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Old 01-06-2014, 11:32 AM   #1
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Latest & Greatest Mobile Internet Options

Hi folks - Thought I'd make a quick post for anyone who is trying to familiarize themselves with mobile internet options as some things have changed lately with the main options I believe those with high Internet connectivity needs have been using. And there is a NEW option I've just stumbled across (info towards the end of the post).

Up until recently, I think the most popular player for low cost mobile Internet bandwidth has been Millenicom. They resell data on Verizon's network at low cost, but unfortunately, the service they provided on Sprint's network was recently discontinued due to some kind of business issues (apparently). They transitioned users who were on their Sprint plans (which were good for almost unlimited data at a flat rate) to another company -- BMI (Blue Mountain Internet).

I think the BMI price for transitioned users was just slightly more expensive, but for new users, it looks like the plans they offer are somewhat more expensive at $99/mo (for unlimited). They have smaller buckets for less, but it doesn't look like those buckets are cheaper than the average going rate of $10/gb you can usually get through most carriers directly. Again, this is over the Sprint network, and it has been getting a LOT better pretty quickly, including with 4G LTE coverage in a lot more places. The speed on 3G is surprisingly good, however, and the 3G coverage they have is actually not bad. I use a lot of 3G data over this plan in a lot of different places.

Verizon has the most extensive 4G LTE network, as you may already know. So I also have a 20GB plan via Millenicom for $70/mo or so. Looking at the Verizon website now, it strangely seems that buying data when you ALSO have a phone on your plan is MORE than $10/gb. But if you just have an internet device like a USB modem or jetpack and NO phone on the plan, the rate is LESS than $10/gb. With just a USB modem, the rate is $70 for 12gb, so you get 8gb more for the same price on Millenicom. Verizon has other 4gb to 10gb plans as well for $30 to $60 per month. (It's nice to see the rates for data coming down under $10/gb... but again if you have a phone on the plan as well with Verizon it is significantly more expensive, it seems.)

EDIT: Just noticed that there is also a $20/mo "line access" charge with verizon that you have to add to the above data device rates.

And now the other option that prompted me to make this post -- there is a new option on the T-Mobile network via a company called Red Pocket. This option seems like it has a lot of pros and cons. On the pro side, it's CHEAP and pay as you go... so you can just buy mobile internet as you need it. That should be great for people who are not full timers. On the con side, the network is a lot smaller than the three other players out there, so if you can't get decent coverage in the places you travel, then it's worthless.

It can be dirt cheap to check out this Red Pocket option since it is just pay as you go (you log onto the website to buy refills when needed), so I've gone ahead and ordered a SIM card from them to give it a shot. My thinking is that it can't hurt to have this on hand to activate and use on demand, along with a cheap USB modem off eBay for $20. I also want to just get an idea on coverage and speeds. Maybe it can become my backup Internet option and I can drop one of my more expensive plans from BMI or Millenicom. Or, maybe I'll just use it to augment my Internet bandwidth as necessary.

Red Pocket is charging $30 or $50 for 30 days of "unlimited" data on T-mobile's network. The $30 plan gives you 3gb of 4G LTE per month and the $50 gives you 5gb. After you use up the fast data, the speed drops back to 3G (and potentially MUCH slower speeds outside of their major coverage areas, which probably includes a lot of the far out places people take their airstreams!). If the 3G speed is anywhere close to the speed I get on Sprint, then I would say that it should be good enough for most browsing and email and I should be pretty pleased (again, assuming that I can get at least 3G speeds in the places I need it). So I am going to give it a try and see if the speed and coverage work out for me at all.

Anyhoo... hope this is helpful for others out there.
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Old 01-06-2014, 06:29 PM   #2
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Thanks for taking the time to post this. Actually it really annoys me that Verizon makes you sign up for a contract for the mifi. We only plan to travel 1-2 months a yr. so since I work from one online I need it, need to be reliable. I will try to no contract tmobile option in the future.
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Old 01-06-2014, 07:01 PM   #3
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Greetings fellow hotspot Airstreamers. I use Internet-on-the-Go from Walmart. It uses Sprint's network. It is fairly simple. The data never expires on your account so long as you use the account each year. It is currently $10 for 500GB, $25 for 1.5GB and $45 for 3GB. It used to be $45 for 8GB! Well, it is still great for those who use their hotspots whenever like me. I dislike monthly fees. T-Mobile does not work at all in several places in my area.
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Old 01-06-2014, 09:23 PM   #4
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Good post, CA Tallguy.

In Minnesota and surrounding states Verizon's 3G coverage is substantially more comprehensive than any competitors, and I use them for that reason. I believe they have 3G equipment at all their base stations now so I only run into 1xRTT speeds on the very fringes of coverage where the phone/modem switches for reasons of process gain rather than equipment capabilities. As you note, however, all Verizon service is metered and charged per GB.

There are month-to-month verizon data plans available; I use them for some devices.
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Old 01-07-2014, 12:44 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by NJtoNC View Post
Thanks for taking the time to post this. Actually it really annoys me that Verizon makes you sign up for a contract for the mifi. We only plan to travel 1-2 months a yr. so since I work from one online I need it, need to be reliable. I will try to no contract tmobile option in the future.
I wouldn't get one on contract -- try to find one on ebay or even craigslist for $50 or so. Just make sure the ESN is clean! You can call verizon and check or use an online ESN check tool. I've bought several devices off of ebay and craigslist and have not had a problem. But don't buy one from someone without that assurance and being able to check it! eBay sellers with good feedback ratings are generally safe bets as they are not going to damage their rating with shenanigans.

Then, if you already have a verizon account, maybe you can turn it on and off at will? Or you can sign up for verizon on pay-as-you-go. Not the cheapest, but probably cheaper than paying long term and not needing/using it much. It's $90 for 10gb or $60 for 3gb.

Also, I am seeing that Straight Talk is reselling a pay-as-you-go plan on Verizon's network BUT... it looks like you MIGHT need to have the device they are selling for it AND it might only be 3G. If you can take the sim card out of the device they sell and then put it into a 4G jetpack to get LTE, that might be another option. The Straight Talk plan is about $10/gb.
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Old 01-07-2014, 01:11 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by rodsterinfl View Post
Greetings fellow hotspot Airstreamers. I use Internet-on-the-Go from Walmart. It uses Sprint's network. It is fairly simple. The data never expires on your account so long as you use the account each year. It is currently $10 for 500GB, $25 for 1.5GB and $45 for 3GB. It used to be $45 for 8GB! Well, it is still great for those who use their hotspots whenever like me. I dislike monthly fees. T-Mobile does not work at all in several places in my area.
I just went and looked at the walmart website, prompted by your post, to re-familiarize myself with what they have and it looks like they have some new options, like the Straight Talk plans I talked about in the last post. It's too bad they got rid of the 8gb for $45 on sprint, as you mentioned! That was a pretty good deal. The main drawback with a lot of what they are offering is that it is 3G. I don't mind Sprint's 3G though, as I said (and I'm a power user, and need Internet connectivity for my technical work). But still, I like to have 4G/LTE when I can.

In addition to the plans you talked about and the Straight Talk plans, they are selling Cricket plans.. one is "unlimited" for $65. That seems like a great deal, but I'm not sure what network they are using to provide the service. I can see on the picture of the product card that it says 3G. I went to the cricket site and started to browse the coverage map and it looks pretty decent. I'm guessing that it is mostly going to be on one or more networks of the major players, though in some areas I am reading that Cricket has their own network.
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Old 01-07-2014, 06:56 AM   #7
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... I can see on the picture of the product card that it says 3G. I went to the cricket site and started to browse the coverage map and it looks pretty decent. I'm guessing that it is mostly going to be on one or more networks of the major players, though in some areas I am reading that Cricket has their own network.

I looked at their coverage map on their site and it appears to match up almost exactly with Sprint's map for 3G coverage.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:37 PM   #8
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Cricket, I believe, uses Sprint. Straight Talk uses Verizon and, in some cases ATT. I looked at Straight Talk (my phone is with them) isn't their data plan per month? That is the difference I found with most plans versus the on the go plan. If the Sprint network would meet the need, it is hard to beat.
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Old 01-08-2014, 12:12 PM   #9
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One thing about the pay-as-you-go on sprint via walmart is that you are stuck with that 3G hotspot for it. I like to upgrade my devices frequently (well, maybe every 12 months or so) so I can benefit from the latest network improvements. Right now I can utilize Sprint's LTE, wimax and 3g bands on the device I am using. I suspect I will be upgrading to a newer triband LTE device in the not to distant future.

But I agree, the 3G sprint speeds are actually pretty good and if you are not a full timer and don't need a monthly plan then that pay as you go might fight the bill nicely.

Swapping devices is even easier with other services as they use SIM cards. It's usually pretty easy to find cheap devices on ebay so you can just by them for $25 or $50 and swap your sim card over. I actually swap my sim on my Verizon account between a USB modem and Jetpack pretty often.

Straight Talk is using Verizon for their data-only plans... here is info:
Straight Talk To Launch Verizon-Powered Mobile Broadband Service Soon (Updated) | PhoneNews.com

Looks like it is a pay-as-you-go thing but the data expires after 60 days (for everything but the smallest plans). You can buy refills at Walmart.

If I can get Verizon LTE, then it is my network of choice. And the great thing about verizon is that the LTE footprint is HUGE! I think Sprint's 3G is actually faster than Verizon's 3G so I'm generally using 3G on sprint or 4G on verizon. Well, if I can get a 4G signal on Sprint, and that is becoming a lot more common, then I guess it can be a toss up between the services. In fact, sometimes I use BOTH connections at the same time via my Cradlepoint router.
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Old 02-15-2014, 08:33 PM   #10
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To all you techno-savvy 'Streamers

Hello from Colorado! I'm going to be teaching outdoor education for 3 months this summer in the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho...boondocking in a 2004, 16' Bambi. It's very remote and I'm not even sure that they have cell service there... I'm wondering what would be my best option to get internet? I do have generators for power. Would a satellite dish be an option? I apologize that I'm not familiar with a lot of technology options but would appreciate any advice you all could give me. My cell phone provider is Verizon if that helps. I am not a full-timer.

Thanks a lot, take care, be well!
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Old 02-15-2014, 09:53 PM   #11
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Hello from Colorado! I'm going to be teaching outdoor education for 3 months this summer in the Sawtooth Wilderness of Idaho...boondocking in a 2004, 16' Bambi. It's very remote and I'm not even sure that they have cell service there... I'm wondering what would be my best option to get internet? I do have generators for power. Would a satellite dish be an option? I apologize that I'm not familiar with a lot of technology options but would appreciate any advice you all could give me. My cell phone provider is Verizon if that helps. I am not a full-timer.

Thanks a lot, take care, be well!
It very much depends on just where you are in that vast area. Sometimes you can get cell reception and thus WiFi, but very often there is nothing at all available. There is no way to really predict it, you just have to go to the site and see. Verizon will have the best chance of service. But when reception is spotty, Verizon maps of service are questionable at best. If you can contact anyone at the location you will be set up in, ask them if they can go to the exact site and see if there is cell service available. If there is phone service you can have net service.

You can attempt to get Wild Blue (or Exceed) satellite service but it will be very expensive to have it set up for only a few months, if they will do it at all. I expect that Hughes Net satellite will have the same issues. You can contact them and find out their policy on short term services. You would also need access to the southern sky for reception.

Where I live a ways north of the Sawtooths, we have NO cell reception from any carrier at all. I use Wild Blue (Exceed) for my net, but I am at a fixed location and have service year around.
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Old 02-15-2014, 10:00 PM   #12
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Jill, you should check coverage maps for the various providers to see what they show for the area you will be in. I checked the general vicinity as I don't know where exactly you will be and it looks like verizon may have the best coverage, however there is a lot of area without service at all as you suspect. But take a look for your specific location to see.

Satellite is indeed an option however it will probably be expensive and may require a long term contract. I am not very familiar with those options. Take a look at hughesnet and dish also has a satellite Internet service. From what I seem to recall, and I could be wrong, the Dish service isn't really supposed to be a "mobile" option but depending on the terms it may work out for you in that specific location for a short term... Probably still quite expensive though.

Hughesnet I believe is more portable but it doesn't sound like you are interested in longer term service outside of this event. My guess is that it will be cost/terms prohibitive as well.

Getting equipped for satellite internet is going to likely be a big investment. Perhaps there are companies that provide short term rentals for setups and service - seems like there would be a market for that. But again, I wouldn't think it would be inexpensive.
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Old 02-15-2014, 11:54 PM   #13
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Bear in mind, cell service requires line-of-sight between you and the closest cell tower. Bad reception can sometimes be cured by means of an exterior antenna for your wireless broadband modem, placed as high as you can mount it. I have an exterior antenna for my Verizon Jetpack, that I mount to the roof of my Airstream Interstate. Having the antenna outside the metal box, and over 9 feet up in the air, sometimes makes the difference between no reception or poor reception, or between poor reception and good reception.
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Old 02-16-2014, 01:44 AM   #14
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See this very entertaining article on Riveted about satellite - been there, done that....

Getting Connected - Riveted

As for me, I picked a variant on option #4,:Verizon USB modem with external antenna, plugged into a PepWave Surf to Go access point. But JetPack is very attractive too. I chose the modem because I didn't need to sign a 2 year contract.
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