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Cell phone coverage around the Groom Lake border

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posted on Nov, 28 2013 @ 03:42 PM
I used a cell tower logging app on my last trip around the range. I'm on T-Mobile, which has less than stellar coverage in the boonies. [Get More! except where you need it ;-) ] I hacked the data into a KMZ on this page:
AT&T cellular
I didn't put the T-mobile or roaming partner data on the map, but I can tell you there is coverage along route 95, certain from Tonopah and even parts north down to Vegas. Going east on route 6, you lose coverage around 38° 5'28.88"N 116°55'44.70"W. Heading down the road to the TTR, the signal quit around
37°59'58.84"N 116°53'4.29"W . Those points are from memory and are for the T-Mobile roaming partner.

The AT&T service through Alamo and up to the turn off for the ET Highway is relatively new. They had service along route 93 to that failed housing development (Coyote something or other) for a few years, but slowly put towers up the whole highway. The AT&T coverage along the ET Highway is very limited as you can see, and if you study the cell IDs, it isn't using the cell site on the mountain near Alamo. There is no signal on Tikaboo. I think Badger Mountain blocks the signal, though possibly if you moved around the higher elevations near TIkaboo, you might get a faint signal.

I haven't been a Verizon customer in a long time and can't sniff their towers, so I have no hard data. But I recall they had coverage all along route 95. For route 93, it was spotty, but they did have a tower in Alamo, and they also have one in Rachel. Alltel was a roaming partner of Verizon, and I believe the Alltell tower at Warm Springs had Verizon roaming. But AT&T bought Alltell recently, so I would expect that site to go GSM.

For those not familiar with cell tower locating, well basically you can't with GSM. There are apps that can indicate where a tower is located, but they use a terrible database from a company that Google bought. I've used a few online GSM tower locators and they suck. I even got a free trial on a pay service and it was crap as well. Here's the deal. The cell phone companies get regional permission to operate. If they can get the cell site approved by the local government agencies, that is all the FCC requires. That means cell sites do not have to be documented in the FCC database. Thus for the most part, there is no open source record of cell site locations. But if the site has a microwave link, then it will be in the database, and often they license the cellular frequencies as well. So in remote areas, the sites use tall towers (need for the microwave links), and locations are usually in the database.

Coverage is yet another story. The 2G service has a strict 35km range based on timing. 3G and up are limited by the signal strength, or technically the signal to noise ratio. The cell site could be omnidirectional, or have sectors. The AT&T sties along route 93 have sectors, that is directional antennas, with the intent to cover the highway. AT&T doesn't have sectors pointing towards the hills since there are few desert hares with a cell plan. Of course that screws the hikers as well. But looking at the coverage around Alamo, I think the tower on the mountain is omnidirectional. You can tell this by how the cell ID doesn't change.

The coverage maps provided by the cellular company are usually fiction. OK, maybe truth with some embellishments.


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