Commuters should study 4G coverage maps before signing up for Verizon 4G

Steve Berry reports his Verizon 4G wireless works as advertised when he's in a 4G coverage area, but that the problem is that his commute takes him into 3G territory and that's a problem:

When the 4G signal is low and a 3G is available, the device switches modes. This drops the existing connection and 3G takes 20-30 seconds to activate. If you happen to come back into a 4G area (signal level above the 3G value), it switches modes again taking another 30 seconds to establish an active link. In the 1 hour Worcester to Boston route, I used to lose 3G connectivity twice and lose about 2 minutes while the SSLVPN and MiFi resynchronized. Since moving to the 4G, I lose 30 minutes of the 1 hour commute due to continuous mode changes.

There is no ability to force the unit into 3G or 4G only mode. There is no standard for setting up a new connection before dropping an existing connection.

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Comments

Fixed, thanks

By on

Obviously, I missed that part!

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An error in your summary + an error in his blog

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First - the blog is about Mr. Berry's experience with his Verizon MiFi Hotspot, not a cell phone. The MiFi is a small device that acts as a wireless router for several nearby WiFi enabled devices.

Secondly, he is incorrect - the Novatel MiFi 4G LTE offered by Verizon can be forced into 4G or 3G only operation. There's a bunch of links that explain how - here's one of the more straightforward.

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Tools to show/map coverage in Boston

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There are a bunch of tools to map cellphone coverage, better than the crappy maps the carriers provide. You can then look at the maps on your desktop.

VisualCell is the best, and currently has a lot of mapping of TMobile's coverage of JP:

http://www.cellmapper.net/visualcell.php

OpenSignalMap might work, but I could never seem to get it to:

http://opensignalmaps.com/

The more people who install and use this software to map out coverage, the better the maps will be...

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I've tried to use commuter rail Wi-Fi on

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my smartphone in the few 3G dead zones I've encountered on my daily commute (I've gotten to know the limits of them by heart). When the phone switches from 3G to the car's WiFi spot, it takes me into a access screen which was obviously intended for laptop users, as it has such incredibly tiny print on the phone that it is impossible to read.

Not only that, but switching to WiFi somehow screws up the size and resolution on the T's mobile site (which ususally works fine on 3G), making that impossible to use as well.

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He's not using a phone

He's using a laptop with a mobile hotspot. His situation (laptop + prolonged period on the train) is tailor made for using the in train WiFi. I rarely use it myself for the reason you've described, combined with the shortness of my ride. But Once in a while I have my tablet with me, and then the WiFi is great.

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It's always spotty for me

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It'll be fine for a couple minutes and then drop out, then I have to re-connect and go through the landing page again. It's OK for looking up something quickly but I usually get too annoyed for continuous browsing.

I remember when the WiFi program debuted it was limited to one car on each train, usually around the middle. I don't know if they've since expanded the service to every car, but for non-rush hour trains it's impossible to sit in a middle car since riders are limited to the first two cars.

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Tech Fail

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Why not use the WiFi provided by the MBTA?

Honestly, outside of Metro Boston there's no real reason for getting a 4G phone, unless you do A LOT of traveling to 4G cities. The 4G radios are new and are very power hungry.

I just got a Droid 3 (3G) and it's running a duel core 1GHz processor and I've been getting 2 days with a single charge (24 hours with very heavy use). It's amazing, and the battery life is more important to me then 4G.

By the time 4G is properly rolled out nation wide, there will also be better 4G radios in the phones, which should be about 2 years. Having a phone that dies in 8 hours is not worth being an early adopter.

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