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Old 17-02-2010, 13:30   #1
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Telephone and Internet

We will be cruising between Tampa and Brunswick, GA during March getting the boat home for provisioning and moving aboard. We will not be on the ICW anymore than we have to. We want to be able to use our computer via cell phone reception. I have an iPhone and she has a Blackberry with Altel.

In April we will leave for the BVI. I have a computer card that I used with CCT in November and will reactivate it when we get there.

What do you all do for internet when wifi is not available?
Thanks
Jeff
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Old 17-02-2010, 17:20   #2
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You can pretty much guarantee that WiFi will rarely be available. What you need to do is tether your Blackberry and iPhone to your laptop so you can get it online. Most Blackberry's are very good at this - make sure you have a data plan on the Blackberry - most do. There should be a huge amount of information around about how to tether a Blackberry.

For the iPhone, you'll need to jailbreak it and then run something like PDANet ($30) - which is a one-time charge for the software. With that, you can tether your laptop over WiFi to the iPhone to get on the internet. That works very well.

Having the ability to use both phones would give you both a GSM (AT&T) and CDMA (Altel) connection covering both types of networks. We have AT&T and Verizon onboard for the same reason and it works really well. When one is weak, the other is strong.
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Old 17-02-2010, 18:27   #3
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I use an HSPA USB aircard from Sierra. With some companies the data on an aircard is cheaper then data on a phone on the same network.
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Old 17-02-2010, 18:35   #4
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With some companies the data on an aircard is cheaper then data on a phone on the same network.
Ahhh...but there's a subtle difference. In order to cancel your aircard, you need to cancel the contract and pay a termination payment - usually $175. You can turn on and off the data plan for a phone as you want without any fee or payment.

The iPhone is different but it has a very inexpensive data plan/package.
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Old 17-02-2010, 18:39   #5
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I use a mobile telephone SIM card in a USB dongle, with phone account with unlimited data plan. It works pretty well where we cruise. I am in the process of improving the range of this system by installing a WiFi antenna at the masthead (or thereabouts), connected to a fixed terminal (Option Globesurfer) connected to a WiFi router which will allow anyone on the boat to connect and share the connection. With this setup I reckon we will have a connection anywhere within a few miles of land.

Data speed on a 3G connection is somewhat slower than real broadband, but much faster than dialup used to be. It is quite satisfactory for e-mail and ordinary web browsing (it's a little slow for downloading movies or watching youtube). HSDPA available in some areas (3.5G) is pretty much like your DSL line at home.
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Old 17-02-2010, 19:23   #6
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Read the rates if you are travelling out of your providers area. My rates are really expensive in Canada, outrageously expensive in the states and call the broker and sell all the stocks expensive anywhere else. However the speed is good and so is the coverage.
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Old 17-02-2010, 20:16   #7
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Jeff-any idea of how the speed compares between a tethered blackberry and an aircard? I understand that it varies depending on the connection and all that, but everything else being equal is a tethered blackberry the same speed as an aircard?

We've had an AT&T dataplan with an aircard for years. We use it on the boat, driving back and forth to the boat, etc. Works great in Georgia and along the Florida Panhandle. We also have a couple blackberrys but have never tried to tether them because (1) I'm lazy and a little dense, and (2) I had heard they were kinda slow.

If you are headed to the Bahamas, I expect you to report back on the availablity and cost of data plans/aircards/tethered blackberrys through BTC. Looking at their website, data plans are pretty reasonable. Which means there must be a catch.
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Old 17-02-2010, 20:46   #8
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Jeff-any idea of how the speed compares between a tethered blackberry and an aircard?
It solely depends on the radio of the aircard and Blackberry. If they are of the same spec, there is no loss of speed due to tethering. If the aircard is a newer revision of the hardware, it will be faster. For CDMA/Verizon, EV-DO Rev A is the latest version and fastest. Altel should have that too.

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I understand that it varies depending on the connection and all that, but everything else being equal is a tethered blackberry the same speed as an aircard?
Yeah - again, assuming they are of the same spec. It's easily possible to have a hot new aircard and a very old Blackberry that will differ in speed just because the Blackberry doesn't support the newer, faster bandwidth. If both are pretty new, they'll be identical.


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We also have a couple blackberrys but have never tried to tether them
Definitely try it on land before you're in the boat. I'm pretty sure that you should be able to get all the software for the BB for free and use your existing USB cable. It should be a pretty simple thing to set up.


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If you are headed to the Bahamas, I expect you to report back on the availablity and cost of data plans/aircards/tethered blackberrys through BTC. Looking at their website, data plans are pretty reasonable. Which means there must be a catch.
The Bahamas is a whole different matter. We have an article in our site in the Articles/Mobile Phones on Boats section all about the Bahamas and the issues you need to think about. There are a ton of issues...and none of them are good (or cheap).
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Old 18-02-2010, 06:23   #9
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Thanks Jeff, We'll try the blackberry tethering thing for sure. If it works well, it would save the cost of the aircard.

The phone articles on your website are excellent. The one thing I have not been able to find out yet is how BTC charges for data service. For example, with our AT&T service, our data plan for the aircard is unlimited for $60 mo (I dont think they offer these anymore - these days its $60/mo for 5gb which might as well be unlimited).

On the blackberrys, there is a data plan (5gb I think) and also a minutes plan (I cant remember how many - more than I ever use). My understanding is that the minutes are only used when making phone calls. We can use the data plan to surf the internet, check email, etc without using any minutes.

BTC's website shows post paid service plans with various rates for minutes with an unlimited data package add on for 24.99. What I am curious about is, for example, can we sign up for a 100 minute plan at 19.99 per month, add an unlimited data plan for 24.99 per month, and truly get unlimited data like we do here in the states?

In other words, if this works, we would could tether the blackberry to the laptop and be able to connect to the internet anywhere we could get BTC gsm phone service and get unlimited internet access for $45/mo.

Or does the time spent connected to the internet count against your minutes as well? Which means that the data is unlimited, but the connection time is limited to 100 minutes (or however many minutes are in the plan).

If this works, it would be much cheaper ($45 month) and far more available than wifi.

For that matter, does BTC offer data only plans for aircards?

I know BTC's gsm network is pretty new. I was hoping that we would hear back from some folks after this season in the Bahamas.
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Old 18-02-2010, 06:39   #10
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"Minutes" have nothing to do with data throughput for BTC. I don't know anyplace that ties minutes to data any longer (Verizon used to have a digital plan that used voice minutes for data connect time).

The US is unique with its incredibly generous unlimited (5 GB) data plans. It's quite rare to find that anywhere else in the world. Europeans would kill for it. Forget about it for the Bahamas. Data is very expensive there - they charge by the kb.

When we're in the Bahamas, we pay for WiFi where we can, and share it at bars/restaurants where possible. Find a nice lunch spot with WiFi and it'll be well worth it data-wise to eat there most days! Get long-range WiFi capabilities.

I did use AT&T in Freeport when there about 2 years ago (not on my boat). Just getting email (all text) twice a day cost about $10/day. Now that was going through BTC to AT&T and everyone got a piece of the fee. Still, BTC's prices are high and I wouldn't look to cellular as a way to stay connected for data in a general way.
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Old 18-02-2010, 06:53   #11
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My SO spent an hour with an Altel tech trying to connect her Blackberry to her laptop. Then they said they couldn't do it because they didn't have the software for MS 7. We have not tried it on my computer which is Vista OS. I have not tried my iPhone. My iPhone is second generation, not the latest. What is "jailbreak?"

I can see why people plan for years to start cruising and end up just living aboard tied to the dock. However, I am not discouraged. One way or the other, we will cast off in Venice, FL the end of the month and head for Brunswick. We may spend a week or two more in Brunswick before we head south, but head south we will. An adventure is not supposed to be like sitting in front of the fireplace reading about it.
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Old 18-02-2010, 07:22   #12
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Jailbreaking is a way to run non-Apple approved software on your iPhone. It modifies the operating system and is reversible. There are some security implications that you need to understand before doing it. Once those security things are taken care of, it's a pretty safe thing to do. 8.3% of iPhone users have used jailbreak on their phones. Search on "iphone jailbreak" and you'll get lots of information about it.

Don't even think about sticking to a dock! Get out there - this is all easy stuff. We've been anchored in Miami Beach for the last 2 weeks and I have as good connectivity here as I do at home. The view is a lot nicer here though...
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Old 18-02-2010, 08:34   #13
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I found WiFi to be pretty abundant is the Abacos. I used a WiFi card with an external antenna and had good luck anchored out 1/2 mi. or so.

It's been a few years ago, but I remember the rate as $40/week or $70/month. Same provider for several islands around Marsh Harbor.
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