Alaska. I don't want to use the on-board cell connection due to the price. Does anybody here have a general sense of how far from shore we can be and still get service? For example, if we see land and cell towers, can we generally access them? I Seem to recall reading some years back that legacy GSM services, like AT&T and T-Mobile, would get a signal from the phone GPS and stop at about 22 miles from the cell site. Would it be the same for Total Wireless (Verizon MVNO) or does that work father away?
    When I took an Alaska cruise out of San Francisco a couple of years ago, the only time I had a cellular signal was when I could clearly see the shore, which was rarely. A cruise is a good time to disconnect, read books, go to lectures and play trivia. If you absolutely must make calls, in my experience, the phone in your stateroom is generally cheaper than the ships's cell network, which doesn't work with most prepaid operators anyway. For data, the ship's WiFi is usually cheaper than the ship's cell network.
    Compare prepaid plans from all operators at PrepaidCompare.net.

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    I just did my computer usage early in the morning when in port and before you could leave the ship or in the evening before leaving. I tethered through my phone then. But it was US ports, and I had trouble sleeping with the extended daylight hours in late May that far north. Plus the ship noise as it maneuvered to dock kept me awake.

    What was a pain was keeping in touch with the other family members in other rooms. No active cell phones meant no texting each other to locate if they weren't in their rooms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink1 View Post
    What was a pain was keeping in touch with the other family members in other rooms. No active cell phones meant no texting each other to locate if they weren't in their rooms.
    Very interesting... Maybe join them all up on the ship's WiFi and install some P2P app on all of them, like LAN Messenger or other "Offline Chat" app. Doesn't need internet to work. Could potentially even do ad-hoc WiFi on your phones to stay connected when in-range. Throw-in a WiFi signal-meter and you'd just about have radar tracking for everyone in your party.

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    We are also planning a cruise this fall on NCL Bliss to Alaska. We have their WiFi package and intend to try using Google Voice for calls. I know it will work for texting and will report back here after the cruise regarding the voice connection. For on-board ship communications with other travelers, NCL has a messaging app for your phone that costs $10 per person and allows you to call other cruise passengers or any phone on the ship. Other cruise lines may have a similar package. Bon Voyage! ��

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    >Maybe join them all up on the ship's WiFi and install some P2P app on all of them

    Or, get some FRS/GMRS 2-way radios aka walkie-talkies. Walmart has some for $40 for set of 4. No need to fixate on smartphones as the do-all.

    Anyway, no need to join the ship's wifi either. You can text each other with the right apps. https://mashtips.com/android-offline-messaging-apps. If you want, bring a travel router and set up your own hotspot (sans Internet).

    Wait wait another idea! Install an (unofficial) hotspot on one phone, and sub that to a plan. Then share the data with all the other phones and divvie up the cost. Hotspot range for phones is about same as a dedicated hotspot (1st-hand info).

    >We have their WiFi package and intend to try using Google Voice for calls.

    I suppose $26/day/device isn't bad when you're already paying $500+ per person. But it can get up there for a week-long(er) cruise. OTOOH, you're paying out the nose for everything on a cruise anyway, so what's another?

    IMHO, the point of a cruise is to get away. The world can wait until you get back, or at least until you get in port.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcxb View Post
    Very interesting... Maybe join them all up on the ship's WiFi and install some P2P app on all of them, like LAN Messenger or other "Offline Chat" app. Doesn't need internet to work. Could potentially even do ad-hoc WiFi on your phones to stay connected when in-range. Throw-in a WiFi signal-meter and you'd just about have radar tracking for everyone in your party.
    This was 4 years ago.

    But like I've rationalized before on overseas trips. Compared to the cost of everything else, roaming charges are chump change. "Only $100 more". Or "yet ANOTHER $100"

    We got through it. My father was generally either in his room or easy to find in the Lido deck. It was my brother in law and sister that were out and about more and hard to find.

    Had to change jobs recently, so it will be some time before I have enough vacation time to consider a cruise or a trip overseas to someplace like Iceland.

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    I went on a Caribbean cruise a few years ago and signed up for onboard WiFi and used messaging apps. Google Voice and TextNow work just fine for texting, though VoIP calls break up a lot

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    >though VoIP calls break up a lot

    VoIP is crap when the sat link's minimum latency is 550ms.

    It's kinda funny to see folks trying to use their smartphones as if they're at home. But you're in a big tub in the middle of the ocean with nary a cell tower in sight.

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    Makes you wonder how did we survived with only pay phones as means of communication

    It made us cultivate organizational skills, like pre-arraging meet points and times and sticking to that. Made us, when kids, self-reliant.
    Now, everything has to be instant...

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    Back in 2010 I took my Motorola GSM flip phone and a 7-element Yagi antenna with me to Isle Royale and was able to make calls and send and receive texts about 50 miles from the AT&T towers on the Keweenaw Peninsula. At the time, AT&T was running an ER GSM signal on 850 MHz, which is the only reason this worked. (Normal GSM has a range limitation of about 35 km.)

    Today, cell phones no longer have an external antenna jack; AT&T shut down their GSM service and you have no idea if your phone's on band 5 or band 12 to be able to pick the right antenna. All you can do is stand out on deck, face land and hope for the best.
    Donald Newcomb

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    >Today, cell phones no longer have an external antenna jack

    Shouldn't be a problem for stationary setup. You use the same input antenna->amp->rebroadcast antenna as a house/car booster setup. It's a little more involved, but much more powerful and versatile.

    For a cruise ship environment, you'd need more a compact setup. OTOH, the ants are pretty compact already. Here's a wideband yagi used in many house booster setups: http://ebay.com/itm/200757764159. This ant covers all mid-bands used in US except for 600MHz and 2.5GHz. It's an older model (hence eBay), and there may be a newer one that covers 600.

    This is definitely overkill if you just want some minutes on a cruise ship, and there's no guarantee you can pick up a signal. You will NOT save money. But it's a cool geek toy and a very cool conversational starter.

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