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Old 30-03-2014, 17:06   #1
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MiFi Devices

I have a Wifi router aboard but am thinking of switching to MiFi type device. Some of the boats I run in charter have these aboard, but they are branded and locked. Pretty cool otherwise, very compact, very low energy use.

Features I'm looking for: unlocked of course, 3G/4G support either direct via SIM or externally connected modem, easy to power direct from 12V (for example via 12V to USB adaptor). Don't need wired LAN/WAN connection support.

Anyone have experience with specific makes/models of MiFi devices?
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Old 30-03-2014, 17:16   #2
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Re: MiFi Devices

I have a Mifi 4620LE Jetpack which is a 4G LTE device running on Verizon's network. I bought it and the service through Millenicom, which is an MVNO. Verizon charges $50/mo for up to 5 GB of data, overages cost about $10/GB/mo. and they make people sign up for a 2 yr contract.

Millenicom charges $70 for 20GB/mo., 4x more data for $20 more, with no contract, just pay as you go. I don't have any experience with Verizon coverage outside of CA.

I used to use a Mifi 2200 through Virgin Mobile which uses the Sprint GSM network. It was a 3G network at best, and not very good coverage where I was using it. It was only $20/mo for I believe 1 or 2 GB. Again, this was no contract, pay as you go.
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Old 30-03-2014, 18:09   #3
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Re: MiFi Devices

We have a couple Huawei ones on board and like them a lot. You can buy them unlocked on Amazon, eBay and elsewhere. They have their own modem, so another is not needed, and they power through a regular USB mini type plug - we charge ours off 12V. Some have external antenna connectors. We use one with a 6db cell antenna that we have mounted in a tupperware box and haul up to the masthead - that is our remote one that gives us excellent connections when none of our cell phones can even get a signal.

Wherever we go, we simply get a SIM card and stick it into our mifi modem and we are good to go. These devices are very small and easy to take everywhere so that you can always have a convenient wireless cell connection that you can share (there are two of us, so the cellular USB sticks are not useful to us).

In Latin America, you need to carefully check out the frequencies used and make sure your device supports those frequencies. For example, we had to get a second one when we travelled to Honduras and Guatemala because they use a WCDMA frequency for 3G that is not common elsewhere (for example, Panama). This one was a much less common version of the model - each model comes in several frequency flavors covering overlapping bands.

Our most current model number is the E586 (I forget which frequency type), but Huawei changes them so often that ours is probably out of date now. Just google Huawei mifi and see what are the current models.

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Old 30-03-2014, 18:32   #4
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Re: MiFi Devices

Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post

...

In Latin America, you need to carefully check out the frequencies used and make sure your device supports those frequencies. For example, we had to get a second one when we travelled to Honduras and Guatemala because they use a WCDMA frequency for 3G that is not common elsewhere (for example, Panama). This one was a much less common version of the model - each model comes in several frequency flavors covering overlapping bands.

Our most current model number is the E586 (I forget which frequency type), but Huawei changes them so often that ours is probably out of date now. Just google Huawei mifi and see what are the current models.

Mark
I like the idea using an external modem to avoid this issue. Modems are now cheap and plentiful almost anywhere. Routers/hotspot/MiFi devices much less so.

My good old CradlePoint MBR900 router started having issues recently so I went looking for another 3G router. Found one, but it takes 9V input so have to run thru its AC power supply for now. My old Cradlepoint took 12V directly. The power issue got me thinking about MiFi devices...USB 5V sure would be handy since I've already got a multiport 12V to USB adaptor aboard.
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Old 30-03-2014, 18:38   #5
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Re: MiFi Devices

But you asked about mifi devices, not external modems in cellular routers…

For external modems, you will also need ones for the proper frequencies, and they are usually locked to a carrier. By the time you buy 3 of them, you have paid for an unlocked mifi device.

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Old 30-03-2014, 19:28   #6
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Re: MiFi Devices

Yes I did, but not my intent in the strictest sense. There are also a few very compact routers (mini routers) that look interesting. I'm thinking I may go this way to avoid the band issue.

I've got a few unlocked modems now so swapping SIMs/modems is not an issue. Easy and cheap to unlock. I've used an app/service call DC-UNLOCKER.
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Old 30-03-2014, 20:00   #7
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Re: MiFi Devices

I carry a Samsung LTE Mobile hotspot PRO that I carry around in my pocket and take the iPad with everywhere. It's with T mobile at $70 for 10.5 gigs w/4G (where available) of use per month, but it's also unlimited at a slower speed.

It also has a great battery use. I can go 8 hours while in use w/o a recharge. The reception's not quite as good as Verizon but they are catching up fast. Also it will carry up to 10 devices.
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Old 30-03-2014, 21:40   #8
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Re: MiFi Devices

iPhone 4 + will act as hotspots, so will iPad 3 +, used my iPhone 4 as a hotspot thru Verizon all down the ICW.
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Old 30-03-2014, 22:38   #9
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Re: MiFi Devices

I use my normal Android mobile as a hotspot using the tethering function. Works fine with 3 devices connected - can't recall the maximum number.

It's a Huawei Y201 and only cost me $39 from Coles. I paid about $5 on the 'net to get an unlock code and can choose any mobile carrier.
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Old 30-03-2014, 23:21   #10
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Re: MiFi Devices

I use Cellular based routers made by a company called cradlepoint www.cradlepoint.com

You can then use whatever usb based cellular modem you want. We use AT&T so we use an AT&T usb modem, but if we used a different carrier we could use that.
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Old 31-03-2014, 06:38   #11
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Re: MiFi Devices

I have been using, for the last 4 years, a Globesurfer III cellular/wifi router, which has worked very well. I have rigged up a 5v power supply for it, and it is wall mounted next to my nav table. It's not quite like current mifi devices in that it has no internal battery. It has an advantage over current mifi devices in that it has ethernet ports and a port for an analogue phone handset. So it could be the core of a comprehensive telecom/data center for your boat, but I have been happy with the Internet access I get from it and never got around to setting up those other functions. I am getting about 1.5Mb/s download speed right now on my mooring as I write this, which for my standards is pretty decent broadband speed. That is on TMobile, and it's HSDPA (what is sold in the U.S. as 4G, but in Europe, where it's been available for five or six years, it is called 3.5G).

This device also has a very good internal antenna which gets a good signal long after regular mobile phones have lost theirs.

Current mifi devices, with their internal batteries, can be hoisted up the mast in areas of weak signal -- a trick I learned from Noelex. I am planning to acquire a Huwei E5776 mifi device. We will see whether the LTE connection is practically much faster than HSDPA, but the main advantage will be the possibility of hauling it up the mast. The Globesurfer III will continue in service -- for guests, so that I don't have to share a connection with them. And for backup.

And all in all, these devices are the best Internet connection for cruisers, far better than Wifi. Marina Wifi is uniformly poor, and annoyingly, it's a different service provider in every different port. I do have a Bullet M2 mounted on my first spreader, for long-distance Wifi access, but I use it only very rarely. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have had a Wifi connection from the boat which was as good as the connection I get through the mobile networks on my Globesurfer.
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Old 31-03-2014, 16:11   #12
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Re: MiFi Devices

A bewildering number of options out there....

I was perfectly happy with my CradlePoint MBR900 router, but it is dying bit by bit (common fate for electronics in the tropics).

I like the idea of using an external modem so I can swap easily for diff bands/carriers. USB style connector for power is a definate plus. Don't need a battery powered version. Don't want a bunch of bells and whistles (some do all sorts of other stuff) . So far something like the TP-LINK MR3020 looks like a good fit for me.

http://www.frys.com/product/6902537?...H:MAIN_RSLT_PG

Will also research the devices you guys have posted.
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Old 17-04-2014, 17:33   #13
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Re: MiFi Devices

Colemj, which of your MiFi devices work best in the San Blas?

One with a high gain antenna sure would be handy right now!
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Old 17-04-2014, 17:46   #14
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Re: MiFi Devices

It is an older Huawei device that I soldered a coax pigtail into the antenna circuit and connected a big 6db cellular antenna. Only one or two places in the San Blas that it was blind in - compared to others without connection in most places.

I thought they put in a couple more towers since we left a year ago? Also, get both Movil and Digicel sims because Movil was faster but less coverage than Digicel.

If you are still down in the Robison's, that is a tricky area that is mostly blind to the two towers.

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Old 18-04-2014, 15:56   #15
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Re: MiFi Devices

Were moving around often. Have Digicel chip for modem. Comes and goes. Good service now (chart shot attached), but pretty close to mainland here. Antenna hoisted in rigging helps, but not as much as a hi-gain antenna would I suspect.
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