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Old 03-29-2013, 08:50 PM   #1
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Cellular coverage in alaska

Hi.

RENDEZVOUS and I depart for a 4-month cruise to SE Alaska in early May, and will rely on my cell phone hard-wired via a USB connection to my boat PC for internet connectivity. This connectivity is intended to provide me with voice, email, and (secondarily) general internet browsing on the PC to locate services ashore. My current phone is a Sprint Blackberry 8830, which seems to suit my needs OK.

HOWEVER, the Sprint network itself, at least in the Everett, WA area, has begun dropping calls at least 20% of the time, so needless to say, I'm not particularly happy with Sprint at the moment, nor confident that I will have reliable cellular coverage in AK.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a cellular carrier with some coverage in BC while en route, and good coverage in AK itself? I am also willing to buy a new phone if necessary (not particularly attracted to "smart" phones, as they seem overkill for what I need), and purchase the appropriate services from a reliable carrier (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.) to ensure at least voice, and data sufficient to support email and internet browsing via my PC. And I don't want to pay two arms and two legs while in both BC and AK for either roaming charges, or exorbitant data charges.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Regards,

Pete
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Old 03-29-2013, 09:26 PM   #2
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Pete,

I have Verizon and what I do is subscribe to the North America plan for the three months we are cruising. This gives you Canada, USA and Mexico. Last year this cost an additional ten dollars a month and you can turn it off when you are done cruising for the summer. You can get the internet if you have Broadband service but at a slow speed and a very limited of MB's. I always use wireless which is usually free at the places you may stop. Most marinas in the Broughtons have free wireless.

For the most part, you won't have coverage unless you are in the vicinity of a large town for both BC and Alaska but every year it gets better and better. There where times last year while in BC, I was amazed that we had coverage when we where on the water and no one was in sight.

I haven't been to Alaska for 2 years but you will need to be in the vicinity of a good size community to get coverage. It certainly isn't like the lower 48 where you are seldom out of coverage. Meyers Chuck won't have coverage but Throne Bay will, as an example.

Ron
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Old 03-29-2013, 10:51 PM   #3
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Best plan is to forget all about the electronic toys and leave them at home. Pay attention to the north country, your boat and GPS, read books, drink lots of tea, coffee or whatever and relax.

But if you can't do w/o windmist is right .... Verizon is the one.

We lived in Thorne Bay for 7 years and didn't have a regular cell phone. After awhile on up the coast you'll just forget about it. It's a long way up to Alaska and after going all that way it seems a waste to spend it on the cell phone.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:52 PM   #4
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I use Verizon and had fairly good success back in 2009. I would assume it has only gotten better since. You can see on their web site the coverage they have along the Inside Passage. We are also leaving May 1st. for Alaska but this time I will also sing up for the Canada coverage to avoid those roaming charges. Hope to see you along the way.
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:52 PM   #5
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Hi Eric,

Unfortunately, your one-size-fits-all answer doesn't exactly fit all. While I would dearly love to forget my electronic "toys", concentrate on only my GPS, relax and drink tea, save some money on cellular service, etc. health issues now require much closer contact with the outside world to ensure safety for me and my crew.

Thanks for your input, and the endorsement of Verizon. I'll poke around with them ASAP.

Pete
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:39 AM   #6
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Greetings .
Two comments. First to the cell phone service. The best for Southeast Alaska is ACS which is sub-connected to Verizon. ACS has a interacting agreement with BCTel. I have this service and there is no roaming charge as I drive B.C. I assume the case will carry over on the water. Too, while in Southern Souteast, below Juneau, of which I can no comment, the service with cell is a good as it gets. The only gap is where cell towers do not overlap. Just a fact of life, yet ACS has the better of that covered.
The second comment is directed to Eric and not intended to change the thread subject, just an opportunity to dump what I am holding on my "Copy" key regarding a "Willard for sale".
Willard Vega 30' Trawler

To the fellow coming North, enjoy, one heck of a voyage. Eric is right. sit back listen to the country, enjoy the views. drink wine and drop a line for a cook fish.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:22 AM   #7
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Cellular coverage in ak

Hi Al,

Thanks for the link to ACS, which I presume to be Alaska Cellular Service. I'm somewhat confused by your statement that ACS covers waterside BC. A review of their coverage map suggest otherwise. Coverage appears excellent on the roads through Kamloops, Prince George, Smithers, etc. to Prince Rupert. But with the exception of some coverage near Bella Bella, coverage along the coast appears non-existent.

I'm sure I don't understand everything I know about this junk, but unless their coverage map is totally out of date or simply BS, I'm suspicious of ACS between the Broughtons and Prince Rupert.

Still checking Verizon.

Thanks again,

Pete
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:31 AM   #8
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Jungpeter,

Sorry, with the ACS contract, calls in Canada are normal, no extra charges. As I have not used the service on the Canadian waters, I can only assume coverage would be considered as same. If in fact the service map reflects lack of service, then I am out of the equasion. As to Southern Southeast. you are good to go. In the last two years, in reference to "Windmist", improvements have been made to the system, It is a "Evolving". (As "Evolving" is the new political in thing)
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Old 03-30-2013, 02:37 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jungpeter View Post
Hi Eric,
. health issues now require much closer contact with the outside world to ensure safety for me and my crew.
Pete
If your concern is for health and safety issues perhaps you may want to look into renting or buying a satelite phone as you do not want to be fully dependent on cell service anywhere north of Port Hardy.

There is service close to the towns in both BC and SE Alaska but there are large areas with no cell service no matter which carrier you use.

Bob
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Old 03-30-2013, 11:51 AM   #10
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Hi Bob,

Thanks for your input. I am coming to the same conclusion for BC waters north of Port Hardy to Prince Rupert. Satcom seems to be the only viable option these days. I do have a Delorme InReach satellite tracker aboard, which provides limited (160 character) 2-way satellite comms 24/7 even when outside cellular service. As this particular trip north to SE Alaska is planned with a fairly short passage time between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, I will rely on the tracker for this leg. Should I spend more time there in a future trip, I'll probably go with a satphone of some type. Again, thanks for your help.

Regards,

Pete
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Old 03-30-2013, 10:20 PM   #11
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You are not going to get a cell signal in 90% plus of Alaskas waters.

Cell coverage exists but only close to civilization.

This is the last frontier.
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Old 03-30-2013, 10:43 PM   #12
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Peter Jung,
What a pleasant surprise to see you pop up here.

I see you've got the same Canoe Cove and she looks well taken care of. I think we had the Albin when we saw you in Everett. I'll PM you.

And yes ACS is via Verizon. I forgot as we don't pay much/any attention to cell phone stuff. Re the health issue (sorry to hear that) spend more time in port where there's good signals.

As I recall you've got Detroit diesels. We just had a so so thread on DDs, synthetic oil is still slide'in around and we've covered most everything else since 07 ... some issues like how many screws and what anchor to use have had repeated threads.

I'd say stop in Thorne Bay and see us but we don't live there anymore. We're in Concrete WA. between the Skagit River and Hwy 20. When are you going North?
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Old 03-30-2013, 11:37 PM   #13
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I would question Verizon on how long their roaming agreement with ACS will be in effect. Verizon is turning up their own sites in portions of Alaska in the next couple of months. To counter the Verizon move into the Alaska market, ACS signed an agreement with another Alaska carrier, GCI (General Communications Inc) to form a single wireless network based on GSM/LTE. That would leave Verizon no place to roam in most of Alaska as ACS has the largest CDMA network. As much as I don't like ATT, that might be the only safe bet.

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Old 03-31-2013, 11:36 AM   #14
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Hi Tom,

Thanks for the gouge on the possible ACS/GCI alliance within SE AK. Aaarrrrhhhhh!!! The wireless communications industry throughout CONUS is driving my nuts! Not to mention wireless in BC, CAN, where us yachties must transit enroute from "outside" to AK. Seems like the primary emphasis in the wireless communications industry these days is social media. The kids want to tweet, facebook, download, movie, text, picture, and all else necessary to entertain themselves. So the industry responds to their apparent economic clout, and those of us with (IMHO) simpler (but important to us) issues are left in the dust.

General consensus so far among this forum seems to favor Verizon as a carrier of repute, at least within SE AK. Now that you mention this possible change from a Verizon/ACS alliance to an ACS/GCI alliance, Verizon may become less viable and more expensive for sure. Any clue how soon this switch will take place? I'm really only looking forward to this summer's cruise, and if Verizon becomes more expensive/less reliable/poorer coverage, etc. in the future, then I'll deal with it at that time.

And how likely do you think I can find someone within Verizon that can speak knowledgeably regarding this issue? Are the kids in the various Verizon retail stores really likely to have this information? Or do you suggest I try and penetrate into the Verizon corporate technical structure for some real hard answers? Aaaarrrrrhhhh again.

Sorry for the venting. What with the myriad other details to be accomplished prior to this trip, one more aggravation is one too many!

Regards,

Pete
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Old 03-31-2013, 11:52 AM   #15
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Pete,

I don't think the transition will start until next year at the earliest. It's a hard thing to plan and execute. I don't know how Verizon subscribers are treated in the ACS network, but when I had ACS and roamed in the Verizon network, 20-30% of my calls would never reach the phone. They would go to voice mail.

As far as getting a straight story from a Verizon representative, I doubt it. They don't let that information out of the engineering or planning departments. When Verizon opens their first store in town, the first question I am going to ask is what will their coverage be in 3 years.

Tom
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