Hows your cell phone reception Eagle County?
High on Bellyache Ridge, Dave Marjoram has no trouble communicating with the world below. Pulling a weathered Nokia bar phone he describes as too sophisticated for me out of his shirt pocket, the 57-year-old says he gets clear reception. Its like a leash, he says, glancing at the phone. Its like a collar. You can never get away from anyone or anything when you have one but its a necessity. Especially when youre traveling on these kind of roads.Marjoram lives on a curvy street lined with pines, near a precipice where hang-gliders take flight. Arguably, Bellyache Ridge in Wolcott is one of the more remote outposts in the Vail Valley. Still, Marjoram says his AT&T service works fine. Thats the real wilderness out there, he says, pointing to the Sawatch Range in the distance.For decades, the valley has been luring adventurers intent on colonizing its rugged peaks. At the same time, the rise of Blackberries and laptops pressures Americans to remain in constant contact. But do these concepts clash?Just down the hill, Eric Kubby describes his AT&T coverage as spotty. The bar goes up and down. It varies, the 41-year-old entrepreneur says. You get upset, you know? Youre in the middle of a conversation and then, Hello? Hello? No ones there and there always seems to be an echo.Likewise, Eagle County emergency management director Barry Smith says only one of his two cell phones is reliable on Bellyache Ridge. An AT&T model works but the Verizon phone waffles. Its pretty hit or miss, he says.In providing cell service to the valley, companies face unique hurdles. Mountains block signals, so providers have to build most of their towers on top of them, AT&T Spokeswoman Vanessa Smith explains.This can make fixing them interesting. To repair the towers, AT&T workers dispatch helicopters, and in the summer, they have to schedule maintenance around the elk herd migration, Smith says.So there are more challenges in the mountains than there would be in a city area, she says.Several cell phone retailers say AT&T has the most extensive coverage in the valley.Among them is Anita Denboske, owner of Active Communications in Eagle-Vail, Edwards and Gypsum.When I started the company 11 years ago, I did the research (about) who is rated the best as far as coverage and customer service and I chose AT&T, she says.As a general rule, AT&T dominates, but service varies on a case-by-case basis, Denboske says.In some areas, we are so much better than Verizon, but depending on tower placement, there may actually be an area where theyre better than us, she says. Thats why we give a 30-day trial period so you can make sure it works where you need it to work.Similarly, Radio Shack in Avon leans toward AT&T service.While some carriers are spotty in mountaintop communities like Wildridge, Singletree and Homestead, AT&T is solid, store bookkeeper Elly Hoyle says.One possible explanation is that AT&T beefed up its service along the I-70 corridor in November, Smith says. The company introduced a higher-speed broadband service.Retailers argue Sprint and Verizon also have a strong presence, while T-mobile offers limited coverage.We sell T-Mobile here but its not really good, you know? says Gustavo Guzman, kiosk manager for Wireless Advocates in Gypsum. He says the reception varies with the location, the age of the phone and type of antenna.No matter what service residents subscribe to, though, most encounter dead spots. Perhaps the most notorious dead zone exists on I-70 just east and west of Wolcott.I dont use my cell phone on I-70 but I know some people have trouble in the dead zone there, says Eagle resident Elly Conklin, who uses Sprint.Eagle-Vail resident Beth Moore, who uses T-Mobile, also has trouble near Wolcott.I have two dead spots: The Wolcott one and Dowd Junction, which is really short, she says. It surprises me that I have a dead spot there. Especially since I go from five bars to none to five and its about half a mile.