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What Is The Best Way To Stay Connected Online?


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#1 TBUTLER

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 09:57 AM

Do you have Internet in your RV or do you use Wi-Fi when available at parks, restaurants and stores? What is the best way to stay connected online?

This question came as a personal message to me from a new FMCA member. I am posting my answer as a way to offer up our solution to internet connections and to allow others to respond with their own ideas.

Probably the best internet solution is to have your own satellite connection. You can put a big dish on top of your rig and get a direct satellite link anywhere you go... but you have to be parked for it to work... and you have to have a big budget... I checked satellite connection prices and the units with installation run about $4000+... And the monthly rates seem to be static at about $100 per month. I don't have that kind of budget and I'm not running a commercial operation so can't justify that kind of expense. Also, the set up when you want to use the dish is more time consuming. The dish has to search to find the satellite and then establish a connection. Not convenient for a quick check of the weather while stopped at a highway rest stop.

So as you might guess, we don't have a satellite connection. Our own personal best solution is to use a combination of methods to access the internet. What works in one place may not work in another so we have:

1) cell modems, we use T-Mobile because their rates are lower (and they are slower than Verizon or AT&T), cell modems work on the go, you don't have to be parked. I can check the internet while driving down the road, even in some really unexpected places like I-80 in nowhere Nevada! The cell modem is our most useful and common connection, it seems to work almost everywhere. By the way, the Verizon and AT&T modems work at higher speeds but mostly in urban areas, you will likely find them running slower in many of the places RV'ers hang out. Their networks are getting more robust all the time but it is a slow process and they may never reach Yellowstone NP or Glacier NP! One big drawback is that we can't afford to use the cell modem in Canada. Rates for roaming in Canada are outrageous so we lose this form of connection when we are there and we sorely miss it.

2) wi-fi, we recently added external modems with higher power output and an enlarged antenna (see my post on the forum, Internet to go). Wi-fi is so much faster than cell modems that it is our preferred connection if we can get it. Since we have the cell modems we won't pay for wi-fi in parks unless the cell won't work there. The quality of wi-fi varies extremely from park to park. I don't see that changing any time in the future. Things will get better but you still find parks that have bad electricity so I'm sure their wi-fi will never be great. We pretty much ignore the wi-fi at restaurants, coffee shops, etc. When we use wi-fi it is usually in RV parks.

3) dial-up, we still maintain a dial-up account for those few places where neither the cell nor the wi-fi work. We use earthlink because it has so many local numbers available nationwide and we can get 800 service when necessary. We also like earthlink because it has a very effective screening process that has almost completely eliminated spam from our e-mail. We are encountering fewer and fewer places where dialing in is necessary. Still, I use the internet for all my financial activity, statements, payments, etc. so I can't afford to be stuck without service entirely for any length of time. When we started full timing almost eight years ago, this was our sole means of connecting. We got the cell modem about a year and a half later and about a year after that wi-fi began to become more common.

What does all this cost?

We are paying for two T-mobile modems, about $80 per month total, wi-fi is free when we can get it, the dial up account is about $20 per month, so we're spending the same $100 per month that the satellite service would cost, just haven't coughed up the $4000 for the initial equipment and installation. We could eliminate one of the T-mobile modems but since I went to Windows Vista, we haven't been able to link our two computers together for internet service through one modem. We used to be able to do this before I began using Vista. We could pass one modem back and forth but my wife uses her computer actively and she needs to be connected at will.

We have both become quite spoiled, being able to use our computers connected to the internet in the RV. We now find it tremendously inconvenient to have to leave the RV and go somewhere to get internet service.
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Tom and Louise Butler
2004 Monaco Windsor, Cummins 400 ISL
Roadmaster Sterling Tow Bar, Brakemaster, GMC Acadia, BikeE Recumbent Bicycles

After 9 1/2 years full time in our motor home and being Winter Texans we are now living at Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, Texas. Now we are Summer Chickens!

"The tipi is much better to live in; always clean and warm in winter, cool in summer, easy to move... If the Great Spirit wanted men to live in one place he would have made the world stand still." -- Flying Hawk, South Dakota Oglala Sioux


#2 ClayL

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 03:00 PM

Regarding the aircard (cell modem) - times have changed as far as Verizon goes. They have Broadband Rev A in West Yellowstone, Quartzite, and here in Lake Cascade ID.
In the last few years I have been impressed and pleased with the speed that Verizon has implemented the broadband network.
To be sure there are still a lot of places with the slower 1X but they are fewer by far than they used to be and we usually have broadband wherever we go.
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Clay (WA5NMR), Lee (Wife), katie & Kelli (cats)
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#3 Guest_Wayne77590_*

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 07:23 PM

I use an AT&T USB modem. I'm sitting here in Lunga Park, Quantico, and the signal strength is 1 bar, but I'm operating, and at 3G. I am literally 7.5 miles from civilization by road, and I expect the same as the bird flies. This is a very big military installation.

As Tom does, I use WiFi at CG's when it is available and free. On a couple of occasions I have used a pay as you go ISP when Cell or WiFi is not availale. It cost about $5 for the week. But if you are the type that sits and watches TV for 2 minutes and then back to the Internet, you need a stay-alive program to keep from being dropped out. You can usually set Thunderbird, or MS Outlook to query the server every couple minutes and that will keep it active.

My USB Cell cost $60 a month. I'm like Tom - just can't seem to want to put out four grand for a satellite system.

#4 TBUTLER

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 11:08 PM

Regarding the aircard (cell modem) - times have changed as far as Verizon goes. They have Broadband Rev A in West Yellowstone, Quartzite, and here in Lake Cascade ID.
In the last few years I have been impressed and pleased with the speed that Verizon has implemented the broadband network.
To be sure there are still a lot of places with the slower 1X but they are fewer by far than they used to be and we usually have broadband wherever we go.

I am pleased to see your report on the availability of the high speed Broadband Verizon network. I hope to see more reports indicating the strength of Verizon and AT&T networks. My T-Mobile contract is up in one year and I'll be ready to try another network if the coverage is good enough. Thanks for the input.
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Tom and Louise Butler
2004 Monaco Windsor, Cummins 400 ISL
Roadmaster Sterling Tow Bar, Brakemaster, GMC Acadia, BikeE Recumbent Bicycles

After 9 1/2 years full time in our motor home and being Winter Texans we are now living at Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, Texas. Now we are Summer Chickens!

"The tipi is much better to live in; always clean and warm in winter, cool in summer, easy to move... If the Great Spirit wanted men to live in one place he would have made the world stand still." -- Flying Hawk, South Dakota Oglala Sioux


#5 GeeksOnTour

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Posted 26 May 2009 - 11:24 PM

We just gave our 'High Speed Internet on the Road' seminar here at the Escapade. We always take a poll on what people are using. We're seeing fewer satellite users - although there have never been very many - and more cellular users. And, pretty much everyone uses Wi-Fi from time to time.

The people in the audience who used AT&T expressed disappointment in the coverage. Although we spoke with someone else outside of the seminar who said they had AT&T coverage everywhere they went. I guess these folks just don't travel in the same circles. Generally, happy Verizon users are the great majority.

I agree completely that, if you need the Internet, and you need it *everywhere*, you will use all three technologies. The satellite dish is the ultimate - we have the Datastorm. But that doesn't work in deep forests. Cellular is the only way to get online while you're driving. Wi-Fi, when it's good, is the best connection you can get.

You can get a cellular router and connect it to multiple data cards - one from each provider. Now you're talking!

There is also a new thing out there called Walkinghotspot.com which is quite magical. If you have the right kind of smart phone (Verizon not supported) with an unlimited data plan, you can download this software and your phone becomes a wireless router. You don't even have to tether it. Just run the walkinghotspot software and it will show up to your computer as a wireless network!
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#6 TBUTLER

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 09:05 AM

We just gave our 'High Speed Internet on the Road' seminar here at the Escapade. We always take a poll on what people are using. We're seeing fewer satellite users - although there have never been very many - and more cellular users. And, pretty much everyone uses Wi-Fi from time to time.

The people in the audience who used AT&T expressed disappointment in the coverage. Although we spoke with someone else outside of the seminar who said they had AT&T coverage everywhere they went. I guess these folks just don't travel in the same circles. Generally, happy Verizon users are the great majority.

I agree completely that, if you need the Internet, and you need it *everywhere*, you will use all three technologies. The satellite dish is the ultimate - we have the Datastorm. But that doesn't work in deep forests. Cellular is the only way to get online while you're driving. Wi-Fi, when it's good, is the best connection you can get.

You can get a cellular router and connect it to multiple data cards - one from each provider. Now you're talking!

There is also a new thing out there called Walkinghotspot.com which is quite magical. If you have the right kind of smart phone (Verizon not supported) with an unlimited data plan, you can download this software and your phone becomes a wireless router. You don't even have to tether it. Just run the walkinghotspot software and it will show up to your computer as a wireless network!

Now there is some real meat you can sink your teeth into. I'm on my way to walkinghotspot.com now.. See you laterrrr! Thanks for the great information!
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Tom and Louise Butler
2004 Monaco Windsor, Cummins 400 ISL
Roadmaster Sterling Tow Bar, Brakemaster, GMC Acadia, BikeE Recumbent Bicycles

After 9 1/2 years full time in our motor home and being Winter Texans we are now living at Sandpipers Resort in Edinburg, Texas. Now we are Summer Chickens!

"The tipi is much better to live in; always clean and warm in winter, cool in summer, easy to move... If the Great Spirit wanted men to live in one place he would have made the world stand still." -- Flying Hawk, South Dakota Oglala Sioux


#7 mumsymum

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 12:19 PM

Hi:

I have found a way to create a wireless network in our motorhome, using a linksys wireless router and a ATT 3-G air card.

I am using a ATT 881 G-3 air card and a Linksys model #WRT54G3G-AT. This is very effective. We have service going down the road. I also installed a Wilson truckers cell antenna with a Wilson PCS824-894/1850-1990mhz amplifier that transmits a signal inside of your coach. We have mostly 5 bars from that unit. This allows both me and my wife to use the internet at the same time. She has a Apple and I use a Dell. Hope this helps. Also ATT does not support this use.

Dale & Molly Hannon
Yakima Washington
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#8 GeeksOnTour

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 01:05 PM

There's another new way to create a wireless hotspot in your RV using your Verizon data service. It's a device called the MiFi and it is like a card and a router all in one. It looks pretty cool. Check it out at Verizon.
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Jim and Chris Guld
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#9 byronlandry

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 02:04 PM

Hello to all
We have an automatic Datastorm Internet system on top of our coach.
If you are going to actively manage your checking, trading, bank accounts or pay bills online, we highly recommend having a Datastorm system that is WPA encrypted. We are wireless as well.
The pros are access anywhere you have a view of the Southern sky within the contiguous states. If you go into Canada or Alaska, you would have to change satellites. You can be out in Death Valley or out in New Mexico in isolated areas, you will get Internet.
The ease of pushing one button and within 4 - 5 minutes you will be on the Internet, so we do connect at rest stops for lunch. You have to be stationary to use this system. You can also buy several levels of service of which the monthly fees can be as low as $80/mo to $100/mo.
The cons of this system is that it does not always want to work because, a wire giggled loose going down the road, HugesNet changes your transponder without telling you, trees have blocked the GPS signal that is needed to locate
you on the face of the Earth or the modem gets confused once in awhile. Most of the time, it's a wire that has worked loose out of one of the connectors. Also, the $4000 purchase and installation price is steep, but if you get a good installer and provider, this system is worth it.
This system requires you to be somewhat savy on how it works. MotoSat does hold seminars that you can attend to help you understand how to troubleshoot the system and to understand how it works.
We love the system, but it can be frustrating to you when it doesn't work and you expect it to work, but that can and does sound like cellular service, doesn't it, especially if you are out of cell tower range.
Safe driving to all
Don't forget to stand up for America :rolleyes:
Byron & Linda Landry
Fulltimers
04 Newmar Mtn. Aire
08 Jeep Liberty
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#10 mumsymum

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 03:25 PM

Question?? Have you ever exceeded their fair access code? When you do they shut you down for 24 hours. It can only be a download for a security thing from Microsoft. They don't advertize this.
Dale Hannon
canman8843@yahoo.com

Hello to all
We have an automatic Datastorm Internet system on top of our coach.
If you are going to actively manage your checking, trading, bank accounts or pay bills online, we highly recommend having a Datastorm system that is WPA encrypted. We are wireless as well.
The pros are access anywhere you have a view of the Southern sky within the contiguous states. If you go into Canada or Alaska, you would have to change satellites. You can be out in Death Valley or out in New Mexico in isolated areas, you will get Internet.
The ease of pushing one button and within 4 - 5 minutes you will be on the Internet, so we do connect at rest stops for lunch. You have to be stationary to use this system. You can also buy several levels of service of which the monthly fees can be as low as $80/mo to $100/mo.
The cons of this system is that it does not always want to work because, a wire giggled loose going down the road, HugesNet changes your transponder without telling you, trees have blocked the GPS signal that is needed to locate
you on the face of the Earth or the modem gets confused once in awhile. Most of the time, it's a wire that has worked loose out of one of the connectors. Also, the $4000 purchase and installation price is steep, but if you get a good installer and provider, this system is worth it.
This system requires you to be somewhat savy on how it works. MotoSat does hold seminars that you can attend to help you understand how to troubleshoot the system and to understand how it works.
We love the system, but it can be frustrating to you when it doesn't work and you expect it to work, but that can and does sound like cellular service, doesn't it, especially if you are out of cell tower range.
Safe driving to all
Don't forget to stand up for America :rolleyes:
Byron & Linda Landry
Fulltimers
04 Newmar Mtn. Aire
08 Jeep Liberty


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#11 mountngoat

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 11:34 AM

We are away from home in our MH about 4 months per year. We've found libraries offer the best free places. Free WiFi and often a desk and air conditioning. Like you imply, we've found the coffee places a bust. The signal amplifier souds like a good idea.
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#12 Springtime

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 04:22 PM

We are Canadians who spend 6 months over the winter in the U.S. and 6 months over the summer in Canada. We managed to get a Verizon wireless modem (cell technology) in spite of the fact that all other providers refused us because we have no U.S. social security number. Thanks to Verizon for not being discriminatory. We travelled from Arizona cross country to Ontario, Canada without experiencing any difficulties getting a signal. The only exception was deep in the hills of West Virginia where we had no signal for either cell or internet. Monthly rate is $59.95 for 5 Gig. Verizon allows a "no billing" suspension of 6 months per year with a $15 reconnect fee.

The Canadian equivalent is a USB modem provided by either Bell and Rogers. Rogers has better coverage and a stronger signal. The Rogers Rocket Stick is available free with a 2 year contract or $24.95 for a 1 year contract. It is also available without a contract but costs $199. Monthly charges begin at $30 and escalate to $65 depending on your download usage. There is no suspension allowed, but the early cancellation fee is based on the number of months remaining in the contract, to a maximum of $100, which is less than purchasing the modem without a contract. When we leave for the U.S. in the fall I will cancel Rogers and pay the cancellation fee. Next year when we return, I will reconnect on a pay-as-you-go monthly basis as I now own the Rogers Rocket Stick.

Having both providers is the solution for us as we spend our time in both countries. Be careful of roaming charges which are totally unreasonable. In conversation with both Verizon and Rogers, they agree that with roaming, you could easily run up a monthly bill of $1,500 or more.

We still use WiFi where it is free and stronger than our Rogers signal. We found Verizon to be a strong signal overall, however Rogers tends to be a bit weak the farther we get from urban areas. I still get a Rogers signal in our park south of Guelph, Ontario, but I have spoken to other RV'ers in our park who cannot get a signal with their Bell cell phone.

Norman & Monika Wise
Emerald Lake, Ontario (for the summer)
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#13 Springtime

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Posted 03 June 2009 - 04:22 PM

We are Canadians who spend 6 months over the winter in the U.S. and 6 months over the summer in Canada. We managed to get a Verizon wireless modem (cell technology) in spite of the fact that all other providers refused us because we have no U.S. social security number. Thanks to Verizon for not being discriminatory. We travelled from Arizona cross country to Ontario, Canada without experiencing any difficulties getting a signal. The only exception was deep in the hills of West Virginia where we had no signal for either cell or internet. Monthly rate is $59.95 for 5 Gig. Verizon allows a "no billing" suspension of 6 months per year with a $15 reconnect fee.

The Canadian equivalent is a USB modem provided by either Bell and Rogers. Rogers has better coverage and a stronger signal. The Rogers Rocket Stick is available free with a 2 year contract or $24.95 for a 1 year contract. It is also available without a contract but costs $199. Monthly charges begin at $30 and escalate to $65 depending on your download usage. There is no suspension allowed, but the early cancellation fee is based on the number of months remaining in the contract, to a maximum of $100, which is less than purchasing the modem without a contract. When we leave for the U.S. in the fall I will cancel Rogers and pay the cancellation fee. Next year when we return, I will reconnect on a pay-as-you-go monthly basis as I now own the Rogers Rocket Stick.

Having both providers is the solution for us as we spend our time in both countries. Be careful of roaming charges which are totally unreasonable. In conversation with both Verizon and Rogers, they agree that with roaming, you could easily run up a monthly bill of $1,500 or more.

We still use WiFi where it is free and stronger than our Rogers signal. We found Verizon to be a strong signal overall, however Rogers tends to be a bit weak the farther we get from urban areas. I still get a Rogers signal in our park south of Guelph, Ontario, but I have spoken to other RV'ers in our park who cannot get a signal with their Bell cell phone.

Norman & Monika Wise
Emerald Lake, Ontario (for the summer)
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#14 dfstarr

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 10:24 AM

I have absolutely loved my DataStorm Sateliite for the past 5 years. I do see that I do not need to use it as oftern as I did a few years ago. But because of my full time job, I MUST be able to receive the Internet where ever I overnight. The DataStorm assures me that luxury.

As a software supplier to Verizon, AT&T and Sprint Nextel, I am made aware of more third party Independent evaluations of the top 3 Carriers 3G (Third Generation) coverage for Broadband. The facts are that Sprint Nextel and Verizon have almost three times the 3G Geographical coverage of AT&T within the United States. AT&T's claim of more coverage in more places has to do with the fact that they operate on the GSM platform also used in Europe and many parts of the world. Verizon and Sprint uses CDMA. Their phones do not work abroad.

Sprint Nextel is slightly ahead of Verizon on 3G broadband coverage, quality of connection and signal strength. Verizon is a close 2nd. Sprint Nextel has about 95% of the Fortune 500 as customers. One major reason is the speed and dependability of their data network and their focus on business, Public Safety and Government accounts. Ask an AT&T user if they like their iphone, and they love it, they just don't like the AT&T 3G coverage. Verizon will probably be selling their Apple iphone by Christmas of 2010. Sprint launches their "iphone killer" the Palm Pre on June 6th. Sprint had a terrrible 2007 and 2008 for poor customer service. 2009 has seen a significant turn around with many new accoplades for Customer Service evaluations by thrid parties. Verizon too has very good customer service. AT&T is fighting to keep their network on pace with the incredible customer growth caused by the popularity of the their exclusive carrier designation for the Apple iPhone. Their President acknowledges they have a way to go.

My suggestion would be to buy Sprint Nextel or Verizon for your aircard or USB Internet connection. You might also consider a wireless router for your motor home so both you and your spouse can use you laptops at the same time. If you absolutely MUST have Internet coverage no matter where you go, you need to spend the money on the Hughes MotoSat system. Find a dealer or more information at www.datastormusers.com. More about Verizon, Sprint and AT&T Aircards or USB 3G for your laptop at: www.rv-wireless.com, Sprint.com, Verizon.com or AT&T Wireless.com
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#15 JackNichols

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 12:56 AM

Hi:

I have found a way to create a wireless network in our motorhome, using a linksys wireless router and a ATT 3-G air card.

I am using a ATT 881 G-3 air card and a Linksys model #WRT54G3G-AT. This is very effective. We have service going down the road. I also installed a Wilson truckers cell antenna with a Wilson PCS824-894/1850-1990mhz amplifier that transmits a signal inside of your coach. We have mostly 5 bars from that unit. This allows both me and my wife to use the internet at the same time. She has a Apple and I use a Dell. Hope this helps. Also ATT does not support this use.

Dale & Molly Hannon
Yakima Washington

I use much the same system as the Mums, with ATT, and it enables me to have cell and air card five bar service in an area that had only one to no bars before I installed the Wilson amp. I would have gone to Verizon if necessary, but since I was already on board with ATT tried this method. In this place, in this instance, it works very well. Something to try, to keep from buying new phones and air cards.
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Jack Nichols

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#16 Smoker

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 05:55 PM

Tom. Your the best. The info you provided on internet and i traveling is awesome. Thanks
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#17 CalvinBJr

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 02:50 PM

Coming Soon to an RV near you: Verizon Wireless 4G LTE

Verizon Wireless will be the first company in the U.S. -- and among the first in the world -- to deploy LTE with a sizeable footprint. Verizon Wireless will launch a 4G LTE network late in 2010 covering approximately 100 million people; then double that in 2012, then cover their entire existing 3G footprint with 4G LTE by the end of 2013.

Verizon Wireless plans to utilize their nationwide, contiguous 700 MHz spectrum to deploy 4G LTE. This spectrum covers the entire lower 48 states and Hawaii, and gives customers the nationwide bandwidth and coverage they need, when and where they need it.

The Verizon Wireless™ 4G LTE network will be backward-compatible with the existing 3G network. That means the two networks will co-exist and services will be integrated between LTE and our 3G Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) Rev. A network.

The main advantages with LTE are high throughput, low latency, plug and play, an improved end-user experience and a simple architecture resulting in low operating costs. LTE will also support seamless passing to cell towers with older network technology such as GSM, cdmaOne, W-CDMA (UMTS), and CDMA2000. The next step for LTE evolution is LTE Advanced and is currently being standardized in 3GPP Release 10.

The performance and capabilities of 4G LTE will be unmatched in the marketplace, allowing customers to do things never before possible in a wireless environment. Consider some of the advantages that Verizon Wireless'™ implementation of 4G LTE will provide: higher data rates, nationwide coverage, better performance, and greater security.
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#18 Guest_BillAdams_*

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 08:57 PM

Coming Soon to an RV near you: Verizon Wireless 4G LTE <BR><BR>Verizon Wireless will be the first company in the U.S. â€" and among the first in the world â€" to deploy LTE with a sizeable footprint. Verizon Wireless will launch a 4G LTE network late in 2010 covering approximately 100 million people; then double that in 2012, then cover their entire existing 3G footprint with 4G LTE by the end of 2013. <BR><BR>Verizon Wireless plans to utilize their nationwide, contiguous 700 MHz spectrum to deploy 4G LTE. This spectrum covers the entire lower 48 states and Hawaii, and gives customers the nationwide bandwidth and coverage they need, when and where they need it.<BR><BR>Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE network will be backward-compatible with the existing 3G network. That means the two networks will co-exist and services will be integrated between LTE and our 3G Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) Rev. A network. <BR><BR>The main advantages with LTE are high throughput, low latency, plug and play, an improved end-user experience and a simple architecture resulting in low operating costs. LTE will also support seamless passing to cell towers with older network technology such as GSM, cdmaOne, W-CDMA (UMTS), and CDMA2000. The next step for LTE evolution is LTE Advanced and is currently being standardized in 3GPP Release 10.<BR><BR>The performance and capabilities of 4G LTE will be unmatched in the marketplace, allowing customers to do things never before possible in a wireless environment. Consider some of the advantages that Verizon Wireless' implementation of 4G LTE will provide: higher data rates, nationwide coverage, better performance, and greater security.

<BR>Nice copy and paste of a Verizon press release. I may not have any foundation in reality but it sure does sound good, huh!

#19 GeeksOnTour

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 09:43 AM

O' ye of little faith, Bill. :rolleyes:
It may not be to that time frame, but 4G is here. Can 5G be far behind?
When we started this adventure seven years ago, cellular Internet was not an option. Satellite was the only way to be connected reliably. It still is. But, cellular is the way to go for most travelers today. Verizon is still the best choice for best overall coverage, based on our unscientific polls.
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#20 RVRoadster

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 01:04 PM

I teach online for a community college, and daily access to the Internet is not a luxury, it's a necessity. Seven years ago, staying connected was a nightmare. I depended on dial-up or the infrequent wireless connection at RV parks--but more often than not, sought out Panera Bread (free wireless access but with sometimes spotty results) and community libraries. After a long day on the road, heading to the library took precedent over happy hour--we were not happy campers, to say the least.

Four years ago, I purchased Verizon's air card, only to find that the further away from the really big cities we got (we got no service in Texas), the less chance there was I'd get online using my air card. Even worse, I was forced to accept a year's contract for the card. When we returned home from the four-month summer trip, we tried to cancel with no penalty since the card was not working as the Verizon salesperson had assured us it would, but Verizon was unsympathetic. We were charged a penalty, cancelled the air card, and were left with a BAD taste in our mouths. (We actually were also charged for cell phone overages because I was on the cell phone to the Verizon tech support so often--and even the techs couldn't help.)

Last summer, I dispensed with a summer teaching contract becasuse we traveled to Alaska, and I didn't want to invite trouble.

This summer, we are traveling mostly in the lower 48, and I thought I'd upgrade to the Droid and tether my computer to it for wireless service when necessary. Unfortunately, we weren't eligible for an upgrade; I decided to wait. Instead, we purchased the newest Verizon aircard--a 5 G deal with the ability (so they say; we haven't done this yet) to suspend service when we return home and have our own home-based wireless service.

I have been immensely pleased. It has consistently provided me with service, even when I've barely had a bar. I am using a fairly new (2009 vintage HP Pavilion laptop with built in wireless card) and they both seem to have no trouble hooking me up to my classroom.

I feel very safe in recommending the aircard--especially the one with the ability to suspend service and then re-instate it when needed.

Verizon, too, has become a more sympathetic company to deal with. I unwittingly used the air card while in Alberta, Canada, a few weeks ago and wracked up $400 in international charges in one night by "Skypping" my daughters. I thought I was saving money by using the air card since we don't have international cell phone coverage. I slept on that idea overnight and awoke the next morning in a panic. I called Verizon and told them what had happended. They told me I could put the air card on international service ($129 instead of $59 a month) and rolled back the start date to include the Skyppe phone call. The $400 charge became a pro-rated $10 charge, to my great relief (I did not want to explain that one to my husband!). Then, when we left Canada, we called again and got the service changed back to the domestic contract. The data usage for the international service will again be pro-rated on my next bill, I've been assured.

While I'm now eligible for the Droid upgrade, I'm thinking I might wait that one out since the air card is working so well.
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