Thursday, January 29, 2009

IP Dead Zone: San Joaquin Valley

Another week, another chance to test 3G Internet radio outside of the metros. This time, I motored north and south on California's main artery, I-5. Given my experience in the Mojave, I was optimistic about the Central Valley. It is more heavily used and shoots like an arrow through flat farmland surrounded by hills and peaks. I thought that this corridor is worth at least the same level of 3G infrastructure investment as I-95 on the east coast.

I was wrong.

I expected spotty connectivity going through the Angeles National Forest beyond Santa Clarita. What I did not expect is that things got even worse past Grapevine.

After you get down into the Valley, the next three hours are pure IP hell, just enough tease to fill the buffer then go dark as soon as you start to enjoy the song. AT&T, Sprint, it didn't matter, both networks had very poor coverage. Someone suggested switching my iPhone to EDGE-only to keep swapping at a minimum, but that didn't help. So I hiccuped my way, teeth on edge, up what certainly feels like the fastest stretch of freeway in the USA.

Turning west at Los Banos, connectivity returned at Gilroy and performed beautifully for the remainder of my time all across the Bay Area.

The moral of the story: Internet radio in the car is ready for prime time in the metros, but not in the rural areas.


winspire said...

David, this helps, as I am about to can my XM and looking for other solutions. Looks like Internet radio is not ready for widespread public
"consumption", but it does sound like a great idea whose time will hopefully come soon.


Heriberto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Frerichs said...


Actually, I disagree. Internet radio in the car is totally ready for primetime in the metro areas. The only place it falls down is in rural areas.


HT said...

Hey David, I actually had a different experience along the same section of I-5 you took. Now I know you were mainly refering to the iPhone and AT&T but you also mentioned using a Sprint phone. So that's what I'm commenting on. You said that you were also having bad connection with Sprint. Well, I have Sprint and I listened to the internet radio with only a couple drops in the audio. More importantly from the Grapevine to Williams, CA I had consistent connection with ZERO drops. But i'm assuming you were using a Sprint cellphone. I was using a different setup. I was using a Sprint data card connected to an evdo router and an iPod Touch. I'm assuming that the data card has a better gain antenna than a cellphone antenna for data. Maybe that is why you were having connection problems. Also it is also possible that you may have been experiencing tower congestion. Or maybe some of the towers were either down or undergoing maintainance.