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Thread: AT&T cross-country drive experience

  1. #1
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    AT&T cross-country drive experience

    I drove across the country late last month and wanted to share my experience with AT&T. I was using an iPhone 11 Pro Max and iPhone SE (2020). This was LTE only. I just preordered the 12 Max.

    I started in Charlotte, NC. I went down I-85 and stopped in Atlanta. Then, I took I-20 to Birmingham. Went from Birmingham to Memphis via I-22. Then I took I-40 with stops in Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Amarillo (Texas), Albuquerque and Flagstaff (Arizona). Took I-17 to Phoenix, then I-10 to I-15. Took I-15 to Harrah's indian casino. Then I took Hwy 78 to Oceanside, and I-5 to Los Angeles. Took I-15 to Las Vegas, then to I-70. I-70 to Denver then got caught in a snow storm and got into an accident near the Colorado/Kansas border so I flew back from Denver.

    Absolutely no issues or gaps from Charlotte to Oklahoma City. There were some coverage gaps on I-20 in Georgia when I traveled in June that were filled in on this trip. I was able to make phone calls, stream music and run GPS with no issues. Service was excellent in Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas.

    Service was slower, but usable with a couple of exceptions in New Mexico and Arizona along I-40. Gaps were generally only for a minute or two, with one around the 130 mile marker in New Mexico and around the New Mexico/Arizona border. There were two big gaps on I-17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix around mile marker 80 and from 73 to 68.

    On I-10 there was a brief coverage gap around mile marker 137 and once the California mountains started. Service went to 4G and briefly went out around Valley Center, CA. No issues until I got to I-15 east of Las Vegas. There was a huge coverage gap right around the Nevada/Arizona/Utah borders. Service was spotty until I got to I-70. Coverage on I-70 from I-15 to Grand Junction, Colorado was absolutely horrible. There were huge coverage gaps all through Utah and western Colorado, and the phone was useless along much of that stretch. There were a couple of no coverage spots going through mountains and tunnels from Grand Junction to Denver, but there was service for most of that stretch. Once you go east of Denver, no issues to Burlington, Colorado.

  2. #2
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    This was years ago, but off VZW I saw I think gaps at about the same locations (New Mexico/AZ border, and a mile or two coverage loss a ways into New Mexico and Arizona, where even VZW's current map shows the highway going through a few pixels of "no coverage".) My recollection in these dead zones, two big factors; 1) the cell sites out west are just not that close together, so you can already have a rather low signal; 2) mountainous terrain knocked out the remaining signal. Probably could have had maintained a signal if there was a cell site quite a bit closer to these spots, but there isn't. Looks like VZW has a "tunnel" of coverage built along I15 (still looks iffy around that Nevada/Arizona/Utah border), but virtually nothing if you got off it at all.

    (Edit: I've seen both AT&T (especially ex-Suncom) and VZW get rather creative out east in terms of popping up sites aiming right down the tunnels along the pennsylvania turnpike, popping up mountainside sites that seemingly cover a mile or so of twisty highway to maintain continuous coverage, etc., I just don't think that happens out west. )
    Last edited by hwertz; 11-06-2020 at 11:10 PM.

  3. #3
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    I took most of the same route years ago on T-Mobile years ago before the Uncarrier days. I was surprised how it actually had service most of the way. Even had service at the Grand Canyon roaming on Commnet. Service between Las Vegas and Reno was also serviced by Commnet. I would imagine their coverage has improved in the last eight years.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwertz View Post
    This was years ago, but off VZW I saw I think gaps at about the same locations (New Mexico/AZ border, and a mile or two coverage loss a ways into New Mexico and Arizona, where even VZW's current map shows the highway going through a few pixels of "no coverage".) My recollection in these dead zones, two big factors; 1) the cell sites out west are just not that close together, so you can already have a rather low signal; 2) mountainous terrain knocked out the remaining signal. Probably could have had maintained a signal if there was a cell site quite a bit closer to these spots, but there isn't. Looks like VZW has a "tunnel" of coverage built along I15 (still looks iffy around that Nevada/Arizona/Utah border), but virtually nothing if you got off it at all.

    (Edit: I've seen both AT&T (especially ex-Suncom) and VZW get rather creative out east in terms of popping up sites aiming right down the tunnels along the pennsylvania turnpike, popping up mountainside sites that seemingly cover a mile or so of twisty highway to maintain continuous coverage, etc., I just don't think that happens out west. )
    AT&T’s coverage map is a lie in some of these places. They show coverage on I-15 along the Nevada/Arizona/Utah stretch and most of I-70 in Utah. Those were the biggest gaps. Somebody had signal because I saw cell towers on the top of a couple mountains where AT&T was dead. If they would fill in I-15, I-70 and I-17 I could live with the rest, as they’re minimal. There were a lot of accidents along those 3 highways.

    I will say that there were people who didn’t have service at two of the casinos I went to in Arizona and California. I don’t know who they had, but I heard some complaints. AT&T worked fine.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMac704 View Post
    AT&T’s coverage map is a lie in some of these places. They show coverage on I-15 along the Nevada/Arizona/Utah stretch and most of I-70 in Utah. Those were the biggest gaps. Somebody had signal because I saw cell towers on the top of a couple mountains where AT&T was dead. If they would fill in I-15, I-70 and I-17 I could live with the rest, as they’re minimal. There were a lot of accidents along those 3 highways.

    I will say that there were people who didn’t have service at two of the casinos I went to in Arizona and California. I don’t know who they had, but I heard some complaints. AT&T worked fine.
    Did you have roaming? Many areas out there are part paid roaming partners.

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeybutts View Post
    Did you have roaming? Many areas out there are part paid roaming partners.

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk
    Yes. I’m on postpaid Business Elite. I have roaming turned on, but never encountered it. All native coverage. The only major interstate where I’ve ever encountered roaming is I-80.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMac704 View Post
    Yes. I’m on postpaid Business Elite. I have roaming turned on, but never encountered it. All native coverage. The only major interstate where I’ve ever encountered roaming is I-80.
    I noticed you said lte only in your first post. I think many roaming partners out west are still WCDMA and even Edge.

    Sorry I'm an android geek lol. Can you force lte on an iPhone?

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joeybutts View Post
    I noticed you said lte only in your first post. I think many roaming partners out west are still WCDMA and even Edge.

    Sorry I'm an android geek lol. Can you force lte on an iPhone?

    Sent from my SM-N986U using Tapatalk
    When I said “LTE only” I meant I don’t have a phone that can access 5G. If I encounter roaming, my iPhone automatically connects to it. Don’t have to force it. Didn’t run into any roaming areas. All of the major highways except I-80 are native coverage. Once you get far enough away from the highway you encounter roaming.That didn’t happen on my trip. I did encounter “4G” briefly in California.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMac704 View Post
    When I said “LTE only” I meant I don’t have a phone that can access 5G. If I encounter roaming, my iPhone automatically connects to it. Don’t have to force it. Didn’t run into any roaming areas. All of the major highways except I-80 are native coverage. Once you get far enough away from the highway you encounter roaming.That didn’t happen on my trip. I did encounter “4G” briefly in California.
    This isn't surprising, unfortunately. The maps overestimate coverage in mountainous areas.

    Especially when in the car driving. That weak signal will not connect, if its even there.



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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMac704 View Post
    AT&T’s coverage map is a lie in some of these places. They show coverage on I-15 along the Nevada/Arizona/Utah stretch and most of I-70 in Utah.
    T-Mobile built out most of I-70 between Richfield and Green River Utah a few years ago and service is very good and fast (although there are still some spots that have weak coverage and new site build planned). Verizon has also started building out some coverage along this stretch of I-70.
    T-Mobile and Verizon are also the only two carriers that work in the Virgin River Gorge on I-15 in Arizona.

  11. #11
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    There is a reason I keep an inexpensive backup line on another carrier. Such as a verizon based MVNO on one line ($60/year, 100 minutes/month). If I travel, and have an emergency, hopefully this helps if I have no coverage on my primary phone (ATT MVNO based).

    In the past, when I had Verizon primary, I had the inexpensive line on an ATT MVNO.

    I haven't had to have emergency use, luckily, but on a trip to Nebraska in 2019, one little town i was able to get slow data on the Verizon based backup, but no bars on my ATT Prepaid line.

    I've never done a full cross country drive. Harder to plan if live in the middle sections. But I have driven to LA and back. Another time drove to Ashville NC and back. Or out to Yellowstone and SLC and back south. Lots of opportunities to lose signal.
    iPhone 12 Pro is my current primary phone. No plans to upgrade plan to 5G.

  12. #12
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    It seems with advancement of technology is harder to provide good coverage. Single analog cell tower provided coverage for whole town. New towers seems to cover less area. I remember travelng in early 2000s all over nebraska arizona new mexico and not having single issue with service on my cingular flip phone. How much shorter the range 5g is now. I hope the gear removed from towers during 5g upgrade can make its way to rural areas,

  13. #13
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    Tho old analog systems were very limited with how many people could use phone at one time. Wouldn’t work now.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy84094 View Post
    T-Mobile built out most of I-70 between Richfield and Green River Utah a few years ago and service is very good and fast (although there are still some spots that have weak coverage and new site build planned). Verizon has also started building out some coverage along this stretch of I-70.
    T-Mobile and Verizon are also the only two carriers that work in the Virgin River Gorge on I-15 in Arizona.
    The big gap was between Richfield and Green River. Googled it and that’s 198 miles. It wasn’t no service that whole stretch, but AT&T really needs to fill that in. No excuse in 2020. RootMetrics and CellMapper show gaps for everybody, but AT&T’s was the biggest on I-70.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMac704 View Post
    The big gap was between Richfield and Green River. Googled it and that’s 198 miles. It wasn’t no service that whole stretch, but AT&T really needs to fill that in. No excuse in 2020. RootMetrics and CellMapper show gaps for everybody, but AT&T’s was the biggest on I-70.
    Rural areas have less demand and are more expensive to cover and also have unique challenges. AT&T’s approach for these areas is using satellite which works with regular cellphone frequencies. It is in testing stages right now. You won’t have to get any new phones or equipment but you will have to update the device. On an Ipad or Iphone you would have to make sure to have the latest AT&T Carrier version. On Android devices there should be a similar way to update those as well. Unclear which plans will have access to this technology and when it will be available.


    https://www.lightreading.com/4g3gwif.../d/d-id/762791

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