Living in Portland, we frequently visit the Oregon Coast (at least once or twice a year). It’s only about an hour’s drive away, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Some of our favorite places to go are Tillamook (the cheese and ice cream factory!), Cannon Beach (Mo’s and Tolovana Park are great, as is Ecola State Park), Seaside (kitschy promenade, etc.), Lincoln City, and Newport. There are tons of really nice little towns along the coast, too. Honestly, my favorite coast activity is just driving Highway 101 – the road is fun, and the scenery is out of this world.
We took a little family vacation to the coast last weekend, and of course, I can’t turn off my geeky parts (though I did leave the laptop at home – a first for me!). So I was paying attention to what kind of cell phone data coverage I was seeing, whether it was 3G or not, and what kind of speeds I was getting. I had three devices with me to test: my iPhone 3G, my wife Rachel’s original iPhone, and my Amazon Kindle, with it’s cellular “Whispernet” radio that works on Sprint’s EVDO data network.
In the past, cell phone coverage (even for voice) was spotty. You were probably OK if you were in one of the big towns, but outside that, you were out of luck. Data coverage was slow and spotty. Things have improved greatly in the last few years, and the one impression I got from this trip was that not only has cell coverage in general gotten MUCH better on the Oregon coast, 3G has arrived in a big way. It was really nice to be able to stay connected so well.
First, the iPhones on AT&T’s network. When they first started rolling out 3G (before the iPhone), the fast HSDPA data service was only available in 20 or so major metro areas. Cities like Portland and Seattle were covered, but not the towns in between, and not at the coast. AT&T has been building out it’s 3G network at an aggressive rate – no doubt in part because of the iPhone 3G. This weekend, except for localized “dead spots” (like our hotel room, in a deep hollow and right on the beach), where I didn’t have much signal at all, I had great AT&T 3G HSDPA coverage in all of the towns we stopped in: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Tillamook, Lincoln City, and Newport. I did some speed tests in a few places, and averaged roughly 600Kbps – about the same I get in the Portland suburbs.
I also did a few tests on my Kindle. I honestly wasn’t expecting much coverage, but I was pleasantly surprised. In the places I checked (mostly in Lincoln City, where we were staying), I had 4 or 5 bars of EVDO signal, and while I didn’t do any speed tests, it felt just as zippy as anywhere else I’ve used it. Which was great, because I really, REALLY needed to download the book Breaking Dawn (book 4 in the Twilight teen vampire saga – guilty pleasure!) the instant it became available at midnight EST on Saturday night. 😉 At 9:02PM PST, I made the purchase, and less than a minute later, I started reading (the book is EXCELLENT, by the way! – Affiliate links to the hardcover and Kindle editions).
So, it’s nice to see that the cell carriers (well, AT&T and Sprint, at least) are improving their coverage on the Oregon Coast. Now I can count on staying connected when I’m there, and a few people have asked me about my experiences with coverage there, so hopefully they’ll find this post through Google or however, and get their questions answered.
Maybe next time I’ll have more time to sit and read or surf or whatever – we took our two kids, Emma (5) and Gabe (almost 2), so this wasn’t exactly a “sit around and relax” kind of vacation. In fact, now that we’re home, I feel like I need ANOTHER vacation to recover. 😉