Cell Phones and Internet on the road 101
                                          Article by permission of  Derek Gore
                      ©Derek Gore / RV Roadie 1998-2003. All rights reserved.
                                     Please direct comments to Derek at:
                                      Author's email: RV@rvroadie.com
 

 Today's cell phone services are so cheap and seemingly affordable that it seems any service will do, and now they also provide the Internet and email too! I wish it were only that simple. The different companies have very different services, and coverage areas within each company, in spite of them looking the same at first glance. And they aren't as cheap as they appear at first glance. For example if you are getting a cell phone for the first time, and you are on a budget, like most fulltimers are, pull out your calculator, and divide the minutes into the monthly price. For example if 300 min are $29.95 a month, that is .099 cents a minute or ten cents a minute. If you like to talk a lot and want a cell phone for hours of enjoyment, talking with your friends and family, or for business, then realize that that 300 min is only 5 hours of talk time for a month. Then, if you exceed the minutes in your plan, the per minute price can go up to 79 cents a minute for minutes 301 on up, using the 300 minute example. The best value for long talk times remains calling cards and landlines. If the price of wireless is worth the convenience of staying in your rig, then cell phones are a good buy, if you buy the right service to meet your particular needs. This article tries to clear up some of the confusion about cell services, especially in the arena of Internet by cell phone.

The different cell phone services are confusing until you narrow it down to using a cell phone for Internet access. High-speed access is going to be fast (up to about 150k speeds.) High speed is only available in digital coverage areas, and then only with a digital high speed plan which costs extra, and only with a 3G (third generation) phone, which is much faster than the fastest dial up connections with a landline, or an analog connection with a cell phone.

What confuses many folks are the differences in coverage areas between the new high speed Internet by digital cell phone, slow speed Internet by analog cell phone, and voice call coverage, analog or digital. So let's define those first. There are two basic types of cell phone connections, analog and digital. 

For voice, the best coverage is a dual band phone, which can use either digital or analog towers; thus you can talk from almost anywhere on the North American Continent, albeit with plenty of dead spots and fringe areas thrown in. Of course you would also need a Company that provides both analog and digital services. Verizon does both analog and digital and with their voice phones and services, has the largest coverage area for voice and slow Internet, and has "no roaming" plans for travelers that need that option, with their analog system. But their analog (slow speed for Internet) coverage, which covers the most of any provider, does not allow the high speed connections except in their digital areas, which are smaller than many all digital companies like Sprint and Nextel. Confused yet? Donít worry, we'll get you there.

When you look at a company's coverage map online, it usually includes both their digital coverage, and analog coverage. So many folks think that they can get the new fast Internet data services wherever they can talk, and that is simply not true. Fast data services are only available in their digital areas. The cost to connect for the Internet, and the speeds at which you connect, and your needs and locations, all come into play, and are different, at much different prices, than immediately apparent.

Currently most folks have older analog or digital phones (2G or second generation phones) and connect with a cable or via a card modem, with very slow speeds, usually around 14.4 k. In fringe areas connections can be much slower. With 2G phones, the phone is usually not used as a modem, but instead a special modem must be used that can cost up to 400 dollars. The advantage to using the older system is that you can usually dial out to your ISP in most places you can talk. The big disadvantage is that every minute that you are online counts towards your minutes. Also, even when you are in a digital area, many of the 1 and 2G phones and modems still cannot take advantage of the higher speeds, and are limited to the slow 14.4k speeds.

There are new digital systems (Verizon express) and all digital systems like Sprint Vision, that now use the phone itself as the modem, and do not require anything but the software for connecting, and a cable to be hooked up to your computer. These new digital systems provide much faster speeds, in their coverage areas, than even a dial-up landline! The new digital systems can be as fast as 150k connection speeds! They can even surf the web in a limited way, and send and receive emails without connecting to a computer. But to take advantage of all that, you will need one of the new 3G (Third Generation) phones to use the phone as your modem, and an extra cable to connect it to the computer. You will need to subscribe to one of the digital data plans for your provider, and will only be able to get the high speed in their digital service areas. If your computer has a USB port, that is the best cable selection to connect the phone to the computer, as it is the fastest. Serial ports are the slowest. So if you are getting a digital phone system, you also need the digital subscription for data, and the right phone for your needs. All of the new all digital systems have a monthly extra fee, and all but Sprint's Vision plan charge additionally for either minutes, or amount of data exchanged (xxx cents per kilobyte or megabyte of use). IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THE DIGITAL ONLY DATA SYSTEMS OF A COMPANY LIKE VERIZON, HAS A MUCH SMALLER NATIONAL COVERAGE AREA THAN THEIR ANALOG SERVICES, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF SPRINT WHICH IS ALL DIGITAL. Sprint's coverage for voice is smaller than Verizon's because they are all digital, and nobody is building additional digital towers currently that I know of. 

Now here is where it gets confusing for many. Remember that I am now only discussing the high speed Internet, which requires you to be in a covered area for digital service only. Verizon's digital coverage area is much smaller than Sprint's! So when they say that you can get unlimited express network time for 79.99 a month, remember that if you are off the Interstates, or away from the larger cities, then you are not on express network, and they charge you 25 cents a minute with that plan for all voice calls, and non express network data calls in your home area, and 69 cents a minute in roaming areas with no allowance. Each company has a different plan, and only Sprint provides unlimited coverage, and data time 24/7, wherever you can connect to Sprint for an additional 15 dollars a month. While only Sprint can give you unlimited data wherever you can talk on Sprint, Sprint's coverage area, being only digital, is smaller than Verizon's for talking by far.

To summarize digital voice/high speed 3G coverage areas for all providers. Their coverage areas are only most Interstate corridors, and larger cities. Those areas are the only place you can connect at high speed. Most rural areas are not covered unless they are within a few miles of a major Interstate.

So when we talk High-speed data connections to the Internet with a cell phone, which have to be digital coverage areas, the largest digital coverage area is Sprint, with the rest progressively smaller, or the same.

Sprint does have a 50-minute roaming add-on for 10 bucks a month, so RVrs can make and receive emergency calls outside of the digital area. 

When we look at voice only coverage areas, which include connecting to the Internet by dialing up an ISP with an older 2G phone at slower speeds averaging 14.4k, Verizon has the most coverage.

So to decide which system or plan is best for RVrs, the need for speed, the hours you want to connect, and where you will travel, all come into play. 

To decide which method (cell or landline or satellite) and plan is best for you, requires some decisions on each RVrs individual needs and wants. Let's now look at those with some loose profiles, that may help decide, with tips for each, and some things to read in your selected plan's fine print at the end.

1. I travel everywhere. I need email only, and want the cheapest I can get, with no need to retrieve it daily or even weekly. I might even want or need to retrieve email daily. I have no laptop, or computer, but want to keep in touch with everybody FROM ANYWHERE. I also do not want to learn how to use a computer. Speed is not a factor. I don't mind walking or driving to a phone access like a park jack or payphone.

Suggestion: For about 300 dollars you can get a pocket mail device, and pay about $10.00 a month for the service which accesses the net via a toll free number at no additional charge. There are two ways a pocketmail device can connect to a phone. One type uses a standard phone plug, which limits its usefulness to only places with a jack you can plug into. Most payphones still do not have data ports (jacks) in rural areas. The other kind is held up to the receiver of any phone, and uses the phones earpiece and mouthpiece to send and receive. These are the most versatile, as they work with any phone, anywhere. You cannot send or receive pictures. You cannot surf the net or view websites. You cannot send or receive attachments like text files. Pocketmail is limited to about 4000 characters. If an email is as long as this article, it will exceed the capacity and you will only receive the first 4000 characters. You can still get spam emails. It is not limited to nights or weekends.

2. I travel everywhere. I want to connect from anywhere, and not leave my rig. I am a businessperson who travels everywhere including rural areas. Or, I am a person with unlimited discretionary funds and want total connectivity wherever I roam. Or I prefer to stay away from Interstates and travel the back roads whenever possible. Speed is a prime need/want. It must be usable from my RV, as that is my office and/or desk, and not be limited to nights and weekends. I need high capacity for pictures and attachments, some very large. I do downloads and send programs over the net. I must use the net almost eight hours a day, seven days a week during daytime business hours. 

Suggestion: Get the Motosat Satellite Internet system powered by DirecWay, or the iNetVu system from Canada also using Hughes and DirecWay. Cost is about $7000.00 for the hardware and installation, and the service is about $100.00 a month for unlimited always on access. Speeds up to 1 Mbps, but the average speeds depend greatly on how much traffic is using the system (Prime time high use times are much slower) and many who have the system have said that a good average expectation of speed is from 50-150k with connections at times getting bursts of 500k to 1 MBs. Parking the rig can be a problem, as it will not work through trees or buildings. The Satellite dish must have an unobstructed view of the southern sky. It will not work while in motion. You must stop, and deploy it, and wait a few minutes for it to automatically acquire the satellite. It is reliable and very fast once you get used to the two to three second delay from latency, which is the time it takes to send the request (a website you are trying to go to, or email when you click on send/receive) and get the reply. It takes a couple of seconds for the request to go up to the satellite, back down to the earthstation, out on the net to the site or email server, then back to the earthstation, up to the satellite, and back down to you with the website or email you requested.) Latency is not a problem with the exception of two areas. Telephone by Internet, and fast response online games. Both can be done, but the delay makes talking require talking then saying "over," and waiting for the reply a few seconds later. With a fast action game online, all of your responses have a built in 1-3 second delay. 

Note 1: For businesses and individuals with the discretionary funds, these are the best anytime, anywhere, systems and prices. Many with cell phones and slow connections cannot see what I mean but let's compare. When I do the math someone invariably comes in with a minor correction, so do it yourself, with your own plan too. This will only be an example. Remember we are talking about connecting from anywhere, at high speed, anytime as a requirement. The least daily use for these people will be eight hours a day, during business hours. If you do not need that, fine! <grin> but some do. So do this. Take any nationwide plan, and write down the price per month, but more importantly, write down the cost of additional minutes over the plan, which ranges from 10 to 80 cents a minute, depending on the plan and company. Now figure how many hours in an eight-hour day. Now figure how many days during business hours the original minutes cover. For example let's say you have 1000 anytime minutes, that is 16.66 hours or almost exactly two days of use eight hours a day. That leaves 28 days in the average month at the higher over anytime minutes fees. At about 500 min a day that makes a months use, not 24/7 but only eight hours a day come to 14,000 minutes at the higher rate. Let us suppose that the rate is only 20 cents a minute for over plan minutes (many are much higher, check your own plan.) So 14,000 times 20 cents = $2800.00 dollars. Add the cost for the plan minutes, let's say 100 bucks for 1000 anytime minutes/mo., back to the overage minutes, and that comes to 2900.00 a month for cell services at the lowest price I can find. Please feel free to plug in your own plans minutes and prices for overtime. At $2900.00 a month for cell phone connections at from 14.4 to only 150k speeds, the ROI (return on investment) on a satellite broadband system's initial cost for hardware and installation (about $7k) about 2.41 months ($7k divided by $2900). So return on initial investment is only 2.41 months, and after that, the cost per month for 24/7 broadband service from your rig represents a savings of $2800.00 dollars, every month, from that point on. (Cell service cost in this example was $2900.00 a month, and the Motosat/iNetVu after ROI is only $100 a month. Let us remember that not everyone needs anytime, anywhere (almost, don't forget the trees and/or buildings mountains) hi speed connections. So please don't answer with minor variations of the end cost. No matter what cell phone system you use, it is surprisingly expensive to use eight hours a day, whether data or voice, during prime time, from virtually anywhere. 

Note: The Motosat and iNetVu systems are the only true two-way satellite systems available today. No true two-way satellite data system with high-speed two-way data can be used while in motion today. By that I mean where the satellite dish both receives and sends directly to the satellite. 

KVH Tracnet 2.0, which advertises as the only two-way "in-motion" satellite Internet system requires a landline phone, or a cell phone, to be hooked up at all times it is in use for two-way Internet. It costs $5995.00. They will not publish the installation costs or monthly fees on their website (Big red flag!!! At least for me.) They advertise 500k speeds, but then tell you about their compression software that makes the overall speed about 56k. Whatever their reasons, I do not like their smoke and mirror marketing. Those that do not understand that to use the net with their system you need to have a landline or cell phone connected, with all of the costs of a cell phone during heavy prime time use, may find themselves with HIGHLY UNREASONABLE COSTS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AND INDIVIDUALS WHEN THERE ARE MUCH CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES. For big ships at sea, large corporations, and military they have a great system. For those that think it is true two-way (as defined above) go there to their own website here, and then click on FAQs on the left menu, then read the answer under "TracNet's Return Path:" http://www.kvh.com/products/product.asp?id=60

3. I travel everywhere, much of the time rural. I have a laptop, and am experienced with computers in general, and my computer and operating system in particular. I do not have the funds for multiple thousands of dollar systems, and cannot afford 100 dollars a month. I want to surf the net when I can, but that is not an everyday requirement. I do need and want email daily. I want local dial up numbers wherever I roam, and if I am really in the boonies, it is OK to miss a few days till I get back to civilization. I do not need to connect from my rig, and can drive or walk to the park office or other phone line. I am easy going and do not have a problem with time limits. (Like 5 min time limits, or standing in line to use the phone line)

Suggestion: Get a good national ISP, with the most local dialups. I like Earthlink, as it does have the most local dial ups, and is rated highest by JD Powers in independent surveys of the customers of various ISPs. For your surfing, learn to set up offline browsing and then just hit all the sites you want to, like this website and forum, but don't read them, just let them load, and press on to the next one. Then at four minutes, of the normal five-minute limit, send and receive your email. Do get upset at the "friends" that send you a multi megabyte file because they are on DSL and think everybody is, but don't rag on them. They are clueless to an RVrs limitations. Instead, if that happens a bunch of the time, just learn to go to www.mail2web.com and use them to screen large files, and delete them at the server without the download time. Specifics on doing that, and using offline browsing are another subject. Remember that the premise here is that you are already computer savvy. Cost is about 21-22 dollars a month for your ISP, and customer support with Earthlink is very good. Should you want customer service during high traffic times, and hate waiting, then call during off prime hours. If you can't wait till off prime, do your time in the queue. 

4. I want to connect only from My RV. I also need a cell phone for voice wherever I go. I travel everywhere, and a lot, if not mostly, in rural areas. I want to connect when my minutes are free, like unlimited nights and weekends, and do not need to connect during daytime anytime minutes, but I do want my family email and be able to surf the net daily. Speed is not a factor for me. I have a desktop computer and cannot afford, or do not want a laptop.

Suggestion: Get Verizon and a cable or modem card, you will only get 14.4 k speeds, but the additional high speed digital service, with the extra expenses will be a waste, as you are rural a lot of the time, and digital high speed is not available from any provider in most rural areas. Get the number of anytime minutes you need, and do what you need on the net and email. The costs will be from 29 dollars for a cable, to several hundred dollars for a modem card and software. You will still have dead spots, and areas you cannot even talk from, as there is no 100% anything wireless today.

5. I spend a lot of time in Canada and/or Mexico, and need high speed, always on, reliable service. I have no limitations in money.

Suggestion: Cell phone at high cost or satellite, depending. No real one stop solution here, but with unlimited funds, can use a combination of sat phone slow services, larger dish and sat services, or cell phone with the previous two. Very expensive, and depends on the areas.

6. I travel only in the US, don't care about data or the Internet. You dang computer folks are way beyond me. I don't even believe I let my niece, friend, grandchild, child, or fellow RVr make me read this garbage! I only need an emergency phone, in case my dang significant harassment, who will not take advice to live a long healthy life, needs emergency help. I am living on a fixed income. I can't afford or understand all of this gobbledygook! I sure can't run to a pay phone, as we are both on oxygen/disabled/etc.

Suggestion: There are many services that provide you with a cell phone, charger, and instructions, for only $9.95 a month for emergency calls only. But I have another cheaper suggestion. According to US law, even a cell phone that is not currently activated, or subscribed to any of the services out there, including the emergency only services, as long as it works, must be able to get through to 911! With no monthly fee! So let me make this very clear. All you need is a used and no longer used cell phone, and odds are that someone in your circle of friends and family have upgraded to a better or more advanced phone, and have their old perfectly good phone. Get them to give it to you, and show you how to use it, and keep it charged. Even if you are boondocking, the phone will hold a charge a very long time, as long as it is turned off. Get an old cell phone, make sure it has a good battery, and keep it charged. As long as you are in the USA, you can turn it on, and contact 911. It may cost you five dollars a minute, but in an emergency, that is nothing, right? One warning. Even the best of cell phones do not work everywhere. If you are away from any service area, you may still need to get help. But then again, it is a pretty good thing if it does, and could save your significant harassment's life, so you can really give him or her hell later. So be sure you understand the signal strength meter for your phone, and when you turn it on, if it has enough, you will get through. Have the person you got it from show you what signal strength will work for that phone and remember it. Good luck.

7. I want to connect only from my RV. I am an RVr that stays primarily on the interstates, and near the larger cities. I am not a boondocker, and hate two lane roads. Or I am an RV worker, that travels for my company from major city to major city, and almost never travel in rural areas. Or, I am a self employed consultant/part time worker and must stay in or near the larger cities to support my lifestyle and need the net to work from my rig. I would like high speed Internet, or at least faster than dial up. I cannot limit my spouse and kids from connecting during the day, or I need my connection every day. I would also like to use the Internet while moving, to use my GPS and mapping program. I cannot afford $100.00 dollars a month for the satellite services, let alone per minute or per kilobyte charges.

Suggestion: Get the Sprint Vision 3G phone and service. They have the best coverage for Interstate corridors and larger cities with the high-speed digital connections. The only charge for unlimited access is 15 dollars a month, just raised from 10 dollars. Your data minutes do not affect your voice anytime minutes, and all you need with the 3G phone is a $29- 50 dollar cable that connects to your USB port, and some software. Additionally, you will save the 22 bucks or so a month for an ISP, as Sprint, which owns or is owned by Earthlink, is your ISP at no additional charge. Since their system is all-digital anywhere you can talk, you can connect at high speed. However, in fringe areas, you may not be able to talk or connect at all! That is the deceptive part of their advertising. See, if you go to far away, where there is no Sprint or other digital tower, you not only can't connect, you can't talk either! But, as I cover above, you can either get a dual band phone and dial 911, or you can get the roaming plan for 50 minutes for ten bicks a month, which still requires the dual band phone. In fringe areas, you may get slow speeds down to the 14.4k that the analog folks get. If you try to keep your ISP, when you dial them up, it is off the system and is charged against your minutes! So only if you are going to stay on major interstate corridors, and in or near large cities, can you connect at high speed, with no additional minutes charged, for only an additional 15 bucks a month. And, additionally, you can access the net in a limited way from your phone itself with no computer! Or, until you can switch services, you can use one of the other primarily analog services like Verizon, until your contract is up. But they charge a bunch more. And their digital only coverage areas are much smaller than Sprint's.

I also note that Sprint has a service that claims that for unlimited service to connect a laptop or desktop computer, it costs $100.00 a month. They are currently not enforcing that. If you ask tech support they will tell you that it is no problem. I also called my local Sprint folks and told them that I was going to use it to connect to my computer at home, as I only get 24k dial up connections here in the country, and they have no problem with it. $15 bucks a month. Now, be aware that they can enforce that at any time, and you need to assess the risk yourself. That is why I mention it here. My suggestions are only that. The responsibility is yours.

Folks, the previous is only an overview. It gives you the info you need to see what service to use to connect to the Internet, at various speeds and locations, for different needs, which are different for everybody. It covers voice costs and availability as well. If the prices, limitations, or services change, I have no control over that.

Every service mentioned requires at least a one-year contract, which is OK as it locks in the services you expect for that time. However, today, prices, equipment, and services change from day to day. I am not responsible for those changes. I can only report what I found today.

Now some last things you need to look out for.

Free long distance. It isn't always. Some service providers give you free long distance only when dialed from your home area. For RVrs, that is not worth a hoot as we are not normally in our home areas. Thus will be charged long distance fees. Read the fine print on that.

Free or extra nights and weekend minutes. Some companies have weekends that start at 9 PM Friday night, and do not end till 7 AM Monday. Others start their free weekends 12 noon Saturday, and end 12 midnight Sunday. Read the fine print and get what you need.

All but Nextel charge for the minutes of incoming voice calls. They have a plan with free incoming calls. If you are in a business that requires a lot of incoming calls, or you get a lot of incoming family calls, they may be a good alternative. But they are also very limited in their coverage areas, as are the other digital services. Check the coverage areas.

Last piece of info. An external antenna can dramatically increase both your voice and data cell connections. Most have only a 7db gain. But some of the Wilson products have twice that. I would never recommend the through the glass antennas, but if you click on the contact us link, they have a toll free number to get the info you need on which is which, and the advantages of each.

Links to the info the above was written from:
Sprint Users website with forums
http://www.sprintusers.com/

Article on connecting the Sprint Vision unlimited data service to a laptop or Desktop. Important info.
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,809002,00.asp

Open roads forum discussing using the Sprint Vision
http://www.woodalls.com/forums/index.cfm/fuseaction/thread/CFB/1/Tid/519382/DoOne Page/Yes.cfm

Best software and support for enabling a 3G phone to access at Vision speeds
http://www.futuredial.com/futuredial/P_SD.htm

Data cables are 29.95 and available here
http://shop.futuredial.com/items.jsp;jsessionid=afxZ5P5bNK68?category=6123

How fast is Sprint vision really? Scroll down to the landline speeds chart, which compares the same file downloads on the Sprint-it appears to really work.
http://bermangraphics.com/tips/vision.htm

Sprint cell phone plans with unlimited Vision data Internet time for 10 dollars extra! Enter your sip code and see them.
http://www1.sprintpcs.com/explore/coverage/NewZipCode.jsp

Cellular accessories and info
http://www.canyonriver.com/

External Antennas for cell phones designed for RVs, and with the best signal gain in the industry.
http://www.wilsonelectronics.com/

Nextel
http://nextelonline.nextel.com/phones_plans/plans/free_incoming_plans.shtml

Which ISP to choose? JD Powers comparison site
http://www.jdpower.com/telecom/jdpa_ratings/FindISP.jsp

KVH Site. Go here and click on FAQs, then click on the return path questions.
http://www.kvh.com/products/product.asp?id=60

Verizon wireless info.
http://www.verizonwireless.com/

I welcome any comments or criticisms in email to this article. I would be happy to post any corrections, or clarifications. Email them to RV@rvroadie.com Please provide the link to the website where the correct info you quote is posted. Why email? Because then I have the link you provided, and can answer your comment directly, but not online. That way it isn't embarrassing to any folks that think something is right, but just isn't. Including me! LOL! But the real info will be added and the source of corrections will be thanked. The goal is getting good info to our fellow RVrs, right?

The two main providers I did cover were a contrast of one all digital and high speed data at little cost but with less coverage, Sprint, and one of the two or three largest providers of analog service covering 80% of the country, Verizon. But Verizon and the others do not have near the coverage for digital hi speed data as Sprint has. That is why I defined the loose profiles, Sprint is not for everybody, and Verizon with less high speed may not be the best plan for those that stay near cities and Interstate corridors who need or want cheap Hi speed Internet connections.

As well, Verizon's much higher cost for digital data at high speed, and more limited coverage area for digital data than Sprint, is about the same as the other 2 or three majors including AT&T, Cingular, and SBC. Of course that can change at any time, especially now with new partnerships that AT&T and several others are/have formed in the last two or three months. Those plans will not significantly increase rural coverage for any of them except along interstate corridors, and slightly expanding urban services to suburban areas. Again, about the same as landline DSL expansion-not much. Much of rural America will remain underserved, or only marginally served, whether landline or wireless.

I also excluded newer systems that do not even cover most major Interstate corridors, and have yet to cover all medium to large cities, as we are travelers, and even if workers, those would not serve enough of the time. Regardless of their forward looking future plans, we have all seen that the coverage seems to always remain the same, only the partnerships and roaming areas have been changing. While it makes sense to build most towers where the most people are located from a profit standpoint, in an arena as vital as telephone communications, it would seem that they would want to fill in the dead spaces for 100% coverage nationwide in our great Nation. The only way for that to happen it seems is via satellite phone if there were a good cheap competitive rate. But that isn't available for now or in the foreseeable future. The recent withdrawal and shutdown of ICO and Teledesic who planned not only that, but a worldwide sat phone/data system, was a big disappointment to those of us who watch the industry.

However, for a really good and short company comparison by their past performance go here:
http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/tips/0007.htm
Here is some more detail and clarification on some of the items covered in the article. Especially some interesting articles on current FCC hearings on cell phone portability, and the ability to use a cell phone with no monthly fees at all for emergency use-free for 911 calls.

The main purpose of the article was to let workers on the road know, who prefer to, or because of work, have to stay on interstates, and near or in cities most of the time, that there is a high speed service that only costs 15 bucks a month, or is included in the Vision Plans plans from Sprint. Some who read here may be interested.

But all-digital Service like Sprint is not for rural RVing out in the country. They won't even connect for voice outside of their more limited areas.

On the other hand, for the equivalent high speed digital service or slower 56k digital, the other providers all charge by the minute, or the amount of data, as well as charging a monthly fee to access their digital system. Much more expensive. 

And in most cases, much less digital coverage than Sprint, so may not even be as cheap AND available with the restrictions in their digital coverage than Sprint! I also warned that Sprint, or any of the other providers can change rates and plans, and do, daily, making the information I provide just a pointer in the general direction. The fine print needs to be checked whenever purchasing any service.

I would be horrified if a fulltimer that stayed mostly off the Interstates and in rural areas decided to get Sprint because they did not read all of the article or the profiles very closely. It is not going to work well for travelers in those areas.

Fulltimers have very different needs than stationary folks or business travelers for corporations. We have to consider times, needs, locations we travel in, business or pleasure, in different ways than "stationaries" (my name for non RVrs) do.

Thanks for the feedback. I will also rewrite the article to make it clearer that the comparison of minutes to calling cards. I did say that the comparison was for folks who were contemplating their first cell phone, to check the price of the service per minute, as, if they are on a limiting budget, they may do better with one of the calling cards, some of which are down to 3 cents a minute. I did cover nights and weekends in several of the paragraphs. 

For many folks, the newer digital services are being confused with older dial up wireless solutions. And those are great too of they suit. With all services voice calls, except for weekends and nights, all go against anytime minutes. All digital data services have a monthly fee, but only Sprint does not charge after that, all of the others do.

However, some folks do not want to only be able to connect to the Internet nights and weekends. Others, like me, work online during daytime hours, and only travel near covered areas for wireless digital anyway. I turn off my computer no later than 5 PM most days, after 5-9 hours online. I am not in the majority either. Thus my "loose profiles" to help newbies to decide on a good service, that will give them what they need/want, at a price within their budget. I remember my first venture into researching cell services and plans, and I equate trying to figure it all out for the first time with a visit to the dentist. Not my favorite thing to do, but necessary. I actually did mention Verizon for the reasons you mentioned.

Thus many will fit in profile 4. I don't. 

My point was that for those who are afraid of not having an emergency phone, they can continue with calling cards and/or get a used tri mode cell phone, and keep it charged with no per month charge or subscription, and still be able to contact 911 in any area any other provider can connect, free! They can also, by FCC mandate place collect and credit card calls from an unsubscribed cell phone! That is important info for fulltimers that are very limited in funds. And it is little known US law. Many folks about to go fulltime are still working and here online now, from home, and trying to plan to retire on a much smaller retirement package than you or I may be blessed with having. 

Some companies sell an emergency phone for $9.95 a month, and never tell the customer that they can either buy a refurbished phone cheaply and use it at no monthly charge, or get an appropriate phone free from a friend when they upgrade or change services! Thus my including that capability. There are other companies that are straight up, will sell you a guaranteed refurbished phone for about 40 bucks or thereabouts, and not charge a monthly fee, as the law requires none. Here is an example of one of the companies that tells it like it is. I have no affiliation with them, and cannot recommend them, as I have done no business with them, but it does outline the FCC rules on wireless 911 emergency services for unsubscribed phones.

http://www.911phone.net/

But, again, that is not what most RVrs need. But may make traveling fulltime safer for those whose budget can take them on the road, but not get them a regular cell phone with a monthly fee and contract. Might even save some lives if we get the word out to our fellow fulltimers with no cell phone. It also gives us a good way to dispose of our old phones when we upgrade.

Worse, if they don't know some of the tips in the article, they may get an "unacceptable for them" service that they are stuck with for from one to two years. 

Many folks also avoid changing from a marginal service to one that might suit their needs just because they have to notify everyone they know, and all of their billing and business contacts, of their new number. There is currently a court battle going on to require cell phone providers to allow us to keep our phone number when switching to another provider! Good stuff for the consumer, but bad news for the marginal providers, who sometimes only can retain their customers because of the hassle of changing their phone number.
For more info on number portability go here:
What is portability

And here for a more indepth view of why it needs to passed for consumers, and why the cell phone companies don't want it passed:
http://www.mcommercetimes.com/Services/288

Write your representatives if you think portability is an issue worth your time.

The two main providers I did cover were a contrast of the largest all digital and high speed data at little cost but with less coverage, Sprint, and one of the two or three largest providers of analog service covering 80% of the country, Verizon. But Verizon and the others do not have near the coverage for digital hi speed data as Sprint has. That is why I defined the loose profiles. Sprint is not for everybody, and Verizon with less high speed may not be the best plan for those that stay near cities and Interstate corridors who need or want cheap Hi speed Internet connections.

As well, Verizon's much higher cost for digital data at high speed, and more limited coverage area for digital data than Sprint, is about the same as the other 2 or three majors including AT&T, Cingular, and SBC. Of course that can change at any time, especially now with new partnerships that AT&T and several others are/have formed in the last two or three months. 

Those plans will not significantly increase rural coverage for any of them except along interstate corridors, and slightly expanding urban services to suburban areas. Again, about the same as landline DSL expansion-not much. Much of rural America will remain underserved, or only marginally served, whether landline or wireless.

I also excluded newer systems that do not even cover most major Interstate corridors, and have yet to cover all medium to large cities, as we are travelers, and even if workers, those would not serve enough of the time. Regardless of their forward looking future plans, we have all seen that the coverage seems to always remain the same, only the partnerships and roaming areas have been changing. While it makes sense to build most towers where the most people are located from a profit standpoint, in an arena as vital as telephone communications, it would seem that they would want to fill in the dead spaces for 100% coverage nationwide in our great Nation. The only way for that to happen it seems is via satellite phone if there were a good cheap competitive rate. But that isn't available for now or in the foreseeable future. The recent withdrawal and shutdown of ICO and Teledesic who planned not only that, but a worldwide sat phone/data system, at competitive pricing, was a big disappointment to those of us who watch the industry.

One last note. When you use Verizon and dial up your Internet service provider (ISP,) at from 14.4 to 19k speeds, you are only using the phone as a phone, and dialing out to an Internet service provider. Whether the ISP is cheap or at the top rate of about 21 dollars a month, you still need a relatively expensive modem card or set up, and still need to pay for an ISP. But dialing up is the only way to use a cell phone to connect to your ISP if you are not always on the interstate or in cities as you travel. As is the case with many RVrs who travel for business.

With the Sprint Vision system, if the limited digital areas suit your needs, the Internet service Provider is the Sprint vision system. You save the cost of the Internet service provider as it is built in, no need for one, and no need for local access numbers or expensive toll free calls by the minute. If you can connect, it is instantaneous. And you only need a cable. The phone is the modem, and can access email and the internet even without a computer. But is worthless if you travel outside of digital areas.
At upto 150k speeds, big difference if the coverage area is acceptable.

To see the difference in Verizon, or any of the other national provider coverage areas in analog and digital, just go to their website and first check out the national main coverage map. Then go to their data/Internet wireless page and look at that coverage map. Biiiiiiig difference. 

We all have different needs and wants, and there is no 100% perfect wireless service today, that will do what everybody wants or needs in one package. Some folks part time while others don't. Some folks avoid cities and interstates at all costs, others stay near them. Some use a Motorhome, some a trailer. Some have a large budget for retirement, others don't. One size does not fit all. But there are newer systems and features that segments of our RVrs might want to know about. 

I only hope some of the information will help with the "original question" of how to connect to the Internet while RVing, for those who are looking into it for the first time, with an overview of all the possibilities currently available, instead of just one. The answer is, of course, it all depends - on the individual's needs/wants/ and budget. 

Some folks who have to work, or consult, or travel as a nurse in cities primarily now with Verizon may even decide to get the high speed digital and keep both phones, to be able to talk nationally, and connect at high speed when between destinations now that they know about them. Lots of choices! That is a good thing! No? 

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