Solutions to Poor Cellular Service (Lake Fork, Lake Tawakoni)

Its Simple

GSM works far better than CDMA for one simple reason — the broadcast band it uses is more reliable. Nonetheless, among those that tout they use GSM, AT&T (prepaid counterpart Cricket) and T-Mobile (prepaid counterpart MetroPCS), T-Mobile/MetroPCS dropped service repeatedly in recent tests.   MetroPCS uses IP6 addressing over T-Mobile’s network. Nonetheless, Verizon, despite their use of CDMA,  works well in most East Texas areas.

It would be hard to generalize, but in actual tests around the East Texas Lake Areas, MetroPCS phones dropped everything from cell service, to texts, to data during cloudy days.  Sprint phones and its counterpart Boost Mobile are expected to perform equally poorly in outlying East Texas areas.  While AT&T and Cricket might be better alternatives in some cases, there is always an expense trade-off.  Data plans vary between these companies but the main advantage any company will have over another is, up-time percentage:  Weather sometimes interrupts service–but a few clouds should not drop service entirely for any noticeable length of time.

A Little More

A feature of some cellular services is the routing of calls and texts over the same bandwidth as its data stream.  This means very annoyingly–no data access also means no texting.   GSM uses two different bandwidths, one for calls and texts, and the other for data.  This means you might temporarily hit a spot where you are without data (maps, music, web browsing), but your phone and texts will still generally work.  Photos sent via text do not actually go via text–because by definition texting is, well, text.  Thus, pictures always use data as multimedia or email messages, and may not go out at all in areas with poor service.

Here is a table extracted from comparing GSM and CDMA technology. I have added a column to weight for usefulness in sparsely populated Rains County and adjacent rural areas.

Rains County
CompaniesATT, Cricket, T-Mobile,Boost, EuropeSprint,Verizon,US CellularGSM more available in rural areas, however carriers are recently abandoning 3G networks, and now support only 4G and 5G phones.
% Use
50%, 3.7 billion5%, 350 millionRoughly as of 2016; others LTE 12%, HSPA 29%
Call QualityGoodBetterInsignificant difference overall
GSM users may switch SIM cards to compatible networks
CDMA users must switch phones to use a different network
US CoverageGoodGoodGSM slightly more available in rural areas
112 is recognized as emergency help number worldwide on GSM networks only
BatteryBetterGoodCDMA uses more energy
VariesBoth technologies run neck and neck as far as real-user experience is concerned. Speed is not a significant factor for calls and texts. It only affects data such as downloads and sending pictures.
RoamingFree$$$GSM is more widely used, and usually free roaming
Inside Buildings
GoodGoodMetallic buildings interrupt all sorts of wireless communications. 5G networks are notably less accessible than 3G and 4G phone networks

MetroPCS, AT&T, Cricket, Verizon, T-Mobile, Boost, and Sprint are trademarks of their respective companies.

Why Can’t I Bring My Phone to a New Carrier?

The cellular carriers are competing by using different technologies to market their version of the cellular services.  For example, AT&T  uses a protocol called GSM, while Sprint uses CDMA.  Technology is quickly changing, but for the most part, CDMA phones are permanently tied to the carrier from which they were purchased.  GSM phones however, are the type that have a removable card that can be swapped out to switch carriers to another GSM compatible carrier.  A few carriers are crossover carriers, meaning they support to some extent both GSM and CDMA phones.

The reason a company is offering you a free phone to switch from your existing carrier is that they know that the phone you have is likely not compatible with their network, and that the free phone you are about to receive from them is not compatible with your current carrier either.  Thus the free phone will be permanently tied to their service, a strong incentive for you to remain loyal to them.  This may not however be a big issue for a prepaid service. The phone was free and thus effectively dispensable. The data on the phone can be backed up (synced) to an Internet-based email account before you disconnect it, and when you get a new phone on a new carrier, you simply reconnect to that same email account and presto, all your apps and contacts are back.

Another common error in shopping for a phone, is that the marketeers are not just trying to sell you a phone, they are pushing camera sales.  A smart phone is not in the same paradigm as a traditional landline phone, which only permitted talking to people.  Smart phones are camera-video_recorder-stereo-phone-and-more all built into one small device.  Some of the features are incidental to the device (a speaker phone for example), while many features being pushed are non-essential (a camera isn’t needed to talk on a phone).  Thus the difference in price is all about the non-essential features you may or may not need.  If it is a phone at all, it will do the basic–it will allow you to make and receive calls.

So the next time you buy a phone with a carrier, just remember, you are effectively buying a disposable device that is locked to that carrier.  If you buy a more expensive smart phone with spicy features, realize you bought a camera more than you bought a phone and someday you may want to switch phone carriers and find out that your smart camera is not compatible with the phone carrier you want.  And yes, you can continue to use your smart camera without phone service, if that is what you want to do, but you willneed to periodically connect your device to a computer to extract the images since it will no longer be automatically backing all that stuff up to the Internet via a cellular connection.

Byte Size Matters

How much drive space a computer needs is relative to one’s lifestyle practices. For most people, a few hundred Gigabytes of storage will last the life of the computer, which is about 10 years.  (If you hear about Gibibytes, it is technically a more accurate measure of drive size because it is based on the binary that computers actually use rather that the Gigabyte which is equal to exactly 1,000,000,000 bytes.)  So how big is a Gig or Gib?  Well that would be one thousand millions.  Now a million dollars might last 10 years if you were conservative with it in today’s economy, but a thousand millions would certainly tide you and your grandchildren over into the next centuries.

A typical digital photograph runs around 1 megabyte = 1000 KB.   Now suppose you took 100 pictures a day and stored them on your computer. How long before you used up a 500 Gigabyte drive?   Well first, lets subtract about 100 Gigabytes for the operating system and other stuff you already have on the drive.  So now we are down to 400 GB free. Converted, that equals about 400, 000 MB.  So if each picture is 1 MB, and you take 100 a day, that would be 100 MB a day. Dividing 400,000 MB by 100 MB/day gives 4,000 days, or further divided by 365 days/year gives almost 11 years of use.  Now, what are the chances you are actually going to store 100 pictures every-single day for the next 11 years?

How about videos?  The standard 4.7 GB DVD on which many movies still come today store about 2 hours of movie plus a few previews and trailers.  For ease of computation we will round up to 5 GB and say 5 GB equals about 2 hours video.  How many hours video will 400 GB hold?  400/5 = 80 x 2 hours = 160 hours or about a week’s worth of video if you wanted to watch videos 24 hours a day for a solid week.  Our previous daily picture example yielded about 11 years of use, while storing one video each day will allow about 80 days of watching or almost 3 months of videos every-single day.  In all likelihood, the average person would only watch one or two full-length movies each week or less on average.  Thus the storage space would be sufficient for a number of years of use.


For most people today 500 GB of drive space is more than enough.  Like a large filing cabinet, oversizing it will just leave room for clutter that gets forever lost and forgotten.  A professional cinematographer may desire a larger drive, such as the Tera-byte drive = 1,000 Gigabytes, which is twice the size of a 500 GB drive.  Larger drives may be more prone to failure, primarily because more platters must be squeezed into a small space, and thus more heat is generated, more mechanics for failure, and so on. Bigger simply isn’t always better when it comes to drive sizes.  A good average size is best, with redundancy of drives.

B.A. Computer Services can assist you in drive replacements, drive arrays, and other disk storage needs.  Call us now at 903-243-9588.