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> Best Internet Solution Using Cell Service, Smartphone with hotspot the way to go?
jan-n-john
post Jul 19 2012, 04:09 PM
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I'm hoping that some of you with more experience can give me a hand.

My wife and I camp about 2 months per year. We use iPhones, an iPad, and a laptop on the road. We are fairly heavy internet users (but no big downloads like movies), and are tired of flaky/non-existent CG wifi, so I'm thinking about how to fix that. Since our current cell contracts are about to roll over and we'll be getting new phones anyway, I'm wondering if hotspot capable phones will be the solution, or if there another way to go that's better.

I'm thinking we can just use the new phones to feed the pad and the laptop. We can continue to use CG wifi when it's good, but use our own when it isn't. We need to have the new phones anyway, so this seems better than a stand alone hotspot device, especially since we only need it for limited periods, so it would be hard to justify buying and paying a contract fee for another device. Am I missing something, or does that sound reasonable. A contract with enough bandwidth shouldn't be an issue.

While I'm at it, I assume Verizon is more likely to have good service in typical rural areas, but is that the case? We currently have AT&T but will probably switch, partly due to local issues where we live.
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Lindsay Richards
post Jul 19 2012, 05:59 PM
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Which cell phone provider do you have and what areas will you be traveling? Will you be in rural areas such as state or national parks were cell service is frequently bad?


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Denali
post Jul 19 2012, 06:00 PM
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If you compare their coverage pages, Verizon has the most complete nationwide cellular data service of any of the carriers. We have been using them for almost ten years now.

You can use your Verizon iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot where there is Verizon data service. To get the much faster (and much less widely available) 4G service, though, you would need to use either another phone or a dedicated cellular data device like a MiFi or USB modem.

Pricing is fairly complicated. Here's Verizon's: Verizon Share Everything Calculator

I moderate a Yahoo forum that can be useful to you: InternetByCellPhone


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joez
post Jul 19 2012, 06:32 PM
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We have Verizon MiFi, Sprint smart phones with hot spot, and some ATT devices. In addition, we have an extenal antenna and signal booster we use in weak reception areas. Our experience is that west of the Mississippi river, Verizon has hands down better coverage for voice and data. East Sprint seems to have a slight edge in data, with voice coverage equal Verizon and Sprint. ATT has, for us, minimal coverage once we leave major urban areas. There are areas, however, where we travel frequently(rural central IN) where ATT is the only carrier with any coverage.

The only drawback to phones with hot spots that we have found is that ours will not do hot spot duties and phone duties simultaneously. If someone calls while the hot spot is in use it drops the internet function.
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Lindsay Richards
post Jul 19 2012, 07:28 PM
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Consider getting a WiFi antenna to increase your usage of WiFi and decrease your usage of your data plan on the phone. We also think Verizon is the way to go.


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jan-n-john
post Jul 20 2012, 07:23 AM
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QUOTE(Lindsay Richards @ Jul 19 2012, 07:59 PM) *

Which cell phone provider do you have and what areas will you be traveling? Will you be in rural areas such as state or national parks were cell service is frequently bad?

Where we live (rural Western NC), ATT and Verizon are the only viable cell choices. We have ATT now (we started with iPhones when ATT was the only option) but will be able to switch next time around if we want.

We might travel just about anywhere, but seldom stay in state parks since we like to have sewer hookup. The problem we have experienced is the frequent weakness, hassle, and cost of GC WiFi.

QUOTE

You can use your Verizon iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot where there is Verizon data service. To get the much faster (and much less widely available) 4G service, though, you would need to use either another phone or a dedicated cellular data device like a MiFi or USB modem.

Our current ATT contract is up about the same time the new iPhone5 comes out (October?) so that's what we'll likely get, and I have assumed it will be capable of 4G LTE and generally anything a stand alone MiFi can do -- is that not a safe bet?
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DXSMac
post Jul 20 2012, 09:07 AM
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I have had Verizon since 2009 and have been happy with it. There have been times I BARELY got a signal, but I got it. My wireless Landline that I also carry has generally always worked (crossing fingers) even when my cell phone didn't. My wireless landline (Verizon calls it "home phone connect") at $19.99 a month EVERYTHING included has basically made my cell phone redundant. However, you cannot do internet on it. Also, I think Verizon has upped the price to $29.99 a month, but I'm still paying $19.99 a month.

I just use a regular laptop with a Verizon cellular modem at $50 a month. 5 gig limit, and I am like you, just email and stuff. Only a couple times have I gotten close to the 5 gig. I have been in places where I couldn't get a signal on the cellular modem even though my cell phone barely worked.

QUOTE(jan-n-john @ Jul 19 2012, 02:09 PM) *


While I'm at it, I assume Verizon is more likely to have good service in typical rural areas, but is that the case? We currently have AT&T but will probably switch, partly due to local issues where we live.



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Denali
post Jul 20 2012, 09:53 AM
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QUOTE(jan-n-john @ Jul 20 2012, 06:23 AM) *
Our current ATT contract is up about the same time the new iPhone5 comes out (October?) so that's what we'll likely get, and I have assumed it will be capable of 4G LTE and generally anything a stand alone MiFi can do -- is that not a safe bet?
Yes, the Verizon iPhone5 will have 4G LTE capability. You will probably not have simultaneous voice and data service with the phone, though. Some phones do, but most do not. Since the new iPhone isn't out yet, we don't know whether it will.

Here are the providers' coverage maps:
Verizon
Sprint
AT&T


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Lastrick
post Jul 20 2012, 08:11 PM
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We have been using a Verizon MiFi device for over a year. It costs $50 a month for 5Gbs. For every gigabyte we go over, it's an extra $10. We've gone over three times in a year. We have two laptops and two Kindles we put through it....and it's got 4G and 3G capabilities.

We used our Droid Bionic as a hotspot a couple of times but that's an additional $30 a month so we cancelled it. The MiFi works great because Verizon has great coverage.

Last thought: When there's WiFi available and it's decent, we switch to it instead and save our MiFi usage for when we need to use it.


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Lindsay Richards
post Jul 20 2012, 08:48 PM
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I think Verizon is your best bet. The 5 gigs should be enough if you use WiFi whenever you can. (get an antenna, of course). In Western NC, you have mountains and nothing will work there. We have Verizon and have used it in all of the lower 48 and rarely have problems. The larger state and National Parks out West don't have any cell towers. You can become proficient at "borrowing" WiFi service. Your phone probably has a WiFi detector and it will tell you if it is open or secured. Almost all McDonalds have free WiFi. If you want to both surf at night instead of reading or TV, that 5 gig's will not be enough.


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Denali
post Jul 21 2012, 09:45 AM
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QUOTE(Lastrick @ Jul 20 2012, 07:11 PM) *
...We used our Droid Bionic as a hotspot a couple of times but that's an additional $30 a month so we cancelled it...
An alternative with the Bionic and many other smartphones is to use FoxFi, a free application that turns your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot without requiring the $30/month fee for that feature. There are also other apps that let you tether your smartphone to your computer with a USB cable or Bluetooth, all without paying anthing extra to Verizon.

As of a few weeks ago, though, Verizon's shared data plans include the smartphone mobile hotspot feature at no extra cost. The new plans can be significantly more expensive than your current plan, however, depending on how many devices you have: Share Everything Plan


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jan-n-john
post Jul 21 2012, 09:46 AM
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QUOTE(Lindsay Richards @ Jul 20 2012, 10:48 PM) *

I think Verizon is your best bet. The 5 gigs should be enough if you use WiFi whenever you can. (get an antenna, of course). In Western NC, you have mountains and nothing will work there. We have Verizon and have used it in all of the lower 48 and rarely have problems. The larger state and National Parks out West don't have any cell towers. You can become proficient at "borrowing" WiFi service. Your phone probably has a WiFi detector and it will tell you if it is open or secured. Almost all McDonalds have free WiFi. If you want to both surf at night instead of reading or TV, that 5 gig's will not be enough.

Actually, while cell coverage here is dicey depending on your exact location, it generally isn't so bad in most places. The problem has been that ATT still offers mostly E network, not 3G, for data -- that is changing at last; just two weeks ago I got the first 3G signal I ever saw here, but it comes and goes. Verizon OTOH offers 4G LTE here (oddly, a few weeks ago I was looking at Verizon's coverage map at it finest level, and the line they show between LTE and "LTE Extended" (i.e. LTE Maybe, maybe not) passes through my house, not that it matters at home where I have WiFi). Anyway, Verizon's superior mobile data service in my area is the main reason I'll probably switch to Verizon.

I've often "borrowed" wifi in CG's, but as more folks secure their routers it becomes increasingly difficult.

How much monthly broadband one must buy to make this work is one of my major concerns. At least with Verizon's new price schedule, the cost of moving up from 4 gigs to 6, 8, or 10 isn't a deal breaker ($10 per 2 gig increment).
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DXSMac
post Jul 21 2012, 10:26 AM
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QUOTE(Lastrick @ Jul 20 2012, 06:11 PM) *

We have been using a Verizon MiFi device for over a year. It costs $50 a month for 5Gbs. For every gigabyte we go over, it's an extra $10. We've gone over three times in a year. We have two laptops and two Kindles we put through it....and it's got 4G and 3G capabilities.




Ok, what is the difference between MiFi and my cellular modem? I am paying $50 a month like you, for 5 gig. Your device looks WAY DIFFERENT than my device, which is also 4G and 3G capable. I just plug mine into USB port.


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Denali
post Jul 21 2012, 12:44 PM
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QUOTE(DXSMac @ Jul 21 2012, 09:26 AM) *

Ok, what is the difference between MiFi and my cellular modem? I am paying $50 a month like you, for 5 gig. Your device looks WAY DIFFERENT than my device, which is also 4G and 3G capable. I just plug mine into USB port.
The MiFi is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. You can connect multiple devices to it simultaneously.

You can achieve the same thing by plugging your cellular USB modem into a router designed for that purpose. That's what we do.

With either solution, a side benefit is that you can use them with a wireless printer. That's terrific for those of us with more than on laptop in the rig.


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jan-n-john
post Jul 21 2012, 01:23 PM
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QUOTE(Denali @ Jul 21 2012, 02:44 PM) *

The MiFi is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. You can connect multiple devices to it simultaneously.

You can achieve the same thing by plugging your cellular USB modem into a router designed for that purpose. That's what we do.

With either solution, a side benefit is that you can use them with a wireless printer. That's terrific for those of us with more than on laptop in the rig.

My question is, what if anything does a stand alone MiFi do that a hotspot capable smartphone can't do, in particular, the likely capability of the upcoming iPhone5? Since one needs a smartphone anyway (I do anyway), is there any reason not to use the WiFi built into that device and its data plan, and avoid a separate (and costly) device, possibly with its own data plan or at least an additional access charge (for example, $20 per month access charge for a Verizon Jetpack or other cell modem/USB/etc. device in the Verizon Share Everything plan))?
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