Mobile phone reception

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Mobile phone reception

Postby Lophophaps » Mon 28 Jun, 2021 10:04 am

Advice is sought about mobile phone reception. The main factors seem to be:
* location;
* carrier, Telstra, Optus, etc; and
* type of service, internet, phone, text.
Is this correct?

Also, are there some places where there's no signal? This may include the Central Plateau of Tasmania, no line of sight to towers, and other places where a mountain is in the way.

I've been on mountains where the nearest tower is 70 kilometres away, weak signal but still usable. Is there a limit to how far away a phone can be and still work? Does the weather have any effect on this?
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Re: Mobile phone reception

Postby ChrisJHC » Mon 28 Jun, 2021 10:57 am

Generally Telstra has the best coverage once you get away from towns. You do pay for that!

I found this site that claims to show the coverage for the three providers: https://www.nperf.com/en/map/AU/-/355.V ... 003&zoom=3

Re how far from the tower you will get reception, this depends on geography and weather so it’s hard to give a rule of thumb.

Even in Vic, which is probably our most densely populated state, you often don’t get reception once you get into the bush.

I don’t rely on it and prefer to be pleasantly surprised when I get it while out bush. That’s why I carry a PLB as my emergency communication device. Occasionally carry a sat phone if the specific circumstances warrant it.

One thing to consider is that having your phone continually searching for a signal really chews through your battery!
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Re: Mobile phone reception

Postby eggs » Mon 28 Jun, 2021 1:38 pm

There was a thread discussing coverage with contributions for specific places.
The key to coverage is line of site to a tower - and this can be a long way away.
Tasmania is notorious because it is so mountainous - meaning lots of places are in hollows with no signal.
But it is pretty good on tops and ridgelines - eg in the Western Arthurs.
Central Plateau can also get a Telstra signal in many parts.
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Re: Mobile phone reception

Postby Lophophaps » Mon 28 Jun, 2021 2:03 pm

Thanks. The signal on the Central Plateau surprises me, as I envisaged towers lower, at Lake St Clair or at the Cradle terminus. I've seen a walker at the WOJ high on the West Wall using a mobile phone. Would using the maps on a mobile phone drain a battery quickly? The context is using mobile phone maps for a walk of 1-4 days.
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Re: Mobile phone reception

Postby Son of a Beach » Mon 28 Jun, 2021 2:27 pm

For bushwalking, you should download the online map(s) to offline map(s). Many apps have the ability to do this (if yours does not, find a better app! :-) )

Having said that, the HTTP cache will automatically cache maps most of the time in some apps, even if the app doesn't explicitly provide for downloading to an offline version of the map. So you could browse the entire area of interest at all zoom levels of interest before leaving the good/reliable network, and while connected to power, and then it should all be available later... so long as the cache isn't purged, overwritten, or expired. But I wouldn't rely on such a cache - they are designed to be volatile.

Even with maps explicitly downloaded to safe offline copies, simply viewing them uses considerable power (regardless of airplane mode and using no networking). Having the screen on is probably the most power-draining thing your phone can do, apart from its radio operations (cellular, wifi, bluetooth).

I've done 6-day walks using phone GPS and navigation about 10 years ago. No trouble with the battery. But this was with the phone in airplane mode, switched off overnight, and using it only sparingly.

I wouldn't expect the phone to last more than a couple of days with the cellular network on. Even if you weren't using online maps, just having the network on drains the battery in a few days. Actually using that network will drain it faster still.

On Mobile Phone Reception:

You cannot get any signal at all in most bushwalking areas in Tasmania, including much of the central plateau, unless you are on a summit, ridge, pass or other high place. Eg, I found that I got fairly good reception at Damascus Gate in the Walls of Jerusalem. But it's only available for a few short metres either side of the high point there, then nothing once you descend a few metres. (Of course on most of the other mountain tops in the area it would also be OK).

I certainly would not expect a near-continuous signal in any of the areas I usually bushwalk in Tasmania. Even many of the places where a signal can be picked up on a mountain top, it is just enough to send a message. Not enough to make a phone call, or use network data.

See some anecdata on some spots where people on the forums have reported reception (mostly from ~10-12 years ago) at: viewtopic.php?f=21&t=415
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Re: Mobile phone reception

Postby lseries92 » Mon 28 Jun, 2021 5:15 pm

With relation to reception, remember that the big carriers offer effectively two separate networks: their own (which has maximum coverage) and their wholesale network which is limited in speed and reach. A good example of what I mean is shown by the map about half way down the article below:

https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2019/11/t ... -are-they/

This shows the Telstra network compared to the Telstra wholesale network (not including Tassie which they seem to forgot ... again) - the differences in allegedly coverage are quite stark. That said, the map shows there is still a lot of space than is not covered ...

One affordable option that gets you on the good Telstra network is Boost (who are owned by Telstra). They are speed limited and currently do not have access to 5G but you get pretty much the same coverage as Telstra. More affordable providers like Aldi, Belong or Woolworths are on the Telstra wholesale network which allows them to charge less but with a drop in coverage, mainly out in the more regional areas ...
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Re: Mobile phone reception

Postby north-north-west » Wed 30 Jun, 2021 4:31 pm

I've been able to get a signal with my ancient iPhone 3S in some surprising places. The most surprising was the return to the Helipad (aka Eldon Bluff/Dome Hill base camp). That said, there are also some places where one would expect to get a signal, but cannot. As with most things (in Tassie especially) don't expect it to work, no matter where you are.
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