How can I get cell phone coverage?

We live in the northwest corner of Washington, four miles from the Canadian border as the goose flies. Except for Point Roberts, we’re as far northwest you can get in the contiguous United States.

This morning at 0300 my mobile phone went nuts. El Jefe sent out Christmas greetings to the employee cell phone list – presumably on Christmas Day. And yet, I only received the text and the answering texts this morning. Sixteen of them. At three in the ayem. While I was trying to sleep. ‘Deedle-deedle! Deedle-deedle!’ over and over again.

I’m having a PM exchange with someone at Boost Mobile. So far he had me verify our address and tell him how many bars I have on my phone. Right now, one bar. I told Mrs. L.A. I was PM-ing Boost Mobile, and she’s like ‘We always have one bar! The cell tower’s right there by the water slides!’ One of her patients called, panicking, several times a week or so ago and Mrs. L.A. didn’t get the messages until the next day. Her phone never rang.

For me, delayed texts are annoying. Nobody ever calls me, and I’m usually able to call out. For Mrs. L.A., she depends on her phone for her nursing business. We need better coverage. When I moved here 17 years ago I had AT&T. I had to go out to the street to use my phone. Things certainly have improved since then. But with a tower less than a mile away, I feel we should have better reception. So the question is…

How can I find a cell phone provider that will actually cover our area in a useful way?

The other obvious thing is - have you enabled WiFi calling? The best solution might be to upgrade your home WiFi so you have strong WiFi coverage throughout your property. Which obviously has benefits other than just for using your phone.

I went to Settings => Phone on my iPhone 6S. Theoretically, there should be something called Wi-Fi Calling. There isn’t. (Mrs. L.A. has an old LG Android phone.)

According to the Apple website, Virgin offers W-Fi calling. But Virgin Mobile was sold to Boost Mobile a few years ago, and it doesn’t look like an option on Boost.

That’s pretty poor from Boost, I think virtually every carrier offers WiFi calling now.

I guess in your situation I’d probably start by checking with local friends to see if you can find people who have different networks, see if you can borrow their phones for a few hours to try the different networks at your house, do a thorough test to see which is best. Switch to the best one, and it will be very likely that they support WiFi calling too. I think it’s a software feature rather than hardware, I’m not exactly sure why/when a particular model of phone can’t do it. I thought it was just the carrier.

If you can get WiFi calling working, then rather than spending money on a cell signal booster (which are not cheap) you could upgrade to a powerful WiFi router that covers your home seamlessly, which obviously has major benefits other than just for your phone.

The final word from Boost:

We see that we have very low coverage in that area with varying spots of inactivity. Unfortunately, we’re unable to offer an immediate solution as we do not offer signal boosters. Our engineers are always working on improving our towers and expanding our coverage area. However, we can not provide an estimated time as to when these updates would reach your area. We apologize for the inconvenience. Let us know if there is anything else that we can do for you.

TL;DR: ‘Sucks to be you.’

I’m paying Boost $45/month. T-mobile’s ‘Magenta’ plan (the middle one) is $50/month. Xfinity has an Unlimited plan for $45/month. I entered the IMEI number into Xfinity’s website, and they say my phone is compatible. They said they would send me a new SIM card and help me set it up. Here’s the thing: AFAIK, I can’t open an iPhone to change the SIM card (or the battery, for that matter). I guess I’d have to take it to the Mac store.

You sure ?

My wife has changed hers, and … I promise you: you’re more tech-savvy than she is :wink:

Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.


I use Xfinity Mobile - I assume Xfinity is your ISP, I think they only offer it if you are an ISP customer?

Xfinity Mobile has been good - it uses the Verizon network. I switched to them from Verizon, and the coverage has been identical. It slashed my mobile bill, because they have by-the-GB, and I never go over 1GB, so it’s $12 a month.

XFinity Mobile definitely supports WiFi calling.

I checked my usage on Boost, and it looks like I’m using 0.1 GB. But I don’t know if that’s for last month, this month, or this billing cycle. I rarely make phone calls. I only text a few times per week. I might use GPS navigation (Waze, or I’ll ask Siri for directions) a couple of hours per week. Something will pop into my mind from time to time, and I’ll ‘ask Siri’ about it. Or I’ll want to play a song or two on YouTube.

Take a look at the Root Metrics coverage map. They synthesize a ton of cell strength data and plot it ion a map. Find your house and toggle between the carriers to see if any could offer a noticeable difference.

Go with the by-the-GB plan, you will almost certainly be under 1GB per month. It’s only things like watching videos, livestreaming, online games that blow up your usage. You can monitor your data usage real time very easily with Xfinity, set up alerts at certain data threshholds if you are worried about it.

There are times, such as when I’m in a waiting room or an airplane, when I want to watch a movie. I have the Xfinity app on my phone. What’s the usage for a movie?

Something of the order of 1GB/hr for a movie, more or less depending on definition. You’re often in places where you want to watch a movie and you can’t get WiFi? On a (flying) aircraft you can’t get cell service anyway.

Netflix and Prime video also now allow a fair amount of stuff to be downloaded, so you can download a couple of things in advance if you won’t have wifi and you want to watch something.

Try Settings => Cellular.

Wi-Fi Assist is on.

Incidentally, my phone says I’ve used 5.8 GB, which is a little more than the 0.1 Boost Mobile says I’m using.

My shop is in a metal building, so no service inside. I switched to providers to Google Fi and use it with the wifi. Seems to work pretty well.

WiFi Assist is essentially the opposite of what you’re looking for. It allows the phone to use cellular data as a backup while remaining connected to WiFi in marginal circumstances.

Before they added that option, you could find yourself connected to a WiFi signal too weak to reliably use but the phone would just keep trying until you manually disconnected. Does the same thing in the situation where you connect to a hotspot that for some reason passes no data, like if the internet was out or not connected.