There are some info-rich techie conversations going on about how to stay online while traveling (long-term) and I thought I'd offer some summaries here (these are from another list I'm on . . . I've been given permission to share excerpts):
I did find out (at Best Buy) that because I own a business I can get a (Verizon) device that gives me unlimited internet access for $50/month.
Also for tech savvy folks ... We were looking at having our laptop for email, internet, online educational games, downloading movies, and from time to time watching hulu. We'd also like to get something ( ipod? ) to download our music onto so that we can pack up our CDs into storage. GPS capability would also be good. So the guy was telling us to get a "smart phone" and also an ipod. And that the smartphone works for GPS even without a data plan??...
If anyone can clarify some of this that would be great! We want to have the minimal amount of devices necessary but get all the functions that we need. I'm not sure he (the Best Buy associate) understood that.
. . . (named removed) uses a Verizon card and is very limited on where she can use it. If you are in a town with no cell coverage then you also have no internet.
I didn't think verizon had an unlimited data plan for air cards anymore. i believe it is 5 gig a month, and if your online for more than the average browsing and email, you will quickly exceed that, and the overage charges are fairly astronomical. most movies are in the 5 gig range and up. i do believe that in order to use gps you need to pay for the service, or a data plan.
you could get a tom tom for around $100 at walmart though, and it will work any where you go, not just in cell coverage area.
the ipod is definitely a good idea for consolidating you music collection. you can keep a copy of all your music on your pc, and then sinc it to your ipod in several different methods, such as setting up different albums by gendre, etc.
if you plan on staying close to town or interstates, the air card would definitely be a viable solution for you, but you'll have to give up the movie downloads. If you plan on going to a lot of "back woods country", then the only real viable solution for someone who MUST be online at all times, would be satellite internet.
We have an AT&T unlimited aircard that runs $59 a mo. We went to Best Buy and purchased a Cradlepoint Wireless Router for approx. $279. This is a wireless router and is used with the USB aircard. We plug our AT&T aircard into it and all three of us use our laptops continuously. We only pay for the aircard service. There is no monthly charge attached to the Cradlepoint.
We recently had to replace our AT&T card. The employees at AT&T were very interested in this wireless router as they had never heard of one. Every one took down the name "Cradlepoint" and had me explain in detail how we use it for all our laptops.
We bought an Alltell card because it was unlimited where Verizon was not. Now all is Verizon, so not sure how that's going to work out. But service-wise it has been good. We have used it all over--out in the boonies etc. As long as we have cell signal, we get internet. And the speed is reasonable -- you won't get gray hair waiting for a picture to load. But probably wouldnt want to watch tv. Faster than dial up, but slower than cable.
We have our Alltel (now Verizon) aircard plugged into a Cradlepoint MBR1000. That lets our laptops and the printer connect wirelessly. When we have to move a lot of data in a hurry, like backing up the hard drive or ripping a DVD to the media server, we also can make a wired connection. The Cradlepoint has a place to plug in a wired output, and we feed that to a switched hub that runs wires everywhere.
Alltel had the last unlimited data plan I was able to find, and I looked hard. They've been absorbed by Verizon, and I worry that they will slam me into a limited plan. For new subscribers, I'll be very surprised if you can get more than 5 GB a month. However, they have a new "4G" aircard that they are test marketing in selected cities like Baltimore. I hear that card in that market has an unlimited option. The Verizon staff I spoke to were confused about how unlimited it was. Some said it was unlimited all the time, and others said it was only unlimited within range of the fancy new cell towers.
Oh, and one more detail. My legacy Alltel plan was $100 a month (yow!) but included Canada as well as the continental US. Since I'm in Saskatchewan at the moment, that makes a big difference.
(we) found that Verizon has a 5G cap, (same with AT&T) which not even all the people who work at Verizon or Best Buy or any other stores know... Always, always read the contracts, as the fine print will always show that... even if some employee says "OH, yes, of course it's unlimited!"... LOL... they'll tell you what you want to hear.
From another group I moderate on, (w/ 5K members), the overwhelming majority use Alltel as they truly are unlimited. Verizon did not totally buy out Verizon... Verizon only bought certian markets of Alltel. Here is the link to see if you're still Alltel or not. http://solutions.vzwshop.com/alltel/
The folks on my other groups have also stated that Verizon doesn't always work well if you're "out in the boonies" a ways, & I know for a fact that up in the mountains of (Rocky Mountain zone) where our new homebase is, Alltel is the *only* one that works up there. Verizon, net10, tracfone, none of the others work up there.
We also have a member who uses 2 of the 5G usb "cards", as his business is computer related, & he found out what it cost one time when he went over the 5G limit. (*OUCH* big time!!! LOL) He has both a Verizon & an AT&T card... uses them both so as to avoid the outrageous over charges.
Now, the only satellite internet I'm familiar with is Wild Blue, which is what we currently have, & they do have limits... we have the 12G limit, which is $79.95 a month. We do alot of our education online, & download some music & youtube videos.
As you've heard, the cell carriers are beginning to (or, have already) limit bandwidth to 5GB down each month. Satellite providers will give you more bandwidth beginning at the entry-level plan. Some providers are NOT mobile (Wild Blue, for example, is spot-beam). There are satellite providers that will allow you to download unlimited amounts but, you'll pay for the service (minimum $170/mo for the service).
The options are out there. The trick is to decide what you need:
bandwidth/volume per day/month
availability where you'll be using it
portability or whether it can move with you
cost per month (and per KB, if appropriate)
and accessibility for your users.
There is no unlimted plan no matter how many people call it that. AT+T, Sprint, Verison etc. are all limited to 5G. They say unlimited but look at the paperwork and don't trust the salesman who only knows SALES. People who claim it is unlimited just have never pushed it's limits.
That said we had At+T and took it back because the coverage was not very reliable where we were. We have had our Verison for about 2 years now and love it. If you do not have coverage with it then most likely you are not going to have coverage.
We have traveled across the US and have been very happy with our coverage and service. (I chat online while hubby is driving all the time and play games with no problem)
We have a router where all 4 of our laptops can be on at one time and have twice gone over our 5G but that was because Hubby was doing huge files for work and the kids were watching cartoons with live streaming online! You can keep track of you usage with the card easily with the program you put on your computer for it.
We changed to a new sattelite called idirect and we pay $99 a month. It is truly unlimited. We can download to our hearts content. We have coverage where ever we go (unless in dense trees). Even if we do not have cell coverage.
It looks like if you are a business owner and have a business tax id number then you can get the Sprint Unlimited Data plan for $49.03 per month. This plan WAS open to anyone but the network was getting too much activity so now they are limiting it to businesses. The salesperson believes this will be for a limited time and that the unlimited plan may only run for about 4 years. It's a 2-year contract to sign-up and you can get either a USB data card for free or a mi-fi for $100. (Both come with free GPS)
Everyone else does cap but some allow you to go up to say 10GB instead of 5GB for more money.
We just can't decide if we should get the data card which allows one person at a time to go online or the mi-fi which allows up to 5 devices. Our kids are small so we don't have a lot of gadgets. I'm not sure if we'll have a use for that with only 1 laptop.
I also think we might go with the ipod for our music. The smartphones can hold the music but then we have to pay a different data plan for the phone in addition to the talk minutes and separate from the laptop. It just seems like a lot of gadgets... and money... My husband says that the iphone would be great for us if we were college kids but isn't sure how practical it would be to us now - monthly cost being a big factor.
Thanks! This is probably the biggest decision we have to make in regards to getting on the road. We've been on the road before but this was back quite a few years now and technology has come a long way. We also have to be sure we can do everything we need to do (online) while on the road. (Download movies, go online, work using internet & programs, email, and homeschool)
. . . as a current Sprint phone customer I will warn you that very often we are in roam areas. Sprint is not everywhere. When you are in roam you will get charged roam rates even on the internet. The data is different than phone service. You can get roam minutes free through Sprint but that will not cover roam usage with the aircard.
Also the GPS on the smart phone ... We had that on our Palm Treo phone through Sprint. The screen is very tiny and hard to see while driving. Also if you go out of cell service you have no GPS.
We got our TomTom at Walmart for about $100. Well worth it to us. The screen is bigger and we do not have to keep resetting it as we go in and out of service while driving. Just some things to think about from our experiences with Sprint cell service (we have ben Sprint customers for over 12 yrs).
The ipod is a smart choice. We have a couple and love them. You can get a device on ebay for about $30 that will enable you to plug the ipod into the car cigarette lighter and use through the fm stereo. This allows everyone in the vehicle to listen to the music. This has been great for us while driving far ... we do not have to search for radio stations or fumble with cd's. You can get the iPod Nano 4GB on Ebay fairly cheap now. The 4GB will hold up to 1000 songs!! I have 769 songs on mine and that will last us a couple days if we do not skip songs.
We purchased a TracFone (pay by the phone call cheap phone at WalMart). It ran $29 and we paid $50 for prepaid calls. This little phone runs off of different towers such as Verizon, Sprint and others. So when we are not in an AT&T area, we have an emergency back up phone. There is no monthly charge. Talking on it is like talking on a high quality phone. Maybe we just got lucky on that issue. There are a lot of pre-pay phones around; but, we were told that the TracFone is the only one that runs off of multiple towers from different companies.
Thank you all for your responses. It was really helpful. We did our research today. Yes, really- for a limited time Sprint is offering an unlimited plan for businesses only. So if any of you have a buiness & a FEIN number, you may want to consider. It is a limited time offer, though.
We will most likely end up with different devices such as an ipod for music and a separate GPS rather than a phone that does it all. Paying a single price rather than monthly is much more budget friendly. I only wish they had those smartphones when I was in college. I think that would have been great! Oh well.. LOL. Also thank you for the suggestion of the router. That'll work for us! Can anyone tell me which devices offer the choice of vehicle? We had a tomtom one and it did not.
Has anyone tried the new phone gizmo that is out there? It's a home phone thru your internet and runs $30 for the year? It actually plugs into your computer and you plug your phone into it? Looked pretty neat.
Does anyone TIVO? I am wondering if we can do that when traveling if we are not always tied into cable... Oh well- no huge loss if we can't. We're not big TV people.
You can get DVR's from DISH/DirecTV just as folks are able to use TIVO's on cable. We have one for DirecTV that works great - when we're in range of the satellite (101 West). Hard to see from (somewhere in Alaska) But, when it works, we record all our Stargate SG-1, Discovery Channel, and other cool shows to watch later.
Speaking of watching tv in general, what are all the options available? We have just been using our antennae or plugging cable in if an rv park has it, but hockey and good tv is starting up soon and I'd like to be able to watch it We would like to avoid having to shell out thousands of dollars to get a fancy satellite dish for the top of the trailer. Watching online is an option, however we are not always in a place with good signal, so I'd prefer to do something that is not reliant on that. Please enlighten me
Alert! At a quarter to seven this morning, local time, I got a call from Verizon telling me that my plan did NOT cover Canada after all, and I was about to be socked with huge roaming charges. After 40 minutes of insisting, they finally admitted that I did indeed have a plan that included unlimited data and unlimited roaming in the US and Canada. We'll see...
Alas, my voice handset does not have unlimited roaming in Canada, and it cost me 79 cents a minute to argue with them. My alert daughter suggested there might be a bright side if the roaming charges were in Canadian dollars. I was sad to tell her that no, they were in US dollars.
All you former Alltel customers who were absorbed by Verizon, be warned. You may be slammed into another plan without warning.
Our TomTom brand CPS gives us the options of vehicles. I think we had to use the code that comes with it for a free upgrade that you do online.
We have a sattelite phone that we use through our internet when we are not in cell coverage. It works great. As far as using a house phone plugged into the computer I think it woulkd work the same way. My husband says that they can run you anywhere from $30 a year to $30 a month depending on who you go with.
He also says to warn you that Skype is in legal battles right now and there may not be a Skype in a year.
I have a Blackberry Curve, 500 anytime minutes, unlimited nights & weekends, free mobile to mobile, free unlimited to 5 other numbers of my choosing, unlimited internet/email, & best of all, I can tether it to my laptop, no extra charges, either.
Your computer-based phone service may or may not work well - depending on the speed/stability of your connection.
Home WAN connections are typically MUCH faster than what you'll see on the road when you're away from the major metropolitan centers, tourist destinations, and most major interstates. If you're WIFI is fast enough, not burdened by everyone else in the park, and their broadband connection is stable/without jitter, then you're computer-based phone service (hardware or software) will work fine. However, you are at the mercy of the particular network you happen upon at each location.
If you simply have to be online no matter what, a satellite connection with a service like Skype will work - so long as you do not call 888/877 conferencing numbers. Skype has an issue calling some numbers. It's best to get a trial run in before spending money on a phone number.
Personally, we use both an aircard in a router (KR2), satellite with VOIP line (F2 with iDirect/AtContact/Viper), and cell phones (Sprint everything plan) to ensure voice and data for my job. The hardware we have allows us to be online anywhere in the lower 48, Canada, and Alaska. Since it's for my job (they do not pay for it), the extra cost is a necessity for us. If you're requirements will allow a phone call from a pay phone or, after driving a bit to get into cell range, then you're solution would be MUCH less expensive. Likewise your data needs.
If you can wait to get online at a destination, then you can choose much lower priced options.