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Best cell signal at West end of island?

Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:48 pm
by fonixmunkee
The Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society is researching the possibility of putting a web cam at the lighthouse. It would require an internet connection, and the only way I can think of doing that is with a cellular hot spot.

I'm looking to see if anyone has any input on what service has the best coverage on that part of the island (e.g., Verizon, Sprint, AT&T).

Thanks in advance for any replies.

Re: Best cell signal at West end of island?

Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:12 pm
by Midwest Ed
A check of their website coverage data maps (plus T-Mobile) show that Verizon's and Sprint's coverage pretty much ends around Grand Marais. Both AT&T and T-Mobile indicate good data coverage in and around Grand Portage and AT&T claims data coverage to the southwest end of The Island. T-Mobile is known to use AT&T's infrastructure but in this case the coverage of AT&T and T-Mobile are a bit different. (Verizon, Sprint)

How high is the top of the lighthouse? I looked up the height of the light beacon is at 117 feet. The Grand Portage area is only 15 to 18 miles from the lighthouse (depending upon where the cell tower is located. Given the RoA lighthouse height and location I would say your chances of getting a solid and high speed connection are very good, especially if you put up a modest antenna. The radio horizon for just the 117 feet is over 15 miles. The probable height of the land based cell tower makes the total line of sight distance 25 to 30 miles which is more than enough to reach Grand Portage (assuming they have their own tower close by).

Unless someone can provide some other strong anecdotal evidence, I would first talk to AT&T with T-Mobile as a second choice. I would also contact the Voyageur/Sea Hunter folks. I'm sure they know the score here. Have you contacted the society's workers from last Summer? I bet one or more tried their phone from the top of the Light. One thing to keep in mind is that if you buy the correct equipment you could later change from AT&T to T-Mobile (or vice-versa) since they are both GSM and not CDMA as are Verizon and Sprint.

Another avenue is to check with the connection Windigo uses. I doubt they will let you piggyback but who knows. Maybe you could duplicate their method if it's not a simple cellular connection.

Also, "The Google" claims Grand Portage has a couple of internet providers. It might be interesting to see if one of them (or maybe one of their customers) would help you set up what is commonly referred to as long distance Wi-Fi, where both ends use a high gain directional antenna using standard Wi-Fi bandwidth.

Lastly, one more possibility would be to check with the folks at Pastynet in the Keweenaw. They recently installed and successfully tested a proof of concept long range point to point internet connection between Rock Harbor (I think a water tower) and Mt. Horace Greeley (the old Air Force radar base by Gratiot Lake). That measures at 55 miles. It's only 63 miles to RoA Lighthouse. The ~130 feet of elevation you have might just help accommodate the extra distance. The NPS chose not to move forward (I think due to concerns of reliability during bad weather) but all the infrastructure might still be available.

Re: Best cell signal at West end of island?

Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:55 pm
by Tampico
Years ago, I asked the woman who runs the store at Windigo how they got their Wi-Fi coverage.

Honestly, I don't remember what she told me, but I'm looking for the email message(s)...

Not a ton of help, I know, but you could start with the Park and Concession folks to see what they use; Rock Harbor, Mott Island, and Windigo all have internet access.

Incidentally, my carrier is Verizon, and I've gotten my phone to work in several places around the island.

Re: Best cell signal at West end of island?

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 9:40 am
by Montana
I have Verizon -- visited the west end of the island via Grand Portage. My signal ended during the drive north around Grand Marais. I don't think Verizon is an viable option until they upgrade their service area.

Re: Best cell signal at West end of island?

Posted: Fri Feb 09, 2018 12:25 am
by Tampico
Cell phones are radios, and as such, are dependent on a number of factors for their operation.

My cell phone (a Verizon iphone 6) at Windigo worked okay. It wasn't perfect, but it worked.

A few years earlier, an ancient flip-fone (also Verizon) I owned worked just fine while I was at the Duncan Bay camp. I found this remarkable considering how remote this site is.

I'm pretty-sure I was hitting Canadian cells both times. I don't remember what I saw on my bill as far as billing/roaming.

Re: Best cell signal at West end of island?

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:16 pm
by DonNewcomb
T-Mobile's northernmost claimed LTE tower in that area is just inland of Hovland. At Grand Portage they show only 2G service, maybe roaming. Did I read somewhere that the tribal phone company was installing their own cellular system? No, maybe it was T-Mobile. ... rtage.html
I have not seen any evidence that T-Mobile has service, much less 4G service at Grand Portage.

P.S. I confirmed with T-Mobile that their current service in Grand Portage is roaming, probably on AT&T, but it appears that they plan to install LTE service there. They may be waiting on weather or fiber-optic backhaul

Re: Best cell signal at West end of island?

Posted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:11 pm
by hooky
My Verizon phone had no service in GP last fall.

There's probably a way to do this via Amateur Radio on VHF. I'm not smart enough to put it together, but I bet somebody on here knows someone who is.