Results 1 to 16 of 16
  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    07-26-2020
    Location
    Western NY
    Age
    39
    Posts
    3

    Default GSMNP - Which cell phone carrier?

    Hi all,
    I am planning a section hike through GSMNP this January. My wife wants to make sure I can stay in touch while I'm out, so I am looking into cell phone providers. It looks like Verizon is the only carrier to have any sort of coverage - the others look like there's just a blank spot on their coverage maps through the park.

    Before I switch, I just wanted to ask and what other's have experienced out there. I don't want to get a contract so I'm hoping to find a cell provider with a prepaid plan that will work.

    I think if there's no good cell coverage at all I will need to buy or rent a Spot or similar, but I'd rather just use my phone if it's possible.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    05-21-2010
    Location
    Seminole, Fl
    Age
    72
    Posts
    463
    Images
    26

    Default

    I had Verizon when I did the AT in GSMNP. Rarely had any coverage even on the ridges. I have carried an ACR Res Q Link since 2012.
    Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other.
    óM. C. Richards

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    08-08-2012
    Location
    Taghkanic, New York, United States
    Posts
    3,102
    Journal Entries
    11

    Default

    With Verizon there is some coverage one can get on every day traversing the AT, but it is spotty. When I was a ridgerunner there I would often put in the shelter logs where the best nearby reception would be, IDK if the current RR does that, but also look at the hiker logs there, often they will mention it as well.

    What I suggest is compose your email and have it ready to send, When you get to a high point where you suspect a single turn off airplane mode, and if it goes great, if not leave your phone off airplane mode for 20 minutes or so (set a 20 minute timer). Then if it still is not gone, put it back on airplane mode and try again in the next good place.

  4. #4

    Default

    It doesn't look good from what I can find on the internet cell coverage maps. I believe the maximum distance to a cell tower is 20 miles for a number of technical reasons. Your pretty much always over 20 miles from a cell tower along the AT in the park. There is a slim chance you can get into the Gatlinburg cell site if everything lines up just right.

    Rent a SPOT.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  5. #5

    Default

    I had Verizion cell service at Rocky Top (but that was around 8 1/2 years ago).
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  6. #6

    Default

    For the very best in failsafe communication when navigating the back country:

    Forest Phone.jpg

  7. #7
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
    Join Date
    02-20-2013
    Location
    Upper East Side of Texas
    Age
    74
    Posts
    8,415

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by chiefiepoo View Post
    I had Verizon when I did the AT in GSMNP. Rarely had any coverage even on the ridges. I have carried an ACR Res Q Link since 2012.
    Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!
    A real PLB will save your bacon!
    Before wondering about cell service, you need to be 100% secure in your WINTER BACKPACKING GEAR! Can you sleep at ZERO degrees? Do you have R-7+ between your sleeping bag and the ground? Donít rely on liners that claim a 25 degree change in your sleeping bag. They donít work.
    Good luck. Be warm. Be safe.
    Wayne

  8. #8
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
    Join Date
    09-13-2011
    Location
    Knoxville,Tn
    Age
    64
    Posts
    485
    Images
    4

    Default

    From my experience, coverage with Verizon is not the same with contract plans and pre paid plans. Initially I had a pre paid plan with Verizon which worked fine in metro areas but not so good in more remote areas.
    .
    At Tri Corner Knob I could get one or two bars but signal would drop when I tried to send or receive a text. However another crew member also had Verizon but a contract. She could have a full on conversation with her BF on the AT near the Balsam Mountain intersection while I could not connect at the exact same spot. When I got back I talked Verizon rep who said there is not a reciprocal agreement with other carriers when using a pre paid plan but there is one with contracts.

    I have been able to get a text out at Rocky Top, Inadu Knob and near Cosby Shelter. Also I have been able to sometimes get a good enough connection at Newfound Gap, Ross Knob and Mt. Cammerer to check weather radar and google maps traffic. Personally i have not tried but have heard of connections at Clingmn's Dome and at Charlie's Bunion.

    But as others have said, I would not count on getting a cell connection because there are no towers within the park. Even the towers that are within a few miles of the park border may be shaded by ridges.

    Personally I now carry a Garmin inReach which can send and receive texts by satellite as well as being able to send a SOS. It synchs via bluetooth with my phone which allows route tracking and scalable maps.

    BTW If you are not aware Clingman's Dome road closes for the winter and Newfound Gap road maybe closed due to snow or ice.

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    10-27-2003
    Location
    northern whites
    Posts
    4,247

    Default

    Give it a year or two and this will be the coverage to have if you can qualify

    https://www.firstnet.com/power-of-fi...t-started.html

    All us normal folks are now second class cell customers as First Net can throttle or turn off other cell signals if they need the bandwidth. There are lots of "big brother" implications but I will leave it to the conspiracy theorists. ATT got handed frequency bandwidth for putting it in place and lots of government subsidies to build lots of new towers in remote areas.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Give it a year or two and this will be the coverage to have if you can qualify

    https://www.firstnet.com/power-of-fi...t-started.html

    All us normal folks are now second class cell customers as First Net can throttle or turn off other cell signals if they need the bandwidth. There are lots of "big brother" implications but I will leave it to the conspiracy theorists. ATT got handed frequency bandwidth for putting it in place and lots of government subsidies to build lots of new towers in remote areas.
    I donít think Firstnet will be available to private citizens. On firstnet.com I found the following.

    Who is eligible for FirstNet?
    ďFirstNet is exclusively for first responders and those that support their vital efforts. This includes law enforcement, fire protection services, emergency (911) call dispatching and government Public Safety Answering Points, emergency planning and management offices, and emergency medical services. Other essential personnel who support first responders before, during and after an emergency can also subscribe to FirstNet. These organizations provide medical care, mitigation, remediation, overhaul, clean-up, restoration, or other such services during or after an incident.Ē

  11. #11
    Surveyor & cartographer wyclif's Avatar
    Join Date
    01-12-2006
    Location
    Wilmington, Delaware
    Posts
    170
    Images
    3

    Default

    Just an observation: no cellular service area or coverage map you see is accurate. (Anecdotal: in the 'other world' off the AT I am a network engineer). Why? Because there are no real standards, so you can't simply compare one carrier's service map to another.

    That being said, I have heard from many thru hikers that Verizon is the best on coverage with fewer dead spots.

    I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

    ~John Muir

  12. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    10-27-2003
    Location
    northern whites
    Posts
    4,247

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by gpburdelljr View Post
    I don’t think Firstnet will be available to private citizens. On firstnet.com I found the following.

    Who is eligible for FirstNet?
    “FirstNet is exclusively for first responders and those that support their vital efforts. This includes law enforcement, fire protection services, emergency (911) call dispatching and government Public Safety Answering Points, emergency planning and management offices, and emergency medical services. Other essential personnel who support first responders before, during and after an emergency can also subscribe to FirstNet. These organizations provide medical care, mitigation, remediation, overhaul, clean-up, restoration, or other such services during or after an incident.”
    I have no doubt there will backdoors to getting access. Small town volunteer fireman? Ambulance, friend of police chief politician?.

  13. #13

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I have no doubt there will backdoors to getting access. Small town volunteer fireman? Ambulance, friend of police chief politician?.
    It wouldn’t be much use to them if friends, family, and others they want to talk don’t have access.

  14. #14
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
    Join Date
    09-13-2011
    Location
    Knoxville,Tn
    Age
    64
    Posts
    485
    Images
    4

    Default

    Update on my previous reply.

    On yesterday's day hike to Spence Field I had my phone in airplane mode but for some reason it reset when I tried to take a picture of the sign for the spur trail to Spence Shelter. By the time I reached the shelter I received a robo call and several Facebook posts.

    Carrier is Verizon. Contract, not prepaid service.

  15. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    07-26-2020
    Location
    Western NY
    Age
    39
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thanks everyone Looks like the plan will be Verizon prepay, and to rent a Spot or inReach as well.

  16. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    08-08-2012
    Location
    Taghkanic, New York, United States
    Posts
    3,102
    Journal Entries
    11

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I have no doubt there will backdoors to getting access. Small town volunteer fireman? Ambulance, friend of police chief politician?.
    I don't know why you consider small town volunteer fireman or (qualified medical) Ambulance personal a back door, as that was part of who such service was intended for. I am a small town (rural) volunteer fireman and yes I do qualify for this, but went with Verizon's offering as I'm pleased with their service that I had before it was a thing. AFAIK I have priority data only, and they ask if you want priority data or voice when you sign up. I also get a small discount monthly.

    In small town areas the 911 radio system is often spotty and we use cell service for communications, maps, weather, and internet feeds from 911, some use a responding app which allows others to see who's coming and their eta, though we don't have that yet. The more small town it is, the more rural districts tend to use cell service highly in operations and in emergency situations that can easily strain the cell system which is usually made for a lower volume of calls.

    As for how it works, I have to say well, as in I have not noticed many slowdowns, far less then I recall. I don't use voice much and didn't sign up for that so can't comment.

++ New Posts ++

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •