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Mobile Phones


#1

Hi folks,

The other post about the android SOTA app and my mobile phone contract coming to an end has got me thinking (cue the replies).

At the moment I’m with the network “3” and they typically offer a very competitive package - however there is a drawback. In my experience if you start to go more than 2’6" up a summit then there’s no signal at all!

Now, with activators using this app, the website and SMS to post spots and alerts, there must be loads of you lot out there who do get decent signals on summits.

I’m kinda wondering what networks these might be. Saving a quid a month but forfeiting the ability to call loved ones to tell them you’re having a great time activating, so I’ll be home later and not to worry seems a no brainer to me!

All the best,

Rob, G7LAS


#2

In reply to G7LAS:

I use Tesco mobile and am happy with the coverage. I believe they use O2.


#3

In reply to G7LAS:

I use Orange phone and O2 & Vodaphone data; Orange coverage far better than O2 or Vodaphone.

73,
Rod


#4

In reply to G7LAS:

Hi Rob,

Yeah, I’m with Three and overall the package is excellent. You’re right about coverage though, it is a bit hit and miss. Internet coverage can be a bit of a pain on a summit. Leith Hill of all places, was a nightmare with no phone or Internet signal …GRRRRR.

73 Mike
2E0YYY


#5

In reply to M0JLA:
Hi I also use orange and its fine.And have used it on a Nile cruise and it worked all the time .No sig at all on Vodaphone.73 Geoff


#6

In reply to G7LAS:

Rob,

Having ascended to quite a range of summits from pimples to mountains, I have come to the conclusion that you can often be above the line of sight of the mobile phone antennas. For example, on several occasions I have been up on the summits in the Lakes with no reception and have had to wait until I have descended part way before getting a signal. Useless for self-spotting and indeed in an emergency, but then 99.9% of the users are not going to be climbing mountains. I don’t think any of the mobile phone companies worry about the loonies that go out walking up the hills.

Having said that, I use O2 and generally find it has reasonable coverage, though in certain areas (e.g. Northumberland), Orange is the one to be on. I use a small Nokia on Orange PAYG as a back up.

Might be worth a trawl online to see whether there are coverage maps for your preferred activation area(s) for the various phone companies. I found it useful when I went up Mickle Fell G/NP-002 as I had to phone the military to let them know we were entering their territory.

73, Gerald G4OIG


#7

In reply to G7LAS:

Perhaps it’s your phone? Ever since the GUM decided having a phone with an internal patch antenna covered by the their hand on one side and their head on the other, mobile performance has got worse. Only matched by more and more cell sites being established.

So my aging E71 is not as good as my even older 6120 classic. The 6120 has much better ears. I find the coverage up here in Scotland on 3 to be astoundingly good. It’s quite rare now to see it roam onto EDGE or GPRS only 2g sites. Only in remote places is there no signal. There was no signal on SS-063 this weekend and I didn’t expect any. That’s a huge area of nothing between Lochs Tay and Earn. There’s plenty of coverage along the Lochs and a shufty at the cell antennas shows coverage is optimised for the loch sides and not inland.

You may want to consider finding an old 2g phone from 1997-2001 when they had external antennas. A 900MHz/1.8GHz antenna is teeny tiny and could be carried easily. That would give you the ability to spot yourself for not a lot of money.

Just a hint as your contract is ending. Buy your next phone outright and get a contract SIM only deal. Mine with 3 gives me 900mins/texts any network per month, 5300mins of 3<>3 per month and 2GB of data for £10.45 inc vat. Buying smartphones on contract is far too expensive.

Andy
MM0FMF


#8

In reply to MM0FMF:

You may want to consider finding an old 2g phone from 1997-2001 when they had external antennas. A 900MHz/1.8GHz antenna is teeny tiny and could be carried easily. That would give you the ability to spot yourself for not a lot of money.

An excellent idea Andy. However, there is more to mobile phone use in relation to SOTA than just having the ability to self spot. My smartphone was invaluable when Paul and I were up in Orkney as it made it easy to post alerts for the following day. I also used it to search t’internet for accommodation on the way back. Surfing the net is an arduous task with an older phone. For what they weigh, it’s worthwhile carrying both a smartphone and an older one with an eye on each of them having specific tasks.

73, Gerald G4OIG


#9

In reply to 2E0YYY:

“Yeah, I’m with Three and overall the package is excellent. You’re right about coverage though, it is a bit hit and miss. Internet coverage can be a bit of a pain on a summit. Leith Hill of all places, was a nightmare with no phone or Internet signal …GRRRRR.”

Surprised you haven’t figured a way to hook it up to the mighty colinear…

A pain in the summit - ROTFL


#10

In reply to G4OIG:

Just for spotting Gerald… you use a modern smartphone when in the near of civilisation. They work better then!

Andy
MM0FMF


#11

In reply to MM0FMF:

Just a hint as your contract is ending. Buy your next phone outright
and get a contract SIM only deal. Mine with 3 gives me 900mins/texts
any network per month, 5300mins of 3<>3 per month and 2GB of
data for £10.45 inc vat. Buying smartphones on contract is far too
expensive.

I also have an unlocked smart-phone and I am with “Three”. However, I opted to go with a Pay As You Go SIM, with which top-ups are optional. However, if you do choose to buy a £15 Add On, for a month that gets you 300 any network mins, 3000 (!) texts, and UNLIMITED data. As I don’t make many voice calls from my mobile, but lots of texts and data, that seems like a good deal to me.

(3000 texts! That’s like 100 texts a day!)

I must say I’m surprised you find the “Three” network coverage is good in Scotland, because it certainly looks otherwise on their coverage map. Likewise for the wilds of West Wales. However, in England the only summit I have encountered so far with no Three signal is View Edge! Odd, because O2 has a massive signal there.

73,
Walt (G3NYY)


#12

In reply to G3NYY:

(3000 texts! That’s like 100 texts a day!)

That’d last my teenage daughter at least till breakfast…

I mainly use Orange and have found coverage of summits to be almost universal. Annexation of T Mobile can only have helped.

Anecdotally Vodafone covers some of the more isolated parts of Scotland better. I’ve only tested this in the vicinity of Dunvegan on Skye, where I found it was true :slight_smile:

73 de Paul G4MD


#13

In reply to G3NYY:

The unlimted data becomes very limited when you hit 1GB. The old 6120 runs a PAYG SIM.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good the coverage was when I started with them in 2008 and that it’s improved over time. That was what worried me, whether the coverage would be as good as I’d found with 2g and Orange. Seems to work wherever I go.

Andy
MM0FMF


#14

In reply to MM0FMF:

Just for spotting Gerald… you use a modern smartphone when in the near of civilisation. They work better then!

Yes, but IMHO smartphones are dreadful to use in the car on the move (especially in the near of civilisation :wink: ). Horses for courses. Having one of each I can’t go wrong. Just pleased I didn’t cash my old one in for £30 - and I was told that was a good deal!

73, Gerald G4OIG


#15

One ‘trick of the trade’ I haven’t seen mentioned yet is turning your 'phone off and then back on again.

Not sure how true it is, but it seems plausible - the 'phone sees too many cells from up high and then gets confused, this seems to manifest itself in the phone showing full bars of signal then shows total loss of signal. I have seen my phone show ‘network error’ also on summits.

Turning the 'phone off and on seems to allow it to register to a cell with which it can work.

I’m with Vodafone, I started with them years ago because their coverage in the Western Isles of Scotland was the best at the time. Orange/T Mobile does seem to be the best nowadays though. I carry a spare Orange SIM in my emergency kit.

73
Colin
M0CGH

Later edit - of course for pure emergency use, a mobile even without a SIM will try to connect a 112 or 999 number using ANY available network.


#16

In reply to M0CGH:
Hi Rob,

Another vote here for Orange/T-mobile.

You may find that T- mobile has the better deals over Orange but both now use each others networks now so generally good coverage all round.

73

Liz


#17

In reply to M0CGH:

Later edit - of course for pure emergency use, a mobile even without a
SIM will try to connect a 112 or 999 number using ANY available
network.

The problem is that whilst the phone will try (it’s part of the 3GPP specs), the UK mobile networks won’t accept the call without a valid SIM for their own network.
For ultimate coverage a foreign SIM is best to have, as typically they will roam on all UK networks. In days gone by I used to carry a Telstra SIM for that purpose.

For coverage on the hills (at a price) the SPOT Connect device allows you to be tracked pretty much anywhere worldwide (there are coverage issues at the poles) and to send short (40 character) SMS or email messages from your phone via satellite. It should be possible to use this to send SOTAwatch spots using some carefully crafted messages and a receiving server to parse the emails or texts. It also gives you one button access to call out the emergency services, again via satellite. I’ve looked into them for another sport where I’m away from home for several days at a time, and potentially out of mobile coverage for much of it. If the family can see me moving then they know that either I’m alive or someone has found my body and nicked the SPOT :slight_smile:

However, the reviews suggest that they aren’t 100% reliable and for those worrying at home it is better to not expect to be contacted, than for contact to disappear when you are in the wilds.

73
Matt
G7GCR


#18

In reply to G7GCR:

SPOT is not the panacea I first thought it was. It certainly would work up around 56N where I tend to walk mostly but it suffers from long latencies at this latitude. I wrote software to parse emails that you can get a SPOT2 to send such as the user customised checkin mail and prearming my script with the summit and frequencies I could use a checkin message to trigger a suitable spot.

But the problem remains the potential 15-20min latency at this latitude. The newer SPOT units that allow you to add a short message were just coming out when I played with this and so I didn’t investigate them further. Still had the latency problem. If you haven’t been able to work someone in the 15mins waiting for the spot to appear then you probably aren’t going to work anyone anyway!

The only real world wide guaranteed solution is to use Iridium SBD short message modems. Here the latency from acquisition of satellite to delivery to Iridiuim’s earth stations is of the order of 15 secs. The modems cost around £250 is small quantities and you need an L band antenna on top of that. I’ve specced out a full SOTA terminal using Bluetooth from a mobile phone to control the modem. Messaging costs are not terriblly expensive like Iridium voice calls. I simply don’t have the time to develop the system even though it is so uber-cool.

Andy
MM0FMF


#19

I’m with Orange and on my recent activation of G/NP-010 Pen-y-ghent, I made my usual ascent from the parking spot by the cattle grid on the road to Halton Gill. I found mobile phone coverage better than in previous years.

Chris M0RSF


#20

In reply to G7GCR:

For ultimate coverage a foreign SIM is best to have, as typically they
will roam on all UK networks. In days gone by I used to carry a
Telstra SIM for that purpose.

I use a Global SIM from 0044.co.uk for this and it has enabled me to spot on a number of occasions when my main phone (on Three) has not had coverage.

That being said, I’ve found Three to be not too bad. I’ve quite often had coverage on summits, though frustratingly it often disappears at the activating position!

Martyn M1MAJ