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Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

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Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby jjoyce » Mon Jul 30, 2012 1:29 pm

Here I sit in my desk, a sand wedge from the Capitol rotunda in the heart of downtown Madison and my phone (Sprint network) is searching for service. If I walk outside, it's slightly better; sometimes I get three bars.

Last night at the Mallards game, things were slightly better, but my coverage rarely gets above four bars in this city.

I had full 3G and 5 bars the entire time I was in Green Bay a few weeks ago (there are few redeeming reasons to be in Green Bay during the summer, but the coverage was tremendous). What's the story here? Why is Madison so far behind? Do we have stricter laws for cell tower construction here? Or are we simply in a geographic no-man's land?

When I was in Algoma earlier this summer, I was getting Madison-style coverage (which is to say, uneven and mostly crappy), but the locals told me that's because my phone was locking in on a signal from across Lake Michigan instead of the local towers. Or something. I don't know... a lot of beer was being consumed.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby barney » Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:11 pm

Modern energy efficient windows chew up cell signal, it doesn't pass through the way it does through old-school glass.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby rabble » Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:20 pm

I get fairly decent signal for Verizon all over town.

Until I walk inside my house which is full of old school glass windows and I'm lucky to see two bars.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby Detritus » Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:25 pm

I lived in an old house on the East Side for quite a while that had lath and plaster walls, with a layer of chicken wire in between the lath and the plaster. The whole house was a Faraday cage: cell reception bad, TV reception bad, wifi reception bad.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby Twigz2011 » Mon Jul 30, 2012 2:38 pm

I used to be with Sprint, had problems with dropping calls. Switched a year ago to US Cellular--- no issues since.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby jjoyce » Mon Jul 30, 2012 4:04 pm

I've heard it all before about old buildings (I'm in one) and U.S. Cellular (I don't have it). From what I understand, USC is the only decent carrier around here.

But why? Why don't Sprint and ATT have better coverage here? Why is it better in Green Bay than Madison?

I'm not complaining about shitty service in Mount Horeb, I'm complaining about it in the very middle of downtown Madison, the hub of a supposedly wired city.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby peripat » Mon Jul 30, 2012 4:17 pm

Never had a problem downtown with Verizon and then At&t - though co-workers frequently had to stand right next to a window to get service.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby Petro » Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:06 pm

"Coverage" isn't a single, static metric. There's a slew of factors that can impact the quality of the signal, including but not limited to: distance to towers, line-of-sight (or lack thereof) and the multi-path issue that can cause, geographic features, the current barometric pressure, your phone's own antenna, and the current phase of the moon.

I've had both Sprint & Verizon within the past year, and I can't say that I've ever had signal issues with either. (Including using both phones in the same building that holds the Isthmus offices.)

The only really capital-centric issue I had with any of my phones was that my old Blackberry on VZW would die in record time if I sat in the back of the dining room at Brocach. The phone would have a solid Sprint signal, but it could detect the faint glimmer of sweet, sweet VZW EVDO - so, it'd endlessly try and use that signal. The non-stop attempts at changing networks and failing ate the battery.

Changing over to Sprint fixed this, obviously. When I swapped back to VZW again they'd either solved the problem or the antenna on the iPhone is just -that- much better than my old Curve's.

I'd blame your phone, for starters. Check somewhere like howardforums and see if you can find any comments on the reception of your particular handset. Some models of phones just have better antennas and/or radios and get better reception from weaker (or reflected) signals.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby wallrock » Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:38 pm

Madison isn't that difficult for cell siting compared to some places (Municipalities that contract out telecom zoning to CMS are the worst) but it still is an expensive and drawn out process. Downtown coverage consists of mostly rooftop installations and new ones don't come cheap. Most all of the carriers are currently in a 4G race and most cells are being swapped out of LTE antennas and fiber capability, so the construction of new cells is on the backburner right now.

Sprint has been a dumpster fire for a while but they've recently righted the ship a bit. They're dumping their redundant Nextel iDEN network and are currently in the process of creating an LTE overlay system that will eventually replace their current alignment. Their monetary issues over the past decade really have stunted their infrastructure development.

AT&T's problems are a bit different. Most of Wisconsin falls in the Chicago turfing market and their top down control and subcontracting process leads to a good deal of inefficiency. Their botched buyout of T-Mobile put them really behind as well, since a lot of new sites were put on hold while the buyout approval process ground on. They're pushing forward with their LTE buildout now but it seems to me that construction is lagging well behind siting and design.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby Detritus » Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:17 pm

wallrock wrote:Sprint has been a dumpster fire for a while....

I didn't know "dumpster fire" was a thing. I guess this shouldn't surprise me, but a Google image search on "dumpster fire" returned a bit over 2 million hits, including this one:

Image
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby TheBookPolice » Wed Aug 01, 2012 4:25 pm

Detritus wrote:
wallrock wrote:Sprint has been a dumpster fire for a while....

I didn't know "dumpster fire" was a thing.

Also good: "tire fire." "Diaper fire" is good for something that is truly awful, or literally very smelly.

On-topic: wallrock, excellent inside-baseball post. I for one have few problems with my AT&T iPhone service in Madison, except for isolated areas (51/151 intersection, Gammon/Mineral Point intersection) -- but those are rapidly shrinking.

The southeast side of Appleton, on the other hand. Might as well be in the middle of Yellowstone.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby Mean Scenester » Fri Aug 03, 2012 1:01 pm

I'm sitting in one of the oldest buildings in Madison and I have a decent signal with Sprint as I write this (bear in mind that number of bars means almost nothing unless you're comparing identical phones).

Honesty, I get really good coverage with Sprint and very rarely have a dropped call or last data connection. Prior to having a 3G smartphone things were sketchier. Now I have no complaints.

Now and then when I'm out and about I'll notice I have a very weak signal. But honestly, anyone who tells you that never happens with their carrier is full of shit and apparently immune to sun spots.

This bit is relevant to this discussion, I think:

http://gizmodo.com/5658560/louis-ck-the ... -a-miracle
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby Stebben84 » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:01 am

TheBookPolice wrote: I for one have few problems with my AT&T iPhone service in Madison, except for isolated areas (51/151 intersection, Gammon/Mineral Point intersection) -- but those are rapidly shrinking.


So I was talking to an ATT rep about my other services and they offered me a deal. $60 a month and an Iphone4 for a buck. I have US Cellular and I really like the service, but this is a pretty good deal. Would you or others recommend ATT and the IPhone4. Ya, I realize the new fancy 5 just came out, but I'm not really about that.
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby wack wack » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:17 am

Stebben84 wrote:So I was talking to an ATT rep about my other services and they offered me a deal. $60 a month and an Iphone4 for a buck. I have US Cellular and I really like the service, but this is a pretty good deal.


But will the iPhone 4 tell you if any of your family members are birds?
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Re: Mobile service in downtown Madison bites. Why?

Postby fennel » Tue Sep 18, 2012 12:22 pm

$60 seems like a lot of money.
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