Saturday, February 4, 2012

Getting Connected in all the Pretty Places

I love my little 3G Verizon MiFi device.  This little gizmo almost never lets me down, and the battery holds a charge for many hours (even though mine is nearly 3 years old!). 

With the MiFi, I simply turn it on and it wirelessly connects up to 5 devices to the nearest Verizon cell tower (and even keeps connected from tower to tower if traveling down the road).

I originally got the MiFi because my AT&T iPhone would often only get slower “2G” (or no) coverage in the places I wished to camp.  In metro areas, the 2 carriers seem pretty comparable and both provide fast speeds and good coverage, but once out in rural areas or out West, there simply is no comparison—Verizon is the coverage king.

There are still a few spots in the U.S. where no signal is available at all, but each year these areas become fewer and fewer.  (By the way, full-time RVers Chris and Cherie from Technomadia.com sell a great iPhone/iPad app called Coverage? that will quickly help you check where cell coverage is available for the places you wish to camp & work).  In most areas now, I’m able to get a good Verizon 3G signal with the MiFi’s built-in antenna alone.  But there are times, such as last weekend at Pategonia Lake, where the signal is very faint and slow.

No worries!  This is precisely the reason I bring along a Wilson Electronics cellular booster!  Once I set it up and turned it on, it magically transforms a crummy 1-bar slow connection into 5 bars of speedy 3G!  The Wilson isn’t a miracle worker—if there is no signal at all for many miles, it won’t be able to change that.  But if there’s a hint of a signal available, it will boost it into a better one.

I use the Wilson SignalBoost #811214 System which comprises of the following:

1. A padded cradle that easily adjusts to hold a MiFi or iPhone snug.

IMG_8680.

2. A magnetic antenna.  Normally, this would be mounted to the roof of a car, or else one might buy one of the other Wilson antennas that permanently mount to the roof of an RV.  I wanted to use one antenna for both, so I tried a trick mentioned by the 3G Store and it works just great-- a metal baking pan (in my case, it’s a sturdy broiler pan, but any flat metal surface at least 8” in diameter will do).

IMG_8683

3. The amplifier itself.   One side goes to the cradle, and the other side goes to the antenna.  The middle connector is for the 12v (or optional 120v AC) power cord.

IMG_8681

So, let’s compare the MiFi signal page---

MiFi on it’s own:
verizon1

MiFi boosted by Wilson:
verizon 2

Digital Sweetness indeed!

6 comments:

  1. This is a perfect time to post this for me!!!
    Right now I'm in Santee Lakes, East San Diego County, and it's one of the few places I've been that doesn't have good Verizon coverage. I'm going to check out the Wilson - it might solve my problem.

    Thanks! :)

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    Replies
    1. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you! I think the antenna size is key-- the little stubby one I originally got didn't work as well as the taller thin one I now use.

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  2. Replies
    1. I'm hoping this Wilson will work in Mexico if I can ever get down there. Your beach sure looks wonderful!

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  3. Chuck and I just got the Verizon Mifi a few months ago. So far we have just been using it at our home base, but we will be heading out on the road soon and appreciate your advice. We forgot to take it with Yuma, Quartzsite and Ajo a few weeks ago! :-( Thanks for road testing it for us! :-)

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    Replies
    1. You bet! If you happened to get the newer version MiFi (the fatter one with the signal strength bars icon on the top), let me know how it does. I've heard good and bad things about it's reliability and have delayed upgrading my original version MiFi since it still seems to work just fine.

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