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Mobile broadband and internet options

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Recent updates:

2012-04-02:

OK I had not heard of this one: http://www.clarkhoward.com/news/clark-howard/technology/free-4g-mobile-broadband-offering-net-zero/nLXkf/

Apparently this is legit: http://www.netzero.net/

Comparison of current plans as of April 2, 2012 - either 3G or 4G
Carrier200-250mb/mo500mb/mo1gb/mo2gb/mo4gb/mo5gb/mo10gb/moHotspot wifi equipment cost
NetZeroFree$10$20$35$50N/AN/A$200
VerizonN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A$50$80$270
Virgin Mobile$10/10 days (100mb/mo)$20N/A$50 (2.5gb/mo)N/AN/AN/A$130 MiFi 2200
AT&TN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A$50N/A$270 AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G
SprintN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A$50 (6gb/mo)N/ASierra Wireless Overdrive Pro 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot $250

Click here to go to the links and notes section below.

I am constantly looking for affordable and ubiquitous mobile internet options for many years now. Here are some of the options I have noticed although this is constantly evolving with new service and product offerings and price reductions (rarely) of the old.

First of all you need to decide what mobile platform you want to support and what you will do with it. As of 2009 it comes down to (as I see it) five major categories of access methods (modem if you will):

  1. Cellphone (either as the device or computer tethered using Bluetooth). Of course at the top of this list is the Apple iPhone and now that you can purchase a tethering option from AT&T (or just "jail break" it) this is quite a viable option,
  2. PC or Mac with USB or PC Card cellular modem (A.K.A "aircard"),
  3. dish or satellite (mostly for the RV or rural crowd),
  4. built in WiFi (so-called hot-spots),
  5. and a new contender mobile WiFi devices. Right now the only device and plan I see is Verizon MiFi. Also in this category you might include Nokia's high-end phones like the N95 or N96 which I believe can allow tethering via their built in WiFi interface. Not sure about that but worth looking into. The phone costs around $400 so not going to try that any time soon. I have found that Cradlepoint makes a battery operated USB fed router (model PHS300) that also competes with the MiFi. Details on the PHS300 are here.

Now that leaves data plans. The big three Verizon, Sprint and AT&T (who all seem to be in collusion on this pricing if you ask me) all offer 5GB capped data plans for right around $60. This includes the iPhone. In fact since the iPhone now offers tethering (for free if you jail break it) this seems the most portable solution since you also get a phone in the deal. Another problem with data plans are the two-year contracts they make you sign. I have not seen much in the way of so-called "pay as you go" plans however I did hear of one recently: Virgin Mobile USA BroadBand2Go using the Sprint cellular network. Here is a review of Virgin's offering and USB modem (Windows only so far). Of course WiFi is always the best deal if you can find it. Originally I thought when Earthlink was looking to build wireless in several large cities that WISP's would blanket the Earth. I no longer think that's going to happen however wireless is getting more and more prolific each month.


Pay as you go data card options:

Virgin Mobile Data card
Posted by: "Gary Brinck" gbrinck@cfl.rr.com gbrinck2000
Date: Mon Oct 12, 2009 6:47 am ((PDT))

Virgin Mobile is now offering a USB modem data card from Novatel and "pay as you go" EVDO Rev A service for periods of 10 days & 100MB for $10 to 30 days & 1 GB for $60. May be useful for some folks who have only occasional need for mobile broadband and who travel where Virgin Mobile has service (by no means everywhere!). Price for the modem is $149.99 and available at Best Buy.

More info at: http://www.virginmobileusa.com/mobile-broadband

So does Millenicom, another re-marketer of 3g data services that does not require a contract.

http://millenicom.com/unlimitedrequest.htm


http://www.dslreports.com/comment/3165/74307

From a users in a forum about making a USB modem sharable:

"There are several routers that can accept a data card via USB plug or Express card slot and some that will support phones with a USB port as well. That allows two or more computers to share the connection via wifi.

Cradlepoint is the most popular brand. The 3Gstore (http://www.3gstore.com) has a good selection and offers plenty of advice via their evdoinfo.com site.

The Verizon Mifi box is another solution, but you can do the same or better with the Cradlepoint routers."

"The Mifi Card has a wifi range of about 25 feet. Add to that the lack of an external antenna connector for cell reception, the lack of an antenna connector for wifi, the paucity of usb ports, the requirement of a specialized cable for tethering and the lack of ethernet ports, and I'd call it a night mare. It also "locks you to your service provider".

It is far easier to simply add a cradlepoint or other router that has a usb port for use with the existing "air card" (How I HATE that term, it reminds me of "air head"). This has the advantage of greater range--and if you happen to wish to switch service providers the router will still work *just fine* (on compatible systems, not AT&T, unfortunately)."

"Here's a good review on the Mifi. Scroll to the bottom for pros/cons: http://www.evdoinfo.com/content/view/2783/179/"

"Alex Sian if EVDOinfo.com, has pointed out several limitations of the MiFi. Quoting Alex:

In my opinion, the combination of Cradlepoint router and separate USB modem or expresscard is the better solution because the MiFi:

  1. has NO antenna jack to easily allow for high-antenna antennas and direct-connect amp;
  2. would require a more expensive 'wireless amplifier' to

improve cellular signal;

  1. is tied to ONE carrier and cannot be used with multiple

carriers like a cradlepoint router can;

  1. can only tether via USB cable. it has NO ethernet port;
  2. cannot tether to one computer and STILL be a WiFi hotspot;
  3. to allow for longer battery life, it only has about 30ft of WiFi range.
  4. must be replaced when 4G or other future technology is viable.

Having said all that, there is one group of RVers that I think are great candidates for the Mifi:

  1. you already own a wireless signal amplifier
  2. all the equipment you want to get online already has WiFi capability
  3. you only need a hotspot for use while traveling in an RV (not a home) OR
  4. your need for a hotspot in a home doesn't require more than 30ft wifi range
  5. you have NO need to tether a computer and still have a WiFi hotspot
  6. one carrier at a time doesn't bother you

If you can answer Yes to the last six points, you should be happy with a MiFi."


Notes:

Verizon Wireless notes

Links of interest:

http://www.evdoinfo.com

http://www.phonescoop.com/phones/finder.php

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/CellSatWiFi/files/

Useful mailing lists and forums:

http://www.evdoforums.com/

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/InternetByCellPhone

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/InternetByDataCard

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/InternetByWiFi

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/CellSatWiFi/

http://www.cj-and-m.com/HomePage/WiFi_Setup.html

Software:

Freeproxy - http://www.handcraftedsoftware.org/

Updates:

Two Verizon Broadband Flavors
Posted by: "dpbbjc@gmail.com" dpbbjc@gmail.com dpbbjc
Date: Sun Jul 12, 2009 4:32 pm ((PDT))

Hi Sue, Hunter, All, and especially Bob,

The VZW Tethered Cell Phone plan is called "Mobile Broadband Connect". See: http://tinyurl.com/ogp5f .................................... It now costs $49.99/mo and the allowance is 5GB. The Plan can be turned OFF, and ON for days needed and the $49.99/mo cost is prorated for days used. (The first month is free for new subscribers.)

The VZW Plan for a PC Card, ExpressCard, USB modem or notebook with Mobile Broadband Built-In is called "Mobile Broadband". See http://tinyurl.com/3b45jp .................................... It costs $59.99/mo for 5GB, or $39.99 for 250MB. This Plan can now be month-to-month (recommended) but a new subscriber will pay full retail for a Data Card or USB Modem...... therefore get a top rated data card or USB modem on eBay for $20 to $40.)

FWIW, when my current contract runs out in September I will go month- to-month and get a new device on eBay if/when the need arises.

Cheers, Don Blake

Re: Verizon Month-to-Month Data Card Plan
Posted by: "dpbbjc@gmail.com" dpbbjc@gmail.com dpbbjc
Date: Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:54 am ((PDT))

Hi ?!?, You have two choices: One uses a tethered cell phone. The other uses a PC Card, ExpressCard, USB modem or notebook with Mobile Broadband Built-In.

The VZW Tethered Cell Phone plan is called "Mobile Broadband Connect". See: http://tinyurl.com/ogp5f .................................... It now costs $49.99/mo and the allowance is 5GB. The Plan can be turned OFF, and ON for days needed and the $49.99/mo cost is prorated for days used. (The first month is free for new subscribers.)

The VZW Plan for a PC Card, ExpressCard, USB modem or notebook with Mobile Broadband Built-In is called "Mobile Broadband". See http://tinyurl.com/3b45jp .................................... It costs $59.99/mo for 5GB, or $39.99 for 250MB. This Plan can now be month-to-month (recommended) but a new subscriber will pay full retail for a Data Card or USB Modem...... therefore first get a top rated data card or USB modem on eBay for $20 to $40 instead. (Or get a free or low cost device from Verizon but there will be a contract term to complete.)

Cheers, Don Blake

Re: Verizon Month-to-Month Data Card Plan
Posted by: "Bill Joyce" bjoyce5@gmail.com bjoyce7071
Date: Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:34 pm ((PDT))

If you choose the right cell phone or USB (preferred over PCMCIA or Expresscard since you can use it on any computer) modem you can buy a Cradlepoint router that will let you share it through wi-fi and/or Ethernet so "both" is the answer. You can't use your normal router that works with DSL/cable/satellite since it doesn't have USB or Expresscard support. Go to <http://www.cradlepoint.com/support/ctr350> http://www.cradlepoint.com/support/ctr350 (or any other Cradlepoint router) and select "Supported Devices" to know the ones Cradlepoint tests itself. I know 3GStore.com has tried more phones and many work including the Motorola W755 and LG Dare since they are currently available phones and much of Cradlepoint's list are not current phones. I think all of the Verizon phones are still EVDO Rev0 and not RevA, but most people will not notice the speed difference.

For data cards you can also get a router from https://www.maximumsignal.net <https://www.maximumsignal.net/> that should work well, but Cradlepoint is the main player in this market.

Bill

>can both or either of these options go through a router? >Fran


Re: Rv owner going full time. Which Cellular service offers best cov
Posted by: "Don" pianotuna \at\ yahoo |.| com PianoTuna
Date: Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:08 am ((PDT))

Hi all,

I'd go with Verizon but I'd pick up one of the new Virgin cell modems (aka air card).

Why? Because you can buy time with no contract on the Virgin, and because Virgin are Sprint based, you have "all the bases covered".

I think with some of the Cradlepoint routers, if extreme speed was needed, both usb devices could be made active at the same time.

Regards,

Don Rose


Verizon tethered phone plans:

http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/mobilebroadband/?page=products_connect

The Plan is for a tethered phone or device and it's called "Mobile Broadband Connect". See http://tinyurl.com/ogp5f .

Just call 611 to turn it ON or OFF. The Plan is $49.99/mo, (lower if you have a Smartphone or Blackberry). The $49.99 is prorated for days used in a Billing period. (The first month is free.)

Monthly cost is also lower if you have the "Connect" or the "Premium" voice Plan. See http://tinyurl.com/39wru6 .

We have Verizon, and after extensive research when I was up for getting a new phone, I knew I wanted a phone that was "REV A" capable.... this is the highest broadband speed available with Verizon at this time. That limited the number of choices at the time, down to two.... The "DARE" and the "Motorola Adventure 750". After reading the pros and cons by other users, we chose the Motorola 750. We have not been disappointed. Good speeds, and connections in places we could never get to before with our older phone. It does not have external antenna capabilities at this time, but to be honest there was only one place in the desert boondocks of California where we could not get on. There are a few small annoyances with the phone but we have learned to ignore them. I would expect by now Verizon has a few more choices of "Rev A" phones available, so that is what I would look for, and also for the ability to be tethered to a laptop.

Then you have many choices. Sticking with LG, which is the only thing I can talk about from experience, the LG 8350 has an antenna port which makes things very easy. The LG 8360 is a little more advanced in terms of technology but has no external antenna port, which requires an amplifier with a 'velcro' patch antenna coupling. The phone can be connected to your computer either via Bluetooth or cable. And you can use the data feature on your voice plan which can be turned on and off very easily at about $1.60/day. Don't mean to talk only about LG as there are many other good, relatively simple, inexpensive phones, but it's the only one I have experience with.

"That limited the number of choices at the time, down to two.... The "DARE" and the "Motorola Adventure 750"."

This recent thread discusses these 2 phones along with the amp/booster choices: http://tinyurl.com/ny4n28

I suggest using phonescoop's phone finder to search for Verizon EVDO-A phones that have other features that you want. It'll pull up a dozen or so phones of which only a handful will currently be available.

Unless Rev A is really important, I'd stay away from those more "advanced" phones. My wife has the LG 8360 and I have the LG Dare. Got the Dare simply because I convinced myself that I need Rev A when I start using using the data feature vice the data card I'm currently using. But realistically, the difference between Rev A and Rev 0 is not that great for the ordinary user (which I really am, truth be told). In my opinion, the 8360 phone is easier to use (and see the display in bright light). When 4G is fully deployed, believe there will be a radical change and we will all be hunting for new phones anyway.

We tether a Verizon Samsung Omnia with a Wilson antenna and booster for internet access in our RV.

Our DSL Reports speed test history has 98 results. The highest download speed is 1493 Kbps. The slowest is 93 Kbps. The average is 452 Kbps.

We have been traveling in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Upstate New York for the past few months.

 > do a speed test.. several are available. The easiest one I have found is
 > at www.msn.com
 > click tech and gadgets, scroll down to internet speed test.. It takes a
 > little bit to run it.. be patient...

Tools:

http://www.testmy.net/ - Test speed of connections.


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