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Coast to Coast Cell Service

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Do Verizon. I found it to work VERY reliably when I took the CZ end-to-end in 2016. Just bear in mind that the scenery on the Zephyr is better than ANYTHING the internet can offer you!

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On the Zephyr, cell coverage drops completely for about two hours west of Denver, particularly in Glenwood Canyon and the Gore Canyon. In Nevada, coverage is limited to 3G in some places east of Reno.

I suspect that these areas are also more likely to offer a visually stellar alternative to Netflix or a FaceTime call back home.

 

I’m in agreement when it comes to shared WiFi, especially onboard moving trains/planes/buses - contention rate is never going to be on your side... never mind factoring in the potential fragility of moving in and out of cell tower range. I’m very glad to be carrying my own options.

 

RDT

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Amtrak Forum

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Do Verizon. I found it to work VERY reliably when I took the CZ end-to-end in 2016. Just bear in mind that the scenery on the Zephyr is better than ANYTHING the internet can offer you!

Totally get that. I’m definitely not traveling AMTRAK for speed, price or reliability.

 

But it’s nice to know I can make the decision to ‘switch off’ myself, rather than at the behest of a crappy cell service.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Amtrak Forum

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Do Verizon. I found it to work VERY reliably when I took the CZ end-to-end in 2016. Just bear in mind that the scenery on the Zephyr is better than ANYTHING the internet can offer you!

Totally get that. I’m definitely not traveling AMTRAK for speed, price or reliability.

 

But it’s nice to know I can make the decision to ‘switch off’ myself, rather than at the behest of a crappy cell service.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Amtrak Forum

 

Also very true. :)

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The only “guaranteed” service would be via a satellite phone service. But even that will drop at some points, such as the Moffat Tunnel on the CZ route.

 

I drive every year between California and Colorado in a car with Sirius/XM satellite radio, and I lose signal in tunnels and deep canyons on the route.

 

 

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I think the idea of getting a Verizon prepaid Jetpack is a good one. I recall they have/had a plan where you paid something like $3/day just on the days you used it. Some T-Mobile customers would use their Verizon Jetpack when they were out of T-Mobile's coverage. The phone would connect via WiFi Calling. I'm not 100% sure they still have that plan but it's worth mentioning.

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Your best coverage will always be along the Interstates and Urban areas. One reason for along the interstates is that Long Haul Trucking uses communication systems (PeopleNET, GeoLogic, etc.) that depend on cell coverage. The truck is tracked 24x7x365, including engine monitoring, state line crossings, and load updates.

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When I drove a long haul truck, tracking and almost all communication with the company was by satellite.

I drove for 2 companies and both used Qualcomm's satellite communication/tracking service.

 

Many times I was delivering or picking up loads well away from interstates or urban areas.

Indeed, I often drove routes well away from interstates or urban areas.

Like Salt Lake City to El Paso.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Salt+Lake+City,+UT/Gallup,+NM/El+Paso,+TX/@35.8735277,-109.529733,6.75z/data=!4m20!4m19!1m5!1m1!1s0x87523d9488d131ed:0x5b53b7a0484d31ca!2m2!1d-111.8910474!2d40.7607793!1m5!1m1!1s0x8724de8d2f65540f:0x5fd56904653b804c!2m2!1d-108.7425843!2d35.5280783!1m5!1m1!1s0x86e73f8bc5fe3b69:0xe39184e3ab9d0222!2m2!1d-106.4850217!2d31.7618778!3e0

Edited by KmH

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Qualcomm is the largest supplier that uses Satellite as primary but also offers a terrestrial option. Other vendors all are primary terrestrial withone having satellite as backup. The terrestrial data speed is a few seconds pressing send to Display on dispatcher screen the cell ops have the data traffic uses an available packet on the cell control channels separate from the normal voice and data channels. Bottom line, there are so many trucking units paying that the cell infrastructure has been built along the primary interstate and rural US highways. Now the loads are generally delivered/picked up in areas away from the highways. With both satellite and terrestrial, the truck is rarely out of communications. For those deliveries in the canyons of NYC terrestrial is the most reliable, but for the loads in the rural areas like the Dakotas, satellite is the most reliable.

 

Just FYI from the late 1980s until recently I was one of the leading PMs to implement these systems. I started Swift Transportation system when Jerry had less than 500 trucks, working and developing a custom integration and rollout. Later Jerry used me to convert the entire system to Qualcomm when the Motorola system was bought out.

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The only “guaranteed” service would be via a satellite phone service. But even that will drop at some points, such as the Moffat Tunnel on the CZ route.

 

I drive every year between California and Colorado in a car with Sirius/XM satellite radio, and I lose signal in tunnels and deep canyons on the route.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

I work in news media and we use BGAN terminals through INMARSAT to send audio packages back to the newsroom. They’re compact and robust, if a little temperamental at times, but are regularly used from war zones and holes in the middle of deserts... they also cost $15 per minute.

 

I know we looked at other systems recently that use geostationary birds, but they don’t have the same pole to pole coverage of low orbit constellations. You also have to book in advance... not always possible .

 

Anyhow, funnily enough, this is something I’m looking to use too - satellite radio. I picked up an XM Inno on my last trip for $40.

 

From my geek research, all of SiriusXM’s satellites (including the old Sirius backups), now remain fixed in position (no elliptical orbits from the days gone buy). As a result they’re a little higher above the horizon than they were. As you suggest though, that’s still no competition for canyon walls and tunnels.

 

I’m hoping to secure a south facing roomette (as far as possible), to listen in.

 

I’m guessing getting a room on the left side of the train (CL and CZ), facing the direction of travel, will afford the best chance. The Inno has a handy portable antenna, that would fit beautifully in front of that stunning picture window.

 

RDT

 

 

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From my geek research, all of SiriusXM’s satellites (including the old Sirius backups), now remain fixed in position (no elliptical orbits from the days gone buy). As a result they’re a little higher above the horizon than they were. As you suggest though, that’s still no competition for canyon walls and tunnels.

You're referring to geostationary orbit, correct? Those are not fixed in position, but rather orbit the earth at a speed such that it stays above one spot on the ground. Thus, it appears stationary.

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Something can be fixed in position only relative to something else. There is really no absolute fixed position. ;) Prof. Einstein appears to have disabused most of the world of that notion of fixed anything :D - except perhaps for the Flat Earthers and their ilk.

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Geosynchronous Orbit I think is the term I remember. Now each of these satellites do have an assigned orbit location 26.000 miles above the equator. Each satellite is monitored 24x7 for proper orbit and altitude so nothing runs into another.

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One thing I didn't notice in the previous discussion is if you plan to be in coach or a sleeper. In a sleeping car you should have WiFi service, where the connectivity, I believe, comes from Verizon cellular towers. So, depending on which car you are in, you may not need cellular data service. This connectivity is shared with other people in the car, so you may not get the fastest possible service but if you have your own Verizon device, would it be much faster? Interesting question: Assume that each sleeping car has it's own cellular connection, plus all the other Verizon devices (including yours) all hitting some rural tower, as hard as they can, all at the same time. You may just be trying to get a 9th slice out of an 8-slice pie.

 

In my limited experience, the in-car WiFi is generally not stable or fast enough to support VoIP, much less Skype, Face-Time, etc.

 

If you can use the on-train WiFi, you may not really need ubiquitous cellular service and might be able to go with a more economical option.

The California Zephyr does not have WiFi. The Coast Starlight is the only LD Superliner train with it. Thanks, Maglev.

Edited by cpotisch

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Geosynchronous Orbit I think is the term I remember. Now each of these satellites do have an assigned orbit location 26.000 miles above the equator. Each satellite is monitored 24x7 for proper orbit and altitude so nothing runs into another.

Geosynchronous orbit is merely any earth orbit that spans exactly one day. It does not mean that it orbits directly above the equator. Geostationary means that it's directly above the equator, so it is always above the exact same point. By contrast, a geosynchronous orbit might orbit on a different axis than the equator. Thus, after a period of one day, the satellite will return to the exact same spot in the sky, but it will not stay there.

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One thing I didn't notice in the previous discussion is if you plan to be in coach or a sleeper. In a sleeping car you should have WiFi service, where the connectivity, I believe, comes from Verizon cellular towers. So, depending on which car you are in, you may not need cellular data service. This connectivity is shared with other people in the car, so you may not get the fastest possible service but if you have your own Verizon device, would it be much faster? Interesting question: Assume that each sleeping car has it's own cellular connection, plus all the other Verizon devices (including yours) all hitting some rural tower, as hard as they can, all at the same time. You may just be trying to get a 9th slice out of an 8-slice pie.

 

In my limited experience, the in-car WiFi is generally not stable or fast enough to support VoIP, much less Skype, Face-Time, etc.

 

If you can use the on-train WiFi, you may not really need ubiquitous cellular service and might be able to go with a more economical option.

None of the LD Superliner trains have WiFi. None.

 

The Coast Starlight has WiFi for the sleepers and Business Class.

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I thought the WiFi in Coast Starlight was only in the PPC. Good to learn that they have extended it to Sleepers and Business Class, if they actually have, that is.

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Geosynchronous Orbit I think is the term I remember. Now each of these satellites do have an assigned orbit location 26.000 miles above the equator. Each satellite is monitored 24x7 for proper orbit and altitude so nothing runs into another.

Geosynchronous orbit is merely any earth orbit that spans exactly one day. It does not mean that it orbits directly above the equator. Geostationary means that it's directly above the equator, so it is always above the exact same point. By contrast, a geosynchronous orbit might orbit on a different axis than the equator. Thus, after a period of one day, the satellite will return to the exact same spot in the sky, but it will not stay there.

 

 

According to NASA - A geosynchronous orbit is a high Earth orbit (different from MEO and LEO orbits) that allows satellites to match Earth's rotation. All HEOs are located at 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above Earth's equator, this position is a valuable spot for monitoring weather, communications and surveillance.

Because the satellite orbits at the same speed that the Earth is turning, the HEO satellites seems to stay in place over a single longitude, though they may drift north to south, so companies like Hughes are contracted to maintain the satellite in its proper position over the equator.

The lower orbit satellites travel much faster than the speed of the Earth, thus require careful coordination by an International Agency responsible to for assigning obit positions.

Many of the HEO satellites received maintenance to increase their useful life when the Space Shuttle was flying. Today, these satellites are carefully positioned, when no longer useful, to burn up entering the earth's atmosphere. NASA has to monitor "Space Junk" so if it does break through it falls into an ocean or if in an orbit does not hit another satellite.

The GPS technology as we know it, is a group of LEO (Low) satellites.

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All HEOs are located at 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above Earth's equator,

 

 

Strictly speaking High Earth Orbit (HEO) is defined as above Geosynchronous (GSO), geocentric orbit. All HEO's are not GSO as stated above. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Earth_orbit

 

And then there are of course those few and far between, HEO satellites that get lifted to really interesting orbital spots, as the ones that are or are planned to be lifted to the Earth-Moon L1 and L2 Lagrange Points, with the same orbital period around the earth as that of the moon, usually to orbit around those points.

 

And then there are the Earth-Sun L1 and L2 satellites. Again usually they are set up to either sit close to the Lagrange Points or orbit around one.

 

There are some more fancy plans to plant things at the L3, L4 and L5 Lagrange points at some point, but not in the near future. For the definition of Lagrange points, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagrangian_point

 

Orbital mechanics is so much fun, and these, what may be referred to as VHEO (not a recognized orbital classification. I just cooked it up) things have nothing to do with cell service.

Edited by jis

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I thought the WiFi in Coast Starlight was only in the PPC. Good to learn that they have extended it to Sleepers and Business Class, if they actually have, that is.

 

A couple of weeks ago, there was a WiFi hotspot in the 1130 sleeper (in the coffee area). I don't know if there was a hotspot in the 1131 sleeper.

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Also, with regard to the OP’s comment about getting a roomette on the south side of the train, there is no way to guarantee that, since the superliner sleepers can and are positioned in either orientation (viz., bedrooms at front end or rear end) on each train. Only a roomette in the crew-dorm-sleeper at the front of the train will be reliably positioned with the crew quarters forward.

 

 

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