Flexible Wireless Internet While Travelling

By unwire, December 22, 2006

This week I attended the Funeral of a very dear aunt. Unfortunately, in my line of business I must continue to work even when traveling and on vacation. This forces me to have 2-3 options at any time to gain access to the Internet. I have a Sprint EVDO card, a T-Mobile PDA, a high power Ubiquiti SRC WiFi card and several WiFi antennas with me at all times when I travel.

We drove from Pasadena, California to St. George, Utah on Monday afternoon (traffic was horrible from Barstow well past Baker). We stayed the local Hampton Inn. But the free Hotel wireless was not working. I was not happy with the speed on the Sprint service in this location. I pointed my 19dbi panel antenna out the window and found another hotel free wireless hotspot. Without the high gain antenna I would not have had the high speed access that I needed.

On Tuesday we drove from St George, Utah to Sandy, Utah. Staying at another Hampton Inn. The hotel wireless worked great.

On Wednesday we attended the funeral in Sandy, Utah. The funeral service ended at noon, but the burial was to take place at 3pm in Sigurd, Utah, 3 hours drive away! I had some urgent work to do on the way. I had my wife drive and thinking that the T-Mobile GSM/GPRS would work better in this rural part of Utah I connected my laptop to the PDA. No luck, rebooting the PDA and multiple attempts (using both USB cable and Bluetooth) to connect from the laptop failed. The connection would authenticate then time out. Then I tried the Sprint EVDO card. Even though there was no EVDO coverage, the card would fall back to the slower speed.

This last attempt to use cellular Internet on the road in this rural area was a lesson in the importance of using a mobile external cellular antenna. I have a 1900MHz antenna mounted on my truck for use with the Sprint EVDO card or the T-Mobile PDA. While using the Sprint card connected to the mobile antenna, I pulled out my Sprint phone to make a phone call. The phone using it’s own antenna could not find any service. But the Sprint card connected to the external mobile antenna had an excellent signal and worked perfectly.

We arrived for the burial on time, all my needed work and email correspondence completed while on the road.

That night we stayed at yet another Hampton Inn in Richfield, Utah. All of these Hotels appear to have free wireless Internet. This last hotel has a lovely view of the countryside and the wonderful scent of livestock. Here’s the view from the parking lot:

Snow Cows

My WiFi parts list:

Ubiquiti SRC WiFi card

19dbi Panel Antenna

MMCX to N-Female Pigtail

4′ LMR 400 Cable

My EVDO/Cellular parts list:

Wilson Electronics EVDO/Cellular Pigtail

Wilson Yagi Antenna

FME to N-Male Cable