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Old 09-01-2006, 11:15 PM   #1
Boreal Chickadee
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Cell Phone reception in the Adirondacks

please don't turn this into a heated discussion about cell phones and hiking.

My cell phone is not healthy and will need to be replaced. I hate to do it because it means signing up for a new plan and I've got a real cheap one from about five years ago. Many months I use all of seven minutes, but with a teenager driving, soon going away to college(where land lines aren't even used anymore) it seems time to bite the bullet and move on.

Since I have to purchase a new plan I can also choose a new carrier if I want.

In central New York it doesn't matter whether it's Verizon or Cingular. But other parts of the state there can be quite a difference in coverage.

I was recently with someone quite a ways in kayaking and I was flabbergasted that they got signal. Verizon.

I'd like to know where and what carrier folks have that have worked in the Adirondacks. Any and all areas please since I spend time all over the place.

Acadia, I'll have to do a bit more research on. Remember I usually spend two weeks up there every year, so this is not a hiking tool, it's a way to be able to be gotten hold of by family and check up on my house etc.

PM me if you'd rather keep your usage of places and carrier private.

Thanks guys. I'd just like to make a good decision before I lock into a two year plan.
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Old 09-01-2006, 11:36 PM   #2
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I've received good signal with Verizon on Hurricane and Giant. Hurricane was great, Giant wasn't all that great with reception, but then again, the GPS unit I was carrying didn't seem to be fairing all that well on that particular day either, and those Rhinos are supposed to be pretty reliable. My Verizon phone hasn't worked well in lower elevations, and it's pretty useless in the I-87 corridor from Warrensburg (exit 23) up until Plattsburgh.

That's about the extent of my experience in the Dacks with phones.
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Old 09-02-2006, 12:01 AM   #3
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There is no service in the Keene Valley until you get west of the Verizon Center on Rt 73, then there is limited Verizon service. We have picked up a signal (Verizon) on some summits but never at lower elevations. I think it's pretty unreliable around the High Peaks.
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Old 09-02-2006, 04:13 AM   #4
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anybody here use sprint as a carrier?
ive had a sprint plan for five years running and have enjoyed not having service when in most of the areas ive found myself in when staying in the adirondacks.
however, during the trip ill be taking in mid september, i will be having to do some work while vacationing, which means i will have to be on a phone some.
our cabin is on upper saranac lake. i was counting on being able to go to either tupper lake, saranac inn, or saranac lake if i needed reception (i dont know if the cabin has a phone).
its not something im super concerned with, but does anyone have an idea of what kind of reception i can expect with sprint on or around upper saranac.
also, we have two way radios for when im fishing and my girlfriend is in the cabin. if i stray out of range, could my girlfriend call me on the cell? (of course, even if im told there is reception on the lake, ill still tell her theres none).
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Old 09-02-2006, 08:59 AM   #5
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Another Verizon customer here. Good but not great coverage. For example, had a strong 2 bar signal on Gothics, but the cell tower was too far away to receive the signal from the phone. Was happening with several folks on top (and to be honest it was the first time I have ever tried making a call from atop a mountain, someone asked about signal strength and I got my phone out ). Verizon customer service is better than Cingular's, my old carrier.

FYI, the latest Albany ADK Club chaper magazine (the Adirondac) has an interesting, though highly bias, article on cell phones in the outdoors.
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Old 09-02-2006, 09:20 AM   #6
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Verizon customer here. No signal at all while in Old Forge. I'm a former sprint user and can say from experience that verizon has about the best coverage of areas that you will find. Just not that good in the dacks yet. My wife started us on our verizon plan and she's just about ready to renew. We have the plan with her phone being on an unlimited monthly flat rate with the two "free" camera phones, for an astronomical fee. She want's to go to the pay by the minute plan since my cell is basically for emergency use and sits in the glove compartment 99.9% of the time. Good luck- all these companies are pretty good at knowing what each other are charging. Kind of reminds me of switching from cable to the dish- it may look attractive to switch at first but upon further investigation- they gotcha.
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Old 09-02-2006, 10:05 AM   #7
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I recently used my "phone a friend" option from a ridge on Armstrong and got pretty good reception (and good advice!). I use Nextel. I also had excellent reception on top of Pyramid and Gothics.
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Old 09-02-2006, 10:38 AM   #8
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I'm another Verizon customer. My ADK cell phone usage is limited to Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. I haven't had a problem in either place. After that, I turn the phone off when I get to the trail head.

FWIW, my parents have Cingular, and live near Ogdensburg. They get pretty bad reception at home, but I get decent reception with Verizon there.
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Old 09-02-2006, 11:12 AM   #9
Yeah, buddy!
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Cingular here. No reception going north past Warrensburg, and no reception from the Northway west to Tupper Lake, or north from Tupper to Paul Smiths.
NOTE: I have a Go Phone which has a smaller coverage area than contract customers, but none the less, worth noting.....
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Old 09-02-2006, 09:51 PM   #10
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I have cingular, and my phone gets reception just about everywhere. Keene& keene valley are two spots without signal. Pretty much every summit, and quite a bit of the NPT. I don't really always use it, but I do email pictures to my computer from different areas. I even get signal in some really remote spots where I would think there is no way. I even managed to land a new job by phone while hiking Stewart. I know the cell phone thing pisses people off, but wilderness is still wilderness... even when mr. roboto starts playing in my pack.
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Old 09-02-2006, 09:59 PM   #11
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I have a Cingular phone (GSM system) and thought it was "OK" (reception only in and near Lake Placid) until my son came to visit with his new Sprint phone. Without question, Sprint (and Verizon which also uses the CDMA system) has a much superior system in the High Peaks and surrounding area. Cingular has service north to Warrenburgh, a little around Schroon Lake, then you might as well turn it off.
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Old 09-02-2006, 10:01 PM   #12
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I used to have Verizon ... but I dropped it because of poor service. I have Sprint now ... I haven't really tried it in the 'dacks but it worked like a charm in Alaska.

Once a year, go some where you've never been before.
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Old 09-02-2006, 10:30 PM   #13
Boreal Chickadee
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Keep those comments coming... all good info
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
It's about learning to dance in the rain.
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Old 09-02-2006, 11:13 PM   #14
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Hi - I have Verizon, and although I hate to admit it, I have made calls from the summits of Santanoni and Algonquin (my husband likes to know that I'm safe). I have service in Lake Placid, but not at the Loj. And I have service in Old Forge (right in town), but I lose service about one mile down South Shore Road.
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Old 09-03-2006, 01:06 AM   #15
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If you look at the coverage maps provided by the carriers themselves, Verizon has widest coverage into remote(r) areas of the Daks (at least compared to Cingular/Sprint and T-Mobile). In fact thats why I went with them. Mountain top reception usually pretty good. When we camp at Paradox Lake I cant get any reception unless I take the Kayak out into the lake or drive into Schroon lake (which has very good service). My teenage kids have also figured out you can get reception if you stand at the right side of the end of the boat dock!

Weather or atmospheric conditions has a lot to do with "one bar or no bar" reception.
I was actually able to make a call from Marcy Dam one night in June.

I had a client call me once while I was heading down ADK Loj road. Sounded like they were next door. But there are lots of areas where you just don't get reception.

Check out the detailed coverage maps. For verizon at least, I found it pretty accurate.
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Old 09-03-2006, 05:54 AM   #16
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I have Verizon and the only place I have poor reception is from Star Lake To near Tupper Lake.I had 4 bar reception at Avalanche Lake.I also think reception depends on what kind of phone one has.With my old phone it was hard to get reception at all in the Adirondacks.
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Old 09-03-2006, 07:32 AM   #17
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Cingular here, i have to say it sucks in the ADK'S,only works in wide open spaces or on the summit of a mountain, i'd go with verizon
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Old 09-03-2006, 07:04 PM   #18
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This is always a hard question to answer because no matter what type of network, CDMA, TDMA, or GSM (in the near future also 3G / HSDPA), your coverage is based on an "optimum" situation. Different days lend them selves to different propagation situations as do different phones lend them selves to better or worse reception.

I myself have noticed spotty GSM coverage (both on 1900 MHz and 850 MHz) at best though the Adirondacks, but then again I am a little more critical of coverage than the average user since I work as a network planner for the Fido/Rogers GSM wireless network north of the border.

I have been asked this same question when it comes to our network and people are normally surprised when I answer that each network has its own strengths and weaknesses. Meaning, what might work great for you, may not for someone else.

For sure in the case of mountain ranges like in the Adirondacks itís REALLY hard to have perfect coverage because of the propagation issues that mountains and valleys cause. Not to mention, even though I work in the wireless industry, and in most cases on a business day could not do without my cell, I also would not want to see the Adirondacks scattered with cell sites every 3 to 6 miles up and down each highway. Considering this and with the above mentioned comments from other posts, it might be a little easier to look at the areas you spend most time in and look for a network that has the coverage you require in those locations.

Just remember, wireless networks and cell phones are like spices, some like Ďem on their food and others donít.

I hope this helps some...
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Give it a try and you'll see what I mean...

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Old 09-03-2006, 09:15 PM   #19
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I have Cingular (Blackberry 7290) and Verizon (RAZR V3C), and both work mainly on summits/ridges/highpoints in the ADKs. Also, in some valleys with open view to localities with a cell tower.

However, I DO NOT depend on them in the case of emergency that might occur on the trail. I leave a detailed agenda with someone prior to departing (times, routes, etc).

I usually keep them turned off, for two reasons. 1) I do not want a potential distraction to myself or others due to a ringing cell phone 2) it kills the battery really quick when you are drifting in and out of coverage and the phone keeps transmitting to find a signal.

Good luck!
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Old 09-03-2006, 09:16 PM   #20
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Oh, another point. I've been able to send pics and videos with the Verizon RAZR from summits.
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