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Old 14-11-2011, 12:35   #1
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Hoisting a USB Data Card

We noticed that when we drove over a tall bridge that our broadband usb data card got much faster and stronger.
Has anyone hoisted their usb data card up the mast and used a long usb cable to couple it to their laptop?
Is there a low loss or double usb cable that ensures sufficient power gets up to the data card over a long (60 ft.) cable?
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Old 14-11-2011, 12:45   #2
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Re: hoisting a usb data card

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cowboy Sailer View Post
We noticed that when we drove over a tall bridge that our broadband usb data card got much faster and stronger.
Has anyone hoisted their usb data card up the mast and used a long usb cable to couple it to their laptop?
Is there a low loss or double usb cable that ensures sufficient power gets up to the data card over a long (60 ft.) cable?
Howdy cowboy

Google this: MiFi
You can buy other unlocked types that will take any SIM and create a hotspot for access. You can hoist these without wires, you hook up with your Wifi, with multiple laptops/gadgets, typically five or so.

ciao!
Nick.
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Old 14-11-2011, 13:03   #3
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Re: hoisting a usb data card

i found when i had a usb 3g card and i used an extension cord for it and raised it--sometimes was better-- it doesnt like inside some boats. will work well in cockpit .....same response with wifi
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Old 14-11-2011, 13:46   #4
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Re: hoisting a usb data card

Not supposed to drive your boat on bridges - suppose to go under them.

Some of the mifi units that Nick mentions (generically) have external antenna connectors. Connect a 6db gain cellular antenna, put it somewhere high and you get significantly improved signals and throughput.

The problem with using USB extension for cellular data is the timing just isn't precise enough to support the extra length of cable. While you might get lucky at 3 meters, you will never get it to 60'.

And so starts the next "long range wifi" thread...

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Old 14-11-2011, 14:06   #5
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Re: hoisting a usb data card

I use a 5m USB cable and the "dongle" works much better than inside the boat (mine is a metal boat). I made a small plastic housing that makes it waterproof.
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Old 14-11-2011, 14:58   #6
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Re: hoisting a usb data card

I meant 5m in my above post, not 3m. 5m is the typical single usb cable length without going to active cables. In my experimentation with longer active cables and stringing shorter active cables together, the active cable timing can not stay synchronized with the dongle and the connection is dropped often.

The mifi solves that problem by getting rid of the cables entirely.

I am surprised yours worked at all inside a metal boat.

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Old 17-11-2011, 18:18   #7
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Re: Hoisting a USB Data Card

What I really want is a cell phone repeater where a weather-proof box contains a powerful bi-directional amplifier feeding a 6 db gain antenna above and a coax cable to an antenna down on the cabin top.
Then both data card and cell phone enjoy increased range. But for very little money I could buy an active usb cable and have somewhat increased range for both data and Skype voice.
That is what I was thinking. I wanted to hear if anybody had good results to report about just hoisting a data card.
I was disappointed at the price for unlocked MiFi. I don't even know if the Bahamas has 3G data around the out islands.
Thanks, everybody for your comments.
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Old 17-11-2011, 20:42   #8
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Re: Hoisting a USB Data Card

Yes, as I mentioned I have experience hoisting a data card, using different lengths of active and passive USB cables and connecting external antennas to the data card (OK, I didn't mention that last one). Here is my experience:

1. Hoisting the card works better if you don't have a line of sight to a cell tower where you normally use the card or if your boat environment blocks or attenuates the cell signal.

2. You can get by with a 5 meter USB cable. Active ones may work better than passive ones. If the signals are weak or marginal, you may experience timing problems and have a lot of dropped connections with a 5 meter cable. You will definitely experience these problems with two active 5 meter cables connected, even in stronger signal areas. You will fail almost always with three active 5 meter cables. You will also fail with a single active 10 meter cable. The problem isn't loss of signal in the USB cable, it is in the precise timing that the cell system needs in the communication protocol.

3. Connecting an external 6db gain antenna, specifically designed for the cell frequency you will be using (depends on the provider and area) helps tremendously. An external antenna inside the boat will beat the data card outside the boat, and will be altogether another step up outside the boat. You will still experience problems using long USB cables because of the timing issue.

The mifi units cost more, but aren't outrageously expensive. Ours cost $139 USD (unlocked, Amazon). You can find others for a bit less, but not much. They provide a lot more options over a simple USB dongle - foremost is the ability to put them anywhere you want to get a signal - including at the top of the mast. A decent wifi system costs the same or more.

As with wifi (they work on the same frequency band), coax is a killer and receive sensitivity is everything. If you stuck an antenna up high and connected with a run of coax to the cabin, it won't matter how much you heat the air around you with an amplifier, you just aren't going to hear anything. Even with a bidirectional, you are wasting a lot of energy just to overcome the coax loss. That type of system will not be better or cheaper than a mifi with external antenna in the same location.

The Bahamas will have cell access anywhere there is a cell tower. That would include at least parts of the out islands with possible dark zones between towers.

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