Cell phone service on the playa

Cell phone service on the playa

Postby hsdavis » Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:48 am

I am fully aware of the very clever April 1st announcement last year regarding Black Rock Cellular. It is no coincidence that I am sending this message on April 1st also. This however is a real announcement of cellular service in Gerlach and the Black Rock Desert----specifically, Burning Man.

The area of Gerlach and the surrounding several miles were serviced by a company out of Reno, AirPeak Cellular. This service used Nextel (iden) type telephones with the direct connect feature. This company recently sold out (at least this area as far as I know) to Sprint/Nextel and as of April 28th, the area will be covered by both services. AirPeak did not offer any type of roaming on their service, so unless you subscribed to cell service with them, you didn't have any service in Gerlach. With the new service, roaming is now available, so other carriers such as Verizon and AT&T/Cingular etc. will work.

As far as coverage, I was told it would be the same as AirPeak, which was all of Gerlach (all 6 streets!) and several miles out to the playa. It is not believed that the entire playa would have service, just the side facing Gerlach. I have found that Nextel seems to go further in flat areas like that.

I am not sure if this is good news. I always enjoyed getting away from cell phones and laptops (and the real world) when I attend BM and the last thing I want to see is everyone walking around with a cell phone stuck to the side of their faces. This change has nothing to do with BMORG, but more with the outside world finding Burning Man. Ugghhhh!
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Postby Bob » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:45 pm

So you care because somebody might spoil your vacation by using a telephone? That's retarded, IMO.
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Postby mdmf007 » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:09 pm

Alltel has worked for the last few years on the playa, and a 5 watt bag phone will reach Verizons towers near Lovelock, or Winnemucca.

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Postby wedeliver » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:09 pm

There are cell phone towers out near the rail road tracks way north on the playa..
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Postby MrMullen » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:46 pm

Bob wrote:So you care because somebody might spoil your vacation by using a telephone? That's retarded, IMO.


Yes, super retarded. There is WiFi that covers the whole Playa and you can use VOIP on it too!

Our big kitchen camp tent was full of a bunch of people using WiFi in the morning and was it was relaxing to check email real quick to make sure everything is cool back home. I admit, some people did not like it but they just got out of the tent and waited for everyone to finish.
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Postby hsdavis » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:52 am

Now that Aprils fools is over, it is important to note that this "cell phone service on the playa" IS FOR REAL.
It was NOT an April fools joke and all the facts in this are correct.
The new service takes over on April 28th.
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Postby robotland » Mon Apr 02, 2007 6:14 am

hsdavis wrote:Now that Aprils fools is over, it is important to note that this "cell phone service on the playa" IS FOR REAL.
It was NOT an April fools joke and all the facts in this are correct.
The new service takes over on April 28th.


Whew! Thanks for reiterating that...We tend to be a little slow around here.

I have a regular ritual with my wife- I pull into the gas station at the 447 turnoff, top off the tank, and then make my last cell call for AN ENTIRE WEEK. Repeat on the way out. It was just a matter of time before the playa got service, and those who want it can go nuts...I prefer to be reminded of how our ancestors did Burning Man.
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Postby Nickel » Tue Apr 03, 2007 11:53 am

Last year I really needed to get ahold of someone and I couldn't get cell service (didn't even try) and couldn't get WiFi to work for whatever reason and it was a crazy adventure to get in contact. I loved having it be so insane to get ahold of the person, and the adventure itself was a lot of fun and I met lots of awesome people because of it.

Not having service/contact is really fun, and is a great part of the playa. I reccomend just telling everyone it's impossible to call you and shutting off your phone. It makes for a lot more of an immersive enviroment.
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Postby gyre » Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:09 pm

You may need a phone with analog.
I get a signal right after going over the hill leaving.
I got a call into reno from inside a truck that was fine, but they couldn't understand my message.
You can always plug in an antenna.
Directional is available that will give you some range.
Not good enough for on playa, last I checked.
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Postby Archantael » Wed Apr 04, 2007 10:50 am

iDen service is dead, Sprint just hasn't pulled the life support plug on it yet. As for the overall issue of high quality cell phone service on the playa the day it happens will be the start of a nightmare for the LLC. I can just see CT lined with cell phone toting guys shooting live video and pix on the spot and the ORG can't stop any of it.

Perhaps it's time to resurrect some of the cacophony "culture jamming" roots of the event, with an emphasis on the jamming part.

(Note: This message reflects my personal views and not that of my employer despite the message's point of origin. Any reference to "jamming" if such an activity was to take place would be done in full compliance with FCC regulations and with appropriate licensing which has been obtained. Sorry for the discliamer, it's meant for self-protection. )
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Postby dj_john69 » Sat Apr 07, 2007 5:21 pm

hsdavis wrote:Now that Aprils fools is over, it is important to note that this "cell phone service on the playa" IS FOR REAL.
It was NOT an April fools joke and all the facts in this are correct.
The new service takes over on April 28th.


Link or stfu.

What i find kinda funny is that people are trippin' that cell phones might be able to be used on day while on the Playa. Oh no, the world is coming to an end !! Okay, what about the other 51 weeks outta the year when people are using 447 and they get into a bad car accident ?? Wouldnt it be cool if they could call 911 for help before someone died on scene ?? What about if someone got lost in a very bad dust storm down the Playa or if they ran outta gas and needed help. Would you want to walk 15 or 20 miles to the nearest phone ?? I highly doubt it.

Also, someone mentioned using "jammers". It would be ILLEGAL for BMORG to try to use jammers on the Playa.

Finally, how am i supposed to order my pizza from Dominos without a cell phone ?? lol
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Postby Gravity Mike » Sat Apr 07, 2007 5:49 pm

dj_john69 wrote:
Okay, what about the other 51 weeks outta the year when people are using 447 and they get into a bad car accident ?? Wouldnt it be cool if they could call 911 for help before someone died on scene ?? What about if someone got lost in a very bad dust storm down the Playa or if they ran outta gas and needed help. Would you want to walk 15 or 20 miles to the nearest phone ?? I highly doubt it.



Good point DJ_John,

recall the famous story of the Stolpa's who got snowbound in NW Nevada...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowbound:_The_Jim_and_Jennifer_Stolpa_Story

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Postby Toolmaker » Sat Apr 07, 2007 8:43 pm

Archantael wrote:Perhaps it's time to resurrect some of the cacophony "culture jamming" roots of the event, with an emphasis on the jamming part.

(Note: This message reflects my personal views and not that of my employer despite the message's point of origin. Any reference to "jamming" if such an activity was to take place would be done in full compliance with FCC regulations and with appropriate licensing which has been obtained. Sorry for the discliamer, it's meant for self-protection. )


cute
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Postby Archantael » Sat Apr 07, 2007 8:46 pm

Toolmaker wrote:
Archantael wrote:Perhaps it's time to resurrect some of the cacophony "culture jamming" roots of the event, with an emphasis on the jamming part.

(Note: This message reflects my personal views and not that of my employer despite the message's point of origin. Any reference to "jamming" if such an activity was to take place would be done in full compliance with FCC regulations and with appropriate licensing which has been obtained. Sorry for the discliamer, it's meant for self-protection. )


cute


Not cute, just necessary to keep a very clear line of separation.
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Postby K-mom » Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:08 pm

I, too, would like to see a link to something official on this.

What did you mean by 'its no coincidence that I'm sending this on April 1st'?
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Postby Archantael » Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:19 pm

Seriously, I think it's all pie in the sky. The numbers don't add up. Why on earth would a telecom exec want to spend money putting in service in what amounts to BFE 48 weeks out of the year? Cell towers and the necessary infrastructure that comes with them ain't free...and unless you know of a telecom awash in money to burn and they want to fill the coverage hole for bragging rights or something...that's about the only way I can see it happening.

This is nothing more than a good April Fool's joke that got longer legs than most. And if I'm wrong...I hope nobody here holds stock in the telco that's putting it in.
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Postby MikeVDS » Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:33 pm

Looks like a hoax to me, but I would not be surprised if service would flow over some. If they want a strong signal into peoples houses, then a clear shot to the playa could give enough signal to make calls.
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Postby gyre » Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:37 pm

Someone stole an entire cell tower here.
How's that for crime?
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Postby hsdavis » Sun Apr 08, 2007 5:23 pm

I spoke to the Sprint rep myself and this cell service is a reality. I'm not sure why AirPeak would have provided service out that far, but they did. My guess is that it was not profitable and they sold to another company who would be able to make a better go of it. All the towers are in place, they are just going to be using a different signal.
I hope to have someone local bring a phone out to the playa to see how far the signal goes. Also, it is unknown how many simultaneous conversations can go over the new network. It may be hopelessly jammed by 40,000+ burners trying to call friends to say "guess where I am?"!
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Postby Archantael » Sun Apr 08, 2007 7:57 pm

hsdavis wrote:I spoke to the Sprint rep myself and this cell service is a reality.


I no longer work for that company but knowing what I know...I can confidently say BULLSHIT to that last statement.
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Postby hsdavis » Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:31 am

Here is a cut and paste of the notice to Gerlach residents. I hope this clears up any confusion.

SPRINT/NEXTEL REPRESENTATIVES WILL BE IN GERLACH TUESDAY APRIL 10, 2007, 9:00 A.M. TO 5:00 P.M. TO MEET WITH CURRENT AIRPEAK CUSTOMERS, AND OTHERS INTERESTED IN SIGNING UP FOR CELL SERVICE THROUGH SPRINT/NEXTEL.

SPRINT/NEXTEL HAS BOUGHT OUT AIRPEAK AND WILL BE SERVICING THE GERLACH/EMPIRE AREA BEGINNING THE END OF APRIL.
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Postby Archantael » Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:59 am

They bought out a reseller....that's the only reason they're in there then. That explains it...but that reseller's name didn't show up in any of the docs I was privy to as of Feb 21st, 2007. Of course with them 45 days is a long time and a lot can and does change.

I'll offer my apology...for saying you were wrong and for the degradation of the playa experience that is about to occur.
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Postby Finnegan » Mon Apr 09, 2007 8:31 pm

That's retarded, IMO.


Don't sugar-coat it, now. lol.

Jeez if you are so dead-set against cell phones, just smash each one with a hammer. Simple, really. Oh, wait, MOOP..

A couple years ago we had access to a laptop with wireless, and it was pretty nice to be able to check in occasionally to see if the house had burned down, and so on. It took 10 minutes out of the morning, and didn't detract from the experience a whit, IMO. Heard about Katrina that way. (Which i thought was a hoax for a couple days. What 'information' can you really trust on the playa?)
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Postby Archantael » Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:38 pm

After I got home I decided to do some digging...from reviewing many years of notes, articles, and other proprietary stuff to scouring the Nevada PUC archives....I'm still not seeing anything that backs this up.

If I don't forget about it on Tuesday I intend to give Airpeak a call at 1-888-922-0292 or their Reno location as listed on the www.airpeak.com website at Reno and do some more checking...from their website here's the local Reno office details.
AIRPEAK
4690 Longley Lane #25
775-828-7000

(BTW, the toll free number dumps you to an after hours recording outside normal business hours as does the 775 number. )

Again my apology stands...this may be for real but "S" is losing money and betting the farm on WiMax...pouring money into building out and filling a network coverage hole or picking up any affiliates right now just doesn't make financial sense. I also pulled up Google and Dogpile....no hits there except for a reference on Tribe. I skimmed across acquisitions going back to right before the Nxt.. mer- /- ger was announced. Again, no hits. Until I see something more substantial my skepticism remains.

Also one more link, this one is an enthusiast website that I've used in the past. http://www.renowirelessinfo.com/
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Postby Finnegan » Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:47 pm

Looking for camping options for 2007. Choices, choices.


No choice, really. Unless you want to be DOOMED. Vote APOKILIPTIKA, 07.
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Postby Archantael » Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:29 am

More digging has turned up some interesting details. Airpeak does indeed service Empire and Gerlach with low powered coverage and as of April 27th will be acquired by Sprint Nextel. So there is truth to the basic claim here. The next thing to mention is there are upgrade plans in place which will tie in with the Nextel emergency communication provider spectrum swapping issue....long story short, instead of pie in the sky this is very close to cold hard reality.

To hsdavis, I admit I was wrong. And I apologize.

For the rest of us, it's time to start thinking about how to protect events like CT from camera-phone touting pervs. And getting on my soapbox.... there goes the isolation from TV's, cell phones, and other modern day crap that made attending BM extra special. It may not be a big issue the first year....but it will be. Watch and see.
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Postby The CO » Tue Apr 10, 2007 12:54 pm

Sounds like I need a jammer in camp...
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Postby actiongrl » Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:17 pm

1.) this will probably not reach past the gate if even that far. It's about servicing Gerlach, not servicing the event.

2.) cell phones are not welcome at Burning Man. Even if they do start to get coverage, they are now and always have been considered unwelcome within BRC. Check your survival guide. ;)
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Postby Archantael » Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:32 pm

actiongrl wrote:1.) this will probably not reach past the gate if even that far. It's about servicing Gerlach, not servicing the event.


Wilson cellular amplifiers and repeaters put the deep playa with it's very clear line of sight distances well within reach of that tower. $399 and some tinkering and you're off and running with off the shelf stuff.

2.) cell phones are not welcome at Burning Man. Even if they do start to get coverage, they are now and always have been considered unwelcome within BRC. Check your survival guide. ;)


The Survival Guide won't mean diddly squat to a perv looking to make a fast buck. Speaking of the survival guide maybe a rewrite of the section on cell phones to re-emphasize how they work against the spirit of the event might be in order.

The bottom line is Sprint Nextel will most likely go in and upgrade that tower as they did with all of their other Nextel acquisitions. When they do that little puny signal is going to get some balls and the slippery slope will be fast approaching. Perv paradise? Labor Day weekend, bring your cameras and beam back CT to all your friends. I wonder when the first CT You Tube clip will appear if it hasn't already. I'm not trying to stir shit with this...I'm hoping people will realize this is for real and say whoa, let's make sure this doesn't get out of hand.
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Postby Finnegan » Tue Apr 10, 2007 7:39 pm

How could it possibly be contained? How portable is jamming technology these days? Is it something someone could carry on their person? Will it make my fillings glow?

Ah! Jammer as art project. Right there in the middle of the playa. Bathe in the glow of non-communication!
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