Highest altitude cell/4g will work?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Bird Man, Oct 25, 2015.

  1. Bird Man

    Bird Man Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've never used my cell phone in flight other then tracking GPS with downloaded sectionals on FltPlan Go...

    So... What's the highest altitude the cell towers will work?

    Text messages, 4G use to google something, make a phone call?
     
  2. UngaWunga

    UngaWunga Pattern Altitude

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    I've sent texts from 4500 agl.
     
  3. farmerbrake

    farmerbrake Line Up and Wait

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    Probably don't want this answer buttt......
    It depends on where you are. Sometimes I'll get service 5,000 agl, sometimes I can't get it above 3,000.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N910A using Tapatalk
     
  4. Croomrider

    Croomrider Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Sent and received text from 9500, but the terrain was 6-7k.
     
  5. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    It isn't so much altitude but where you are positioned relative to the ground stations. They avoid wasting a lot of unnecessary energy radiating upwards as they don't expect to find subscribers up there.
     
  6. jordane93

    jordane93 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I've sent texts around 5000ft
     
  7. NJP_MAN

    NJP_MAN Pattern Altitude

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    I've received texts around FL390. Couldn't get one back out though.
     
  8. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    This is my experience as well.
    It is very unpredictable (but once you know the areas that work, they are repeatable). And, texts (not imessages) will go places voice can't.
    (Here is a tip if you are frustrated by texts failing on the iphone. That is, where you send a message, thinking it is done only to discover later the message failed to send. Open mail app, make an email to the destination phone, not to the email address but to 678-555-1212@txt.att.net or ___@vtext.com or ___@vzwpix.com perhaps others - you have to know which one or guess - and send. If it doesn't go right away it will as a 'timebomb' ie as soon as it gets a signal.)

    Finally, a story that still has me agape: 30,000' (yes FL300) copilot pulls out his phone, saying 'crap I left my ___ at the fbo'. I look at him disbelievingly about to tell him he is wasting his.....and he conducts a normal, brief conversation with the fbo! And no, he is not a joker...nor a prevaricator, he just found some kind of rare cell tower side lobe or something!
     
  9. Maciej

    Maciej Line Up and Wait

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    +2 on it depending on where you are...

    Flying my Diamond DA20C1 back from Phoenix to North Carolina I had full LTE reception at 11,500' in New Mexico, meanwhile there are times I wouldn't have reception at 3,500'.
     
  10. Bird Man

    Bird Man Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Great. I wanted to shoot an eta text about 20 minutes from my destination. I'm assuming I will get a signal around 2,500 agl.

    This option should be programmed into foreflight, avare, fltplan go, etc... Have a prewritten text notification x minutes out when u reach x point. That would be very cool feature.
     
  11. lionclaw

    lionclaw Pre-Flight

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    10500 MSL over El Paso has good Sprint coverage...
     
  12. Maciej

    Maciej Line Up and Wait

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    Depends on where you're flying here on the east cost, but generally for my entire flight from KCDW in NJ to KSGJ in FL.
     
  13. MotoFlier

    MotoFlier Line Up and Wait

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    I wish I would have asked this question before I bought my BT A20.
     
  14. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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    I've tried cellular data and GPS (Foreflight) on my iPhone 6. I usually loose 4G before reaching 10,000' and GPS reliability is lost within a couple of thousand feet above ground level. I don't know why this is. Other people keep telling me they have cellular service and reliable GPS for the whole flight. I guess I just have a crappy phone.
     
  15. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Cellphone coverage is dicey. It has not too much to do with altitude but more angle on the base stations. The altitude has squat to do with GPS coverage. Your phone should work fine provided the fuselage isn't blocking the view of the satellites.
     
  16. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    flightaware has for commercial but I have not investigated it for G.A. kinda doubt it.
     
  17. NoHeat

    NoHeat En-Route

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    For text messages, I have the best luck directly over big highways, at less than 5000 AGL.
     
  18. bobmrg

    bobmrg En-Route PoA Supporter

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    If you are registered with FSS (www.1800wxbrief.com), that is part of the
    "easy open/easy close" service"

    "The EasyActivate™ and EasyClose™ service will send messages to the Text Message Phone
    Numbers and Email Addresses you select below, with links for fast flight plan activation and closure.

    Messages are sent:
    (a) 30 minutes before proposed departure time with a link to Activate your flight plan.
    (b) 30 minutes before Estimated Time of Arrival with a link to Close your flight plan."

    Bob Gardner
     
  19. ahkahn

    ahkahn Line Up and Wait

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    I've gotten signal up to 7,000', but as others have said, it depends on the area. Chicago area you're really solid up to around 4000', central Indiana -> 3000-4000', and that's also pretty decent of a number over/around any interstate.
     
  20. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Text seems to work higher than voice and data. 10,000ft if I hold the phone high on the side window.
     
  21. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Find up to 3 k no problem ,after that hit and miss . Depends on the number of towers in the area.
     
  22. Wheels

    Wheels Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It would be a cool feature but I doubt that the companies that provide those programs are going to include a feature that deliberately violates a federal regulation.
     
  23. PeeGee

    PeeGee Pre-takeoff checklist

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    this one time someone who isn't me checked his weather at 13,5 over a small town and got verizon LTE.
     
  24. Bird Man

    Bird Man Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I saw that on Lockheed Martin's last webinar on advanced flight plans. Definitely a great new web site.

    Which regulation would that be? If you preset a message before flight, "be there in 20, pick me up". The app (ForeFlight) programmatically notified them when it's algorithm knew you were say 20 minutes from ETA, it's not like your texting and flyingd...

     
  25. Wheels

    Wheels Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If the app is sending the text from your phone in flight it is violating a regulation. If you are proposing that you will "file a flight plan" with foreflight and they will send a message 20 minutes before your planned arrival time then they could do that but I doubt it would be worth it to them to invest in the hardware to do that. And it still wouldn't be any more accurate then you texting the person before you took off and telling them what time you expect to land.
     
  26. Bird Man

    Bird Man Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It is a violation for the PILOT to text while flying. It is not a violation for an app to send a text message.

    Filing a flight plan and having a message sent out is not going to be accurate based on tail or headwinds.

    Hardware is not required for a server to relay a sms text message, there are many providers they could partner with in a few clicks.

     
  27. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    What regulation ?

    The prohibition against in-flight use of cellular is in a reg that applied to AMPS service. There os no reg on PCS or LTE.
     
  28. Wheels

    Wheels Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The regulation doesn't specify that the pilot can't use the cellphone. It specifies that the phone must be turned off. It is rarely if ever enforced as far as I know but I doubt that the Feds would look kindly on a company advertising that a feature of their software would help their customers violate the reg.

    47 CFR 22.925 Prohibition on airborne operation of cellular telephones.
    Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground). When any aircraft leaves the ground, all cellular telephones on board that aircraft must be turned off. The following notice must be posted on or near each cellular telephone installed in any aircraft:

    “The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is airborne is prohibited by FCC rules, and the violation of this rule could result in suspension of service and/or a fine. The use of cellular telephones while this aircraft is on the ground is subject to FAA regulations.”
     
  29. Bird Man

    Bird Man Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I do believe in April this year, the FAA made a new rule banning use of laptops, cameras and tablet for personal use.

    However they can still be used for essential activities like GPS in ForeFlight, etc...
     
  30. Bird Man

    Bird Man Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I guess ForeFlight and all the other software developers are unaware of this.

     
  31. ChrisK

    ChrisK En-Route

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    Good luck finding a "cellular telephone" anymore. The old 850MHz stuff was pretty much phased out!
     
  32. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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    Well, since cellular is UHF and the towers are vertically polarized, that would make sense. But, with the proliferation of cell towers, it's curious how some report good cellular reception in a commercial aircraft at altitude while other don't. As far as the lack of GPS reliability goes, I was implying that my particular iPhone sucks.
     
  33. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route Gone West

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    Cameras are illegal? I dont think so. What about aerial photography? Or just amatur photos?
     
  34. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    The regulation you quoted applies to the following two frequency blocks:

    (a) Channel Block A: 869-880 MHz paired with 824-835 MHz, and 890-891.5 MHz paired with 845-846.5 MHz.
    (b) Channel Block B: 880-890 MHz paired with 835-845 MHz, and 891.5-894 MHz paired with 846.5-849 MHz.

    This is the old AMPS service (and the digital services that operated in these bands). The 1.7GHz and LTE services are governed by other CFR sections. Those do not have the prohibition against operating a phone in flight.
     
  35. rocketflyer84

    rocketflyer84 Line Up and Wait

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    As I understand it it's only "illegal" to have a modern cell phone on in flight if the PIC asks you to turn it off and you don't follow their order.
     
  36. Lindberg

    Lindberg En-Route

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    That's apparently to the only place.

    I've sent and received text messages in the flight levels...using T-Mobile's free inflight texting over AA's wi-fi.
     
  37. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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  38. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    It's near impossible to tell. Most of your 4G phones are likely operating on the UMPS band where there is no such regulation. The AMPS airborne prohibition is about twenty years out of date. There hasn't really been any AMPS service since about 2004 in the US.
     
  39. TangoWhiskey

    TangoWhiskey Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Me too, or over big towns. If I need to send a text message, I'll type it up, have it queued and ready to send. Hold the phone near the plexi window, and watch the signal strength bars as I get near a highway OR a town/city. Once I'm over either, I usually get 2-3 bars, send the message, and then put the phone away. You can check your incoming messages the same way, next highway or town.
     
  40. TangoWhiskey

    TangoWhiskey Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Correct. For anybody interested in all the old and conflicting regulations, the bands of service that are used, and the things the FCC is doing to bring some clarity to the modern age of mobile communications devices, this is a good background read (pages 3 and 4, specifically, if you want the digest version):

    https://www.fcc.gov/document/review-rules-wireless-services-onboard-aircraft-nprm