Author Topic: Cell coverage on the WW&F  (Read 3459 times)

Graham Buxton

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Cell coverage on the WW&F
« on: May 14, 2023, 09:42:53 AM »

I noted in a different thread references to testing cell coverage at Trout Brook Station:

John McNamara experimented with equipment to enhance the cell signal at Trout Book station.  James Patten (left) and Jason Lamontagne (center) testing the signal, as John (right) looks on.





I recently switched my cell phone service to Tello.com, which is an VMNO which uses the T-Mobile network. I did so because the Tello (T-Mobile) coverage showed that I could get [low band] 5G coverage at my house, whereas ATT and Verizon do not have 5G at my location.

After I got set up, I found the Tello coverage map was reasonably correct -- at least where I have checked. 

I note with interest that the Tello (T-Mobile)  map shows that the WW&F is covered well by Tello (T-Mobile) [low band] 5G, as well as 4G:


(click image to enlarge)
Map link: https://tello.com/coverage


So I am curious whether anyone with with T-Mobile service has recently checked to see what their service is like along the tracks and at TBS?
« Last Edit: May 14, 2023, 05:17:26 PM by Graham Buxton »
Graham

James Patten

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2023, 04:08:32 PM »
I use Trakfone, which as I understand, uses the US Cellular network.  I think I had 2 bars of service while John had the booster going.  I will usually get 0 to 1.

Except for Sheepscot (and the Mountain), I have gotten pretty good cell service in the past.  ToM was best of all.  I think since they turned off 3G my service level has dropped.  Now Sheepscot, which used to get 1 to 2 bars, I now get no service to 1 bar (no service especially if the phone is in my pants pocket).

Graham Buxton

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2023, 05:15:12 PM »
It appears that Verizon acquired TracFone in 2021:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TracFone_Wireless
.. so I expect that James' phone is using the Verizon network.


Verizon claims to have 4G coverage everywhere around Alna:


(click image to larger)
Verizon coverage map link: https://www.verizon.com/coverage-map/


The US Cellular coverage map shows mostly 4G coverage in the Alna area with some no/weak coverage spots:


(click image to larger)
US Cellular coverage map link: https://www.uscellular.com/coverage-map?gclid=CjwKCAjwjYKjBhB5EiwAiFdSfsUQKIANyfze-DFZh0kIuZUXslZKD8VXu3Z4eif3CzsQoQ-OqgLYsBoCQaIQAvD_BwE






Graham

Andrew Toppan

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2023, 07:53:49 PM »
I wouldn't trust any of these coverage maps too much -- AT&T's shows 4G LTE coverage throughout the area, but I'm surely not the only one who finds his AT&T phone to be a useless brick anywhere near the railroad.


Mike Fox

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2023, 07:57:51 PM »
I have to agree with James. When they turned off 3G, my verizon service went to nothing. I get this annoying message "you are roaming" when I try to call. And can no longer send and receive texts like I used to.
Mike
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Graham Buxton

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2023, 08:26:50 PM »

T-Mobile has adopted an aggressive "low band" 5G expansion program which uses a combination of new 5G frequencies + existing 4G frequencies to deliver an intermediate level of 5G coverage. ATT & Verizon initially focused on pure 5G in high density metro areas.  So T-Mobile could conceivably have better coverage even though Alna is not a high density market.


Note that of the 3 maps above, T-Mobile is the only one that claims 5G coverage in the Alna area. Presumably they upgraded at least some of their towers that cover Alna.

It would be nice if we could find a T-Mobile customer to join the thread.  8) 
« Last Edit: May 14, 2023, 08:41:06 PM by Graham Buxton »
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Benjamin Richards

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2023, 09:11:24 AM »
Within the past 3 years, I have owned devices on all the major networks:

Verizon (through Comcast MVNO)
AT&T
Tmobile (through Google Fi MVNO)
US Cellular (through Google Fi MVNO)
Sprint (through Google Fi MVNO)

I no longer have the Google Fi device, so I can't speak to the current situation with those carriers. I haven't noticed any significant difference among the 5, though I will say that I was often able to receive text messages along the line with Google Fi, whereas the other two are absolutely black holes. I never opened my network app to find out which carrier I was on when I received those messages, but I suspect it was US Cellular, which corroborates James' observations.

With Verizon I can get service at AC, but only inside the station building.

I have one of those cell boosters on my house, and I have been very pleased with it.

John McNamara

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2023, 10:34:40 AM »
I, too, was very pleased with the cell booster performance (at Trout Brook). The only remaining problem is to supply power to the booster. For the "proof of concept" tests I used a large deep-cycle battery and an inverter that I borrowed from Jason.

Any kind of battery would need periodic recharging, of course. Either doing so could be part of a service routine, or we could install a small pole-mounted solar panel such as are used for crosswalk warning signs. I'm researching those. I'm not too hopeful about a service routine, as the WW&F is where batteries (even deep-cycle) go to die,

-John M

Benjamin Richards

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2023, 01:40:21 PM »
My booster claims a 5-15VDC input range. If the one in TBS is similar, it could be hooked directly to the battery, eliminating the losses and complexity of the inverter and the wall wart.

Graham Buxton

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2023, 04:32:28 PM »

Any kind of battery would need periodic recharging, of course. Either doing so could be part of a service routine, or we could install a small pole-mounted solar panel such as are used for crosswalk warning signs. I'm researching those.


I have commercial AC power at my house, but I have several situations where I have installed a panel (or two), charger and deep cycle style battery.  I have been pleased with the price/performance of these 100 watt panels: https://www.ebay.com/itm/124822211844?var=425874450320


Charger: https://www.ebay.com/itm/283901873468


My most recent battery is: https://www.walmart.com/ip/EverStart-Lead-Acid-Marine-RV-Deep-Cycle-Battery-Group-Size-29DC-12V-845-MCA/20531543


In my opinion, the best battery price/performance is from one that does not incur UPS/Fedex/etc shipping, so something that can be acquired local to the purchaser.


I have previously used less expensive chargers, but not been satisfied with their performance. Most recently, I tossed two cheaper chargers in the trash when I found they were applying 16vdc to the battery in full sun.  The Rover I linked performs properly, without any drama, and is designed to be able to handle multiple panels in series for better charging performance if a single panel isn't enough. I do have one setup with dual 100 watt panels in series feeding one Rover and it has been fine for 2 years.


If money was no object I might buy a AGM or LiPo deep cycle battery, but money is always an object.  ::)


At Trout Brook a LiPo battery might be a more tempting theft target, so I would be wary of installing one there.  I suspect that due to tree shade coverage  at TBS you would need more panel wattage than would be necessary elsewhere.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2023, 11:14:13 PM by Graham Buxton »
Graham

John McNamara

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2023, 08:06:06 PM »
Hi Graham,

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions!

I noticed from my handy iPhone that the track at Trout Brook is almost perfectly North-South. If we mounted the antenna and the solar panel on a pole in the middle of the track and pointed them south, everything should work great. ;)

On a more serious note, the antenna should be very near the booster due to losses in the connecting cable, and the solar panel should be fairly close to the battery (mounted inside as an anti-theft measure even if conventional lead-acid). All of this would have to be out of photographic view to the maximum extent possible. I probably can't sell the idea of an invisibility cloak or Photoshop.

Any suggestions on pole mounting for the solar panel?

Thanks!
-John M


Graham Buxton

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2023, 10:40:50 PM »
 ;D I'm going to note here that the Mid Coast Conservancy 'Trout Brook Preserve' parking lot seems to have a decent amount of tree-free space.  Perhaps some kind of cooperative arrangement with MCC could be arranged? Even hikers carry cell phones these days.  8)  Putting a solar panel at the north end of their parking lot would solve a number of problems.


Even if you were to have (2) 100 watt NewPowa panels, that is slightly less than 6 amps (with the panels in series) in full sun.  So in my opinion, a 12AWG buried UF cable (same as the magneto phone cable) is very suitable to run the distance from the solar panel at the north end of the parking lot to the charger & battery in TBS building.

I'm not sure one could specify a pole mount until you know how many/size of the panel(s) you need to mount, and that will be tough to determine until you can pin down a location and evaluate its sun/shade coverage. Any battery will last longer the less you stress it, so my suggestion is to have more panel capacity than you think is just 'adequate' to make up for multiple overcast days.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2023, 10:52:57 PM by Graham Buxton »
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Kevin Madore

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2023, 08:28:34 AM »
I have a 5G phone (Samsung Galaxy Android) on the T-Mobile network and it has always been my experience that I have no service at all when visiting the museum.   In fact, I typically leave the phone in the car, because it is useless dead weight when hiking around.   Anything that can be done to improve coverage is a good thing, particularly with all of the events that the museum is holding and with the hiking trails.   If visitors or hikers have some kind of problem, they can summon help quickly.   In the event of a medical problem, it can make all the difference in the world.   

Cell phones can also be used to locate people, even when they are not able to make calls themselves.   I am the Director of Emergency Services for New Hampshire Wing, Civil Air Patrol, and we used CAP's Cell Phone Forensics Team to save a guy who had become trapped on Franconia Ridge a couple of years back.   We searched by air (visually) for an entire day looking for that guy and could not find him.  Shortly before sunset, the Cell Phone Forensics Team came through with some coordinates, which we passed on to the NH Army National Guard.   They sent a UH-60 Blackhawk up on that ridge at sunset, with the crew wearing Night Vision Goggles.  When they went to those coordinates, the helo crew spotted a guy shining a flashlight at them, and were able to put medics down on the ridge to get the guy out.    Even weak cell phone coverage is better than none at all.

Joshua Zukerman

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2023, 09:33:01 AM »
Actually you do not want the antenna located very near the booster as it will create a signal loop and nothing will be amplified. Follow the manufacturer directions to ensure the external antenna is placed far enough from the booster's inside the building antenna. Yes there are some signal losses with the cable, but the manufacturer usually ensures there is enough amp to overcome signal loss. Additionally the external antenna should be facing the cellular provider's tower to ensure the best signal. Source: former RF ISP installer

FWIW, I have US Cellular and most of the ROW is nearly unusable. Just a tiny bit of service at the star party that was held at Alna Center, likely due to the field being open and somewhat flat.

John McNamara

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Re: Cell coverage on the WW&F
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2023, 07:13:25 PM »


Here's the result of installing a temporary antenna at Trout Brook Station.
The best results were obtained pointing the antenna at Wiscasset, but some result was also obtained pointing toward Gardner/Richmond/Augusta