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2014 Mobile Data Q&A Thread

Hi guys,
admittedly I haven't trawled through all of the post in this thread because they are maybe not that relevant to my question?

AT&T are now boasting coverage to rival Verizon! Though when I look closer I see that they might mean 4G specifically? ...Now whilst 4G is great when you can get it, most of my past storms tend to avoid 4G locations like people would avoid a shark in a swimming pool!....The reality quite often will see me and other chasers using at best 3G coverage or less when and if you can get a signal.
Because I fly in each year from the UK I tend to rent a Verizon mifi via rental companies. Though most rental companies do not seem to offer a mag mount antenna option? .....On occasions out on the plains I have parked next to other chasers with antennas with the same mifi and network but I see nothing and they get a basic level signal?..In short using an antenna might go well beyond a must. In fact maybe we need to make it very clear that an antenna can and often will make all the difference! I used a cradle point last year and it helped a bit but nothing on the direct plug in antenna option.

Anyway back to my first question; Is AT&T now any better for 3G coverage than a couple of years ago?

PS. All aside I did have a very bad experience last year with Verizon customer services; Bought, online a Verizon mifi with pre pay plan and asked for it to be delivered to my first hotel. The day before I was getting my flight I got an email saying that my order was cancelled because they thought it was bogus when I didn't respond to their call to my first hotel???? Derrrr ? In fact they just passed me from one extension to the next with no one able to sort the problem? ...very bad customer service (opinion). Had to use an old pantech usb wifi dongle and paid through the roof using Walmart data cards!! :(
 
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I'm not really addressing any previous questions here specifically. Just a general FYI:

See my earlier post from last year, and there are a couple of minor updates. One is that chaser friend Bill Robertson from ABQ got himself the exact same Verizon Jetpack last spring as I use. We then went out and chased eastern NM on June 7. I had uninterrupted data all day long, or maybe 95%, I don't recall exactly, whereas Bill's service failed him so badly a few days later he returned the Jetpack for a refund. I have NO IDEA why it failed. We have discussed it back and forth a few times and have NO ANSWER. We were both using the exact same setup, essentially; GRL3, no antennas, no amps, Windows computers.... I/we just can't come up with anything.

Getting data for me has become something I don't even think about any more. When I saw this thread it was like "we still need a thread for this in 2015?"

The second update is that a couple months ago I saw that Verizon's coverage map now indicates coverage in NW OK. I confirm, at least along Hwy11. I drove along 11 from I-35 to Hwy34 between Alva and Buffalo Wednesday and never had a late radar update (GRL3). Same thing up to Coldwater, etc. Maybe I have some magical Jetpack that was blessed by the Pope. Beats me.

*edit Somebody asked about a 4G device possibly being incompatible with 3G, and as far as I know that is NEVER an issue. The 4G Jetpack MiFi works with 3G for sure and I think even 2G. You'd think I was a Verizon rep, but no, of course not.
 
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So....is it worth the $20 to add the aircard? Right now I am on the verizon plan and tether my iphone to my laptop for data. Verizon allows it with the more everything plan. Whats the advantage of spending the $20 a month for the separate card???

Just thinking out loud here

Having a separate card/device will free up your phone and potentially get you a better signal. Before 4G, if a call came in while you were on data, it would kill that data to let the call get through. May not be an issue now unless you ended up back in a 3G area. I had an extra line that was stuck under contract through the end of the year, so it was an easy decision for me as I was spending the extra $20 already. If it is not under contract I assume you would be able to cancel that line at anytime, though I bet there is a $30/$35 line connect fee at the beginning. Would just have to ask Verizon. If you are on the More Everything plan, you can do the wifi hotspot for free now too. If your phone works for you, no need in spending extra money that could just go to chasing.

For the first few chases this year, I have been using my Pantech UML290 usb aircard. It just seemed to be unstable with holding a connection out on the highway. Last time I had used one was before 4G was everywhere in the Plains, but the other day it seemed to bounce between 3G and 4G way too often. I had data through a decent amount of western OK, but it was filled with constant disconnects. This lead me to break down and get a mifi device, as they cost the same on the More Everything plan. I somehow ended up buying 3 of them so I would be sure to get one that I like and that works. I got 1 4510L and 2 4620L, figured I would just sell the ones I dont use on Craigslist. I am hoping for a more stable connection now, but I might break down and get an antenna to give it a little boost. Still have hopes of getting my dome streaming this year or I probably wouldnt waste my time, but I do need something to keep me distracted between chases.
 
Cool thanks for the wisdom Wesley.

I am on the More Everything Plan, and have a Iphone 5s (which wont allowing calling and data at the same time). So I just bought a jetpack of ebay and will use that apart from my phone for the rest of this chase season and reevaluate next year!
 
I've been using the USB760 verizon card the last few years with a Rockies amp direct connected, but really struggling with the disconnects and sloooow service even when fully connected. I've been thinking about going to a Mifi jetpack if only to get away from the wires, but I'm really hoping to get stonger, more consistent connection mostly for streaming. I still think if I went this route I'd still need a signal booster to get the connection I'm looking for, but it sounds like a wireless amp for 4GLTE may be still aways off according to earlier posts, so maybe a 3G wireless amp would help with this setup, I'm just not sure.

It sounds like going to a Mifi would be a good move to start with though. Appreciate the input you guys have given.
 
After several years on a UMW190 (3G) modem, I made the jump to a Verizon 6620L LTE Jetpack last week. So much of the Plains is now covered by LTE on Verizon, and I sometimes got the feeling with my old modem that I might be missing service entirely by not having the LTE bands (I know it theoretically shouldn't work that way, but there were a couple cases where I was without data and others with LTE phones in the same spot had it).

My first impressions after a couple chases are not quite as favorable as I'd hoped. For years, I'd specifically avoided LTE modems and hotspots because of rampant reports that they had trouble switching between LTE and CDMA service as you crossed in and out of coverage areas. With the 6620L, reviews have been much more positive than for any previous LTE devices, so I bit. Unfortunately, on Saturday in the TX Panhandle, there were a few occasions where my hotspot said "1X" and failed to download GR3 updates, while simultaneously my chase partner with Verizon cell service had LTE on his phone.

I've come to the conclusion that it's simply impossible to beat the reliability of smartphone reception if you're using a Jetpack or modem (at least without antennas and amps). I can't imagine why that's the case, other than that modems/Jetpacks are niche devices for which testing, bug-squashing, perfect firmware, etc. are less financially imperative than on a big-name smartphone. If I could only have one data source on the Plains, it would without a doubt be a Verizon smartphone with hotspot capability. Modems and Jetpacks seem to be a second-class alternative for those of us who don't want year-round Verizon cell service.

That being said, the 6620L still performed well. But for anyone in my situation (questioning whether to continue with a 3G modem this year), be warned that the LTE/CDMA handoff issues still don't seem to be entirely resolved. In one case, when my Jetpack was on 1X and my friend's phone was on LTE, I reset the Jetpack -- sure enough, LTE right away (and we were stationary the whole time). I'm sure a little firmware optimization could resolve this, but evidently there's not enough money in it for Verizon or the OEMs.
 
My plan is to use the Jetpack in my Wilson Sleek 4G cradle. I bought the jetpack mainly because it will be a good fit. That SHOULD keep a consistent signal across my chase lands! Gulp I hope!
 
Giving the coverage of 4G anymore, you could always just lock it into 4G to keep it from switching. I actually did that to my UML290 while driving across OK last week. It helped, but did not fix the issue with the disconnects. It is amazing how good the coverage for the phone is compared to the "data only" devices (it should be the same, but it doesnt behave that way). If my jetpack ends up behaving the same way as the USB modem did, I might just go back to the hotspot on my phone again. It is nice having the phone right there as a backup when needed though.
 
Giving the coverage of 4G anymore, you could always just lock it into 4G to keep it from switching. I actually did that to my UML290 while driving across OK last week. It helped, but did not fix the issue with the disconnects. It is amazing how good the coverage for the phone is compared to the "data only" devices (it should be the same, but it doesnt behave that way). If my jetpack ends up behaving the same way as the USB modem did, I might just go back to the hotspot on my phone again. It is nice having the phone right there as a backup when needed though.
That's a good idea. I'm going to lock to LTE for my next chase and see what happens. If Verizon's coverage map is to be believed, that may well provide me more continuous data than I'm getting with the frequent delays switching bands in fringe areas. It doesn't look like there's a lot of real estate that has solid 3G coverage but lacks LTE.
 
I have used my 4620L jetpack (for Verizon) on 2 chases now (eastern TX panhandle and western KS) with this antenna - http://www.verizonwireless.com/accessories/antenna-for-lte/. When doing test with that antenna I was seeing a signal gain of almost 10dBi in my garage. My connection has been almost constant no matter where I have drove. I am quite shocked to how well it has done. It has been a huge improvement over the UML290 datacard it replaced.
 
I was in a Verizon store the other day to get a sim card. I noticed they have data only plans on a chart on their counter. I believe I saw 10gb for $60 a month, but you still have the $10 or $20 line access on top of that. I asked if that could be done on month to month, and the rep said yes. Might be something for checking out. I think the chart I saw was the same as this (or at least close to it as it is from 2012) -
verizon-shared-data-plan-for-data-only-devices.jpg


I also did some reception testing with me 4620L and that cheap Verizon 4G antenna I linked in my last post. I tested the signal as I drove around my neighborhood in town, which is very close to a tower. Without the antenna I was getting a signal generally around (-70dBm), but as low as (-65dBm). With the antenna it stayed below (-65dBm), but achieved as low as (-55dBm). The rssi percent also ran higher with the antenna attached. It is so nice not having to plug in that USB modem anymore. I have everything wired into my car now (which includes the mifi) so I can just jump in, turn on the mifi and will be ready to roll. The usb modem was always in danger of getting broke off and was an even bigger pain if the external antenna was attached.
 
I also got a couple of chases under my belt with the 6620L and was extremely impressed with how well it held connection in NW OK, Texas panhandle, SW OK and eastern OK/ Western AR all without any antenna. There were very few spots where I dropped signal but it quickly reconnected and the connection overall was super quick even while streaming. I feel like it was a very good upgrade over the USB760 and I'm wishing I would have made this move a little sooner to save on the grief factor during the first few chases of 2015.
 
Anyone else with AT&T been blown away by the increase in coverage over the last two years? So far through western/nw Oklahoma and NW TX and much of the panhandle we've not been off of LTE but for a limited time and 3g has been extremely reliable when off of LTE. I had reservations dumping my Verizon jetpack but so far we've not missed it at all.
 
Anyone else with AT&T been blown away by the increase in coverage over the last two years? So far through western/nw Oklahoma and NW TX and much of the panhandle we've not been off of LTE but for a limited time and 3g has been extremely reliable when off of LTE. I had reservations dumping my Verizon jetpack but so far we've not missed it at all.
I've had AT&T cell service for as long as I've been chasing, and it wasn't very long ago that they were the absolute dog of service providers on the Plains, screwing me over time and time again on chases from KS northward. While they're still fairly weak in the central and northern states, and their relative strength has been TX/OK all along, I'm also surprised at just how good the coverage has been so far this year. On my last few chases, which have all been W OK or the TX PH, I've had to switch over from my Verizon Jetpack to my AT&T phone hotspot several times. Subjectively, I'd say AT&T is getting to be about on-par with Verizon across that region, and it's ideal to have data sources from both in your chase vehicle if possible. Once we get into late May and June and chasing migrates towards I-70 and I-80, though, I'm confident (based on experience the last couple years) that Verizon users will have the last laugh again.
 
I've had AT&T cell service for as long as I've been chasing, and it wasn't very long ago that they were the absolute dog of service providers on the Plains, screwing me over time and time again on chases from KS northward. While they're still fairly weak in the central and northern states, and their relative strength has been TX/OK all along, I'm also surprised at just how good the coverage has been so far this year. On my last few chases, which have all been W OK or the TX PH, I've had to switch over from my Verizon Jetpack to my AT&T phone hotspot several times. Subjectively, I'd say AT&T is getting to be about on-par with Verizon across that region, and it's ideal to have data sources from both in your chase vehicle if possible. Once we get into late May and June and chasing migrates towards I-70 and I-80, though, I'm confident (based on experience the last couple years) that Verizon users will have the last laugh again.
Agreed, I don't find myself north of 70 much during the spring, but I still keep the jetpack in the car for when I do. The northern Plains is definitely versions strong point.
 
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