Author Topic: Northern Tier cell phone service  (Read 4427 times)

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Offline Connie808

Northern Tier cell phone service
« on: March 11, 2017, 08:52:26 pm »
On the Northern Tier route, does anyone have experience with cell phone reception, as in which service providers do or don't have good reception?

Thanks!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2017, 08:51:05 am »
On the Northern Tier route, does anyone have experience with cell phone reception, as in which service providers do or don't have good reception?
I have not done the NT, but have done the TA, ST, and a bunch of other routes in the rural US.  I found that Verizon was pretty universally the best bet based on comparing notes with other tourists along the way, but recently others have been catching up.  I read that T-Mobile is pretty good now, possibly passing Verizon.  In the review that I last saw AT&T was next and Sprint after that.  I had Sprint with my employer before I retired and they had terrible coverage outside of urban areas.  It has been a few years so they are likely improved, but I would still avoid them myself.

My advice is to plan on leaving the phone off or in airplane mode all day to save battery.  When there is a poor or no signal it kills battery fast searching for a signal.  Also I found that even when the signal is really poor I can often send a text where a call would not be possible.  A text will go in a few seconds so a intermittent signal is easier to deal with.  Email works pretty well with an intermittent signal too.  That assumes text only with no attachments.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2017, 11:01:16 am »
I did the NT with Verizon and had service every night, except: (1) in the National Parks (there's almost never service in a National Park), (2) Canada (in which my plan doesn't cover at a reasonable price).

Service during the riding day is intermittent on any route, which is why, as Pete said, you leave your phone in airplane mode to conserve the battery.

Offline Connie808

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2017, 12:06:09 pm »
Great advice, thanks so much.

Thanks for explaining the text messaging option when service is low, and why it's important to leave the phone on airplane mode (I didn't know the phone keeps searching for signal which uses up the battery!).

And Verizon sound like the way to go.

Much appreciated! :)

Offline ggwbikemt

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2017, 03:24:22 am »
I live on the Northern Tier Route in Northeast Montana so I will focus my message on Montana. Among national carriers, Verizon has by far the best coverage. AT&T only has 3rd party roaming where I live in Glasgow  I have 4G coverage for the most part from East Glacier east in the state. I have found an occasional dead spot for Verizon in Saco, MT and there will be other dead spots at times especially on MT 13 between Missouri River and Circle because the road is rolling hills. There is no cell coverage at all between West Glacier and East Glacier on US 2 and across most of Glacier National Park outside the West Glacier and St Mary areas. Verizon also has good coverage across North Dakota and Minnesota on the Northern Tier Route.    Also, if you run into phone problems, some of the small towns like Havre, Glasgow, and Glendive have Verizon dealers. Verizon does offer a $2 a day roaming option in Canada which starts when you first use the phone and lasts for 24 hours.

Offline Connie808

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2017, 11:43:41 am »
Thanks ggwbikemt, that is really great information!  :)

Offline roderick.young

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2017, 07:13:15 pm »
We did part of the Northern Tier in 2010, from Fargo, ND and eastward.  No trouble at all getting service on my Tracfone anywhere, including Ontario (Canada).  And no special charges, even in Canada.  But I was not a big data user.  Mainly just talk and text, plus the occasional look up where the next services might be.  We did NOT use the phone for navigation.

Offline Connie808

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2017, 10:07:26 pm »
Thanks for the replies!

Offline ERS

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2017, 09:35:11 am »
I did NT summer 2016. Have Cricket (no contract branch of AT&T). Service was terrible. Awful. Non-existant for most of ND & MT. My wife was SAG and we were not able to find each other most days. Once I even had to call the police from a local store as she was a no show after waiting hrs for her. Was the worst part of our trip. Who would have thought that a major carrier like AT&T wouldn't have service in a HUGH part of the north. And don't believe their service maps! Looks like other posts tell you what is good. I can only tell you what is bad!! :(

Offline John Nelson

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2017, 10:41:27 am »
Be careful. Just because a minor carrier says that it uses the same network as a major carrier does not mean that the coverage is the same. But even if Cricket had the same coverage as AT&T, AT&T isn't known for good rural coverage.

Offline ERS

Re: Northern Tier cell phone service
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2017, 10:54:22 am »
Good point John, except Cricket isn't a "minor player"... it is AT&T!!!! It is their no contract business. Same company. And apparently, same poor coverage of (as you pointed out) "rural" areas!