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Old 31-12-2008, 03:52   #1
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Air Cards or?

Having access to the internet is effectively having access to all the information we humans have created in real time. It beats having the Library of Congress in your boat!

The means to access the internet have been via satellite (expensive) and worldwide, Wifi when in range and you have to often pay a local access "provider" or with an air card which works through cell towers. The latter two are not effective our of "range". But they are probably the most useful to 95% (or more) of sailors who want internet access.

For those who have these cards, what has been your experience? How much do you pay for the card, for the service? How is the speed up and down? How far "offshore" can you go before they lose signal? Is one company's card and services better than anothers? Why?

I'd much rather have internet than cell phone one board, since I don't like to be disturbed by the phone "ringing" so I usually turn it off or turn the ringer tone off. But the internet is a connectivity YOU choose and the information is boundless and therefore something I would like.

Experiences please.
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Old 31-12-2008, 04:45   #2
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Our company rolled out about 300 aircards to the field about 8 months ago and we have had extremely limited complaints. Most all are because they lose the aircard or break them. The units we have look like a thumb and plug in to the side of the computer and if they get hit, they can bend or break, so they need to be positioned to avoid being bumped. They are simple to use and connect to the internet fast. When we tested them, we went with Sprint because the connections were faster than Verizon, but that could be different now.

We have located sales reps in remote areas of the country and basically, if cell phone reception is bad or non-existent, the air card will follow suit.

I believe we are charged between $40-$50 per month for unlimited service and the connections are pretty good unless you are pushing or pulling a good deal of data (pics, music files and especially videos). We tested one air card and had a user on a cruise ship that lost connection about 40 miles out of Miami (but that was over a year ago and coverage could have been expanded by now).

I'm sure there are better experts out there than me, but thought I would mention my experience. Good luck.
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Old 31-12-2008, 05:13   #3
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I love my aircard. It's worth every penny it costs to me. Granted my experience is on shore or near shore. I have no problem with connectivity at 70mph on the highway. Thee are a few RF holes I've run across and rural coverage is limited.
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Old 31-12-2008, 05:35   #4
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I had a Verizon card that worked nearshore and in remarkably remote places. However it is useless in the Bahamas @ 78$ month and would not work at my house in Annapolis (Dead zone) Verizon was very good about the situation with my house and took the unit back with no charges. When they get coverage for my house I will get another.
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Old 31-12-2008, 05:59   #5
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Since we are using the boat only 6 months of the year and don't use the laptop except with a wireless router at home we don't need service in the non sailing season. Most of the "connectivity" contracts for things like cell service are one or two year contracts. Obviously they make their money on charging for access and not the equipment as witnessed by the equipment deals offered to hook you into a contract - even free phones and air cards.

Obviously their biz model costs them nothing to provide the service once the network is built, perhaps fees for content, but having millions of customers paying $100/mo is like manna from heaven.

I think this model has to change. Why isn't the internet more like a public library? It's now full of advertising to support the fees that content providers must pay to ISPs.

I'd rather pay a hefty realistic price for the access gear, even upgrading as technology advances, but have the access fees brought down from the stratosphere. I believe they have nothing to do with the actual costs of the access.

I'd also like a month to month or limited use access plan.
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Old 31-12-2008, 06:18   #6
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Originally Posted by never monday View Post
I love my aircard. It's worth every penny it costs to me. Granted my experience is on shore or near shore. I have no problem with connectivity at 70mph on the highway. Thee are a few RF holes I've run across and rural coverage is limited.
Hey Pat, do you type with one hand at 70 mph????? Let me know when you're down my way so I can stay home that day!
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Old 31-12-2008, 09:16   #7
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We use aircards with our patrol laptops. They work extremely well for onshore use - but we have not tried them offshore. We do use them in a couple of our patrol and rescue boats with no problems.
We used to use A*&T but the service and customer service was so extremely poor in our local area that we dropped them and went to Verizon. We have not had one complaint from our users since going to Verizon.
I personally will be using one on our boat when sailing, but we mostly sail near shore or day sailing.
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Old 31-12-2008, 13:36   #8
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Since we are using the boat only 6 months of the year and don't use the laptop except with a wireless router at home we don't need service in the non sailing season.

You can get special wireless routers in which you plug the Aircard into the router and then spare that wireless connection (Cellular) with the house (via wired or 802.11/WiFi). Neat little things. Would allow you to use the card year round and not have cable/DSL at home also.

Bear in mind that generally most all companies these days have a 5 GB monthly transfer limit then start charging overages. Fine for normal traffic, start downloading a bunch of HD movies and it's a problem.

Sprint is generally faster than Verizon. I've got ~ 350+ lines of Verizon around the county and have come to this conclusion- All wireless providors suck.

I've tried my gear out in WI in the Apositle islands with almost no sucess at all. I tend to have very bad luck with Verizon in the whole state of WI, not sure what is up with that. I have a Sprint cell phone and generally is one works, the other works. Tried both down in the BVI a little, no go.

Can get boosters and antennas for the cell stuff.
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Old 31-12-2008, 14:03   #9
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ATT

I have the ATT card -- Sierra Wireless. I read many posts here about antennas and routers and whatnot. Wireless here is about 30 bucks a month. But it is for me dependent on the tide and since I am on the "other" side of the main marina, the antennas do not point in my direction. So I could not go wireless.

I finally went to AT&T and talked to the salesperson. He swore by this thing called 3G network. So I bought the USB modem (100bucks with 100 buck mail in rebate). And signed up for 60 bucks a month. Limit is 5 gigs per month.

It is hands down the best thing since sliced bread. Phenomenal speeds. I cannot tell the difference between this connection and dsl land line.

I love it. I have not sailed yet though so I do not know the range.

I learned to turn off Java script and plug ins to conserve bandwidth. The type of ads like that guy with the waving hands suck down bandwidth like crazy. I mainly surf without java and turn it on when I need it.

Love AT&T USB card!!!



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Old 31-12-2008, 14:45   #10
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One side note:
With many providers, they will ask you to sign a 1 or 2 year contract. Usually, this is not necessary. If you own or buy a compatible aircard (Sierra 881 -3G is one example), you can often sign up on a month to month basis without having to be locked into a 1 or 2 year contract. Sometimes the sales person will tell you this, but in my experience, they will not volunteer this information until you question them about it.
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Old 31-12-2008, 15:58   #11
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clausant,

This is preceisely a fact I would like to verify. Which providers offer month to month service? Is that a national regional or local "policy"/practice?

Since the prices I get are $60/ month and a $200 early cancellation fee it would not make sense to cancel because that fee is equal to more than 6 months of service.

We sail the boat in the east end of LIS - Nantucket so this is the region I would want coverage and mostly in anchorages, though in waters up to 15 miles off shore would be great as we rarely get that far offshore in these waters.
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Old 31-12-2008, 17:14   #12
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clausant,

This is preceisely a fact I would like to verify. Which providers offer month to month service? Is that a national regional or local "policy"/practice?

Since the prices I get are $60/ month and a $200 early cancellation fee it would not make sense to cancel because that fee is equal to more than 6 months of service.

We sail the boat in the east end of LIS - Nantucket so this is the region I would want coverage and mostly in anchorages, though in waters up to 15 miles off shore would be great as we rarely get that far offshore in these waters.
For a day sail I can port a out of contract line of service I have to you and you end up with a contract free line of service. Buy any device (as long as Verizon) off eBay and your good to go. I did this with my girlfriend and was really impressed how it worked out. No contract, resued gear so basically free with no pesky contract.

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Old 31-12-2008, 17:31   #13
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My company currently uses Verizon cards. I have had several models over the past few years. Prior to that, we used AT&T and one other I can't recall. The Verizon card is as fast as a hard wire, and has very few dead zones on shore. I have had service all over Ak, the western US, mid west, and Ohio with this card. No issues. I purchased a Sprint air card for personal use at one point. It did not work in our harbor. Sprint agreed to cancel the contract. Right now, I would choose the Verizon over any card/service I have used. Cost is generally about $80 per month, but can be had cheaper in bundles, or with more limited transfers. Beats WiFi hands down. In fact, at hotels, I usually use my air card over their free WiFi because it is faster.
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