APRS In The Desert: RF vs LTE

For anyone who has worked with APRS, you’re probably well aware of the APRS-IS system. But for Field Day I’m going to see which works better across the Nevada desert; RF or internet.

We tried running APRS last year from my friend’s HT and the mag mount; but the 5 watts combined with a lousy antena meant most of our trip across the desert resulted in very few packets making it out.

To solve the problem this year, I’m “upgrading” some of the setup to consist of a Hustler MX270 antenna and 50 watts of output from a Mirage BD35. It’s quite literally the same setup I have at home. It has served me very well. Will 50 watts get me anything out there? I’ll talk about that in a minute.

However, the internet aspect; while not new to me, is apparently new on this trip. On the drive last year on MetroPCS, I had no LTE service between Vegas and Reno except for Goldfield. It seemed REALLY odd to have 4G LTE in a place like Goldfield…just this sea of LTE in an area where there are literally no jobs. With Metro, you don’t have access to the same roaming agreements as TMobile customers. I had the ability to make calls and texts, but no data.

This year, however, the coverage maps tell a different tale. I supposedly have coverage over *most* of the route. I’ll believe it when I see it; as the maps have indicated I should have coverage, with a phone that’s compatible (extended LTE), and there is clearly no coverage there. But, at the very least, firing off a few internet packets in Goldfield would give me an update on aprs.fi, so everyone would know at least when I got to/went through Goldfield.

Thanks to the fact aprs.fi holds on to the packets for two years, I was able to go back and look at what just a barefoot HT on what little antenna we had was able to get us. While there were major gaps in coverage, especially between Coledale and Vegas;  there were, in fact, a few clusters of packets along the way. Vegas to Indian Springs, Coaldale, Luning to Hawthorne, Schurz, Yerington, Fallon, and even more as we got closer to Virginia City and Reno area. I’m going to be throwing out a lot more dB into a better antenna; I’m really anxious to see what I get out.

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