The 2013 mobile data Q&A thread

It's about that time when those of us not on contracts have to start mulling over our options for mobile data this spring, so I figured I'd start a thread to concentrate all discussion on that topic.

I long for the day when coverage of the rural Plains is ubiquitous on all major carriers and we can just rely on our smartphones for data. Unfortunately, it appears 2013 will not bring that day -- at least for those of us not on Verizon for cell service -- so the tedious hunt for modems, amps and plans returns for another year.

For better or worse, Verizon has emerged as the clear-cut winner on coverage over the past 1-2 years, so there isn't much reason to deliberate over networks. On the other hand, we still have the choice of either going direcly through Big Red or resellers like Millenicom. I'll leave that debate to others, though.

What I'm most interested in right now is how to improve the flaky and frustrating experience I've had using USB modems on Windows the past several years. I'm hoping anyone with experience on either of these issues can chime in.

USB Modems: 4G LTE vs. 3G

Verizon's LTE coverage is expanding at an impressive rate, and when it comes to USB modems, their plans for 4G models are actually $10/mo. cheaper than for older 3G versions. However, reviews for all the 4G LTE modems I'm aware of are distinctly negative, on average. Complaints abound of poor reception, failure to switch between 4G/3G when needed, and various other potential dealbreakers.

Has anyone chased extensively with models like the Pantech UML290 or Novatel 551L and had good results? If it weren't for the reviews, it would seem like a no-brainer to switch over from my older UML190 for the cheaper plan and faster speeds. Also, with the external antenna port on the UML290, can one connect a 3G-only amp without adversely affecting regular 4G reception?

Cradlepoints/hotspots for USB modems

I'm strongly considering a Cradlepoint (or similar device) with hopes that it will eliminate the flakiness of bad drivers and software that seem to plague USB modems when directly connected to a laptop. Any experiences with or advice on these would be welcome.

In particular, has anyone used the CTR35 or PHS300 models? Both look compact and suited for in-vehicle use, though only the older and less robust PHS300 has a battery (it would be nice not to lose connectivity when turning off the vehicle).

If anyone has used a 4G LTE modem in conjunction with a Cradlepoint, your experience would be particularly helpful. I'm wondering if it's possible a lot of the complaints are ultimately the fault of poor software, rather than the modems themselves, in which case a Cradlepoint could make them more usable. Probably wishful thinking.

Ultimately, I'm going on the assumption that a Cradlepoint somehow bypasses the often-problematic "authentication" process that USB modems go through on Windows, acting more like a dedicated smartphone that just works as soon as it has reception. Does anyone know whether this is the case?
 
In '12 i was using Millenicom's Advanced Plan which uses Verizon (they don't advertise the carrier) 3G, with a USB modem connected to an MBR1000 cradle. The cradle is the best thing since the wireless data itself. It does the connection for you, auto reconnects, and just gives you a seamless wifi signal (or you can tether to it to a lan cable). It's great for worry free internet. If you don't want it to drop out when you turn your car off, connect it to extra outlets that are running off the car battery. Some cars have an additional auxiliary power plug that operates with the key out as well. That cradle does support some 4G devices I believe, but I've only used it with the 3G USB. I'm not seeing the Advanced Plan on Millenicoms site anymore. Sometimes it's not listed depending on their device availability, but perhaps Verizon dumped them. I used to get 20GB of bandwidth for $50/mo I believe. You get a lot less going directly through Verizon and pay slightly more. Their other plans including the unlimited and mobile hotspot use Sprint.

For backup data I use my Sprint Photon 4G phone as a mobile hotspot. It works in a pinch if I can't get data otherwise, but the Verizon USB device gets vastly better service and performance. The only time I make use of the 4G is if I'm in a decent sized city, which is never when I'm chasing. Occasionally I can use it to upload video after a chase.

I was planning on reconnecting my Millenicom this Spring if I can get that plan back. I turned it off for the winter, and they said I'd be eligible to come back with a discount, so we'll see. Otherwise I'll dig around and see if it's worth connecting a 4G device yet. There are still spots on the plains where you can't get data at all, let alone 4G.
 
Verizon customer here. Last year I was running with an LG Ally smartphone (HA!) that was only capable of using 3G coverage and constantly froze up...and then April 9th happened, and I was grateful for the fact that I'd learned just enough about the sky to make up for zero data coverage for the duration of the day in NW OK. So it was an interesting year for data. Since then, I've upgraded to a Droid 4 which is capable of using 4G. It also is supposed to be capable of functioning as a mobile hotspot, and I'm trying to decide whether or not to look into using that as an option for laptop usage in the field.

On the other hand, programs such as PYKL3 have done a pretty decent job of making up for the lack-of-laptop-in-car problem. So we shall see.

Just out of curiosity, was anyone who chased later in the year able to verify if that changeover with Pioneer had an effect in coverage in the hole up there? I haven't happened to be back to that part of the Alley since that day.
 
Verizon 4G coverage is improving by leaps and bounds, at least here in the Midwest along and a good distance away from interstates. I bought a new Cradlepoint router for my 4G/3G aircard (prices for these are much cheaper now, it was only around $100), but I haven't yet been outside of the 4G zone to see if it auto-switches to 3G. I always had to do that manually with the VZ Connection Manager software when it was plugged into the laptop.
 
Their other plans including the unlimited and mobile hotspot use Sprint.

Skip,

I checked with Millenicom a few weeks ago and they mentioned that the 3G/4G mobile Hotspot (20GB per month) is on Verizon. I think I'll be getting one of those this year.
 
I just picked up a CradlePoint CTR35 yesterday via Amazon, and will use it with a Sierra Wireless 250U USB aircard, using Sprint service through Millenicom. The aircard was as plug-and-play as it gets with this CTR35 router. It connected to WiMAX 4G within 2 or 3 minutes automatically, and required me to make no configuration changes to the router at all. I'm using this aircard with a Rockies powered amp system as well, everything works just fine with this equipment so far.

I've had it less than 24 hours so far, but I am very impressed with this CradlePoint router so far. It seems to handle the 3G/4G switching fine, aside from a 1-2 minute lapse of internet connectivity while it makes the switch. The connection and reconnection process is fully automated by the router software, so it should require zero maintenance in the field! With the Sierra Wireless 250U, the 3G and 4G modems are detected as different USB devices, so the router allows you to prioritize which connection you want to use first, and which connection is the 'failover' connection. I've noticed some intermittent connectivity problems with 4G here in Irving, TX, so I made the 3G modem the #1 connection and left it on overnight. It held the connection for 8 hours solid at least. Also the router has a wonderful 'dashboard' screen which you could hypothetically leave open in a browser tab, which includes the signal strength of whichever 3G or 4G connection you are on, listed in dBm, so you can see exactly how strong the signal is, rather than vague and arbitrary signal bars.

Also a feature I didn't even read about in any reviews is that it can act as a network GPS server sharing with LAN clients, or WAN clients, if your USB aircard has GPS built in as well. Fortunately the Sierra 250U does, and it acquired GPS signal without any trouble. I haven't tested the GPS server function yet, but i am intrigued.

One thing to note with the CTR35 is the last firmware update for it was dated June 22, 2012. I'd assume any USB aircards from around that date or newer may not work at this time. I haven't tested this on a road trip or a chase yet, but from what I've seen so far I think it will work perfectly for my needs. I'd recommend it!
 
Skip, why does the internet drop off with the cradle when you turn the car off?

Because the cradle needs DC power through a car outlet, so if you don't connect it to an outlet running off the battery, it dies when you pull the key out. You can connect it to your own battery too I guess. I have extra outlets running off the battery in my van for these devices, however. If you're renting a car you probably won't have that luxury, but you could probably request a model you know has an auxiliary plug that stays on with the key out.

Skip,

I checked with Millenicom a few weeks ago and they mentioned that the 3G/4G mobile Hotspot (20GB per month) is on Verizon. I think I'll be getting one of those this year.

Well that's the way to go if that's the case. I was always under the impression it was Sprint though, but you heard it from the source. The only downside to the hotspot is if it doesn't have a port for an external antenna, which the USB devices do. That helps a lot when getting a signal. I'd also be wasting my cradle if I got one, but it's its own cradle anyway.
 
Good stuff so far... glad to see this place isn't totally dead after all! :)

In '12 i was using Millenicom's Advanced Plan which uses Verizon (they don't advertise the carrier) 3G, with a USB modem connected to an MBR1000 cradle. The cradle is the best thing since the wireless data itself. It does the connection for you, auto reconnects, and just gives you a seamless wifi signal (or you can tether to it to a lan cable). It's great for worry free internet. If you don't want it to drop out when you turn your car off, connect it to extra outlets that are running off the car battery. Some cars have an additional auxiliary power plug that operates with the key out as well. That cradle does support some 4G devices I believe, but I've only used it with the 3G USB. I'm not seeing the Advanced Plan on Millenicoms site anymore. Sometimes it's not listed depending on their device availability, but perhaps Verizon dumped them. I used to get 20GB of bandwidth for $50/mo I believe. You get a lot less going directly through Verizon and pay slightly more. Their other plans including the unlimited and mobile hotspot use Sprint.

For backup data I use my Sprint Photon 4G phone as a mobile hotspot. It works in a pinch if I can't get data otherwise, but the Verizon USB device gets vastly better service and performance. The only time I make use of the 4G is if I'm in a decent sized city, which is never when I'm chasing. Occasionally I can use it to upload video after a chase.

I was planning on reconnecting my Millenicom this Spring if I can get that plan back. I turned it off for the winter, and they said I'd be eligible to come back with a discount, so we'll see. Otherwise I'll dig around and see if it's worth connecting a 4G device yet. There are still spots on the plains where you can't get data at all, let alone 4G.
Sounds like the Cradle is working well for you. My inverter is hard-wired this year, so I won't technically lose power simply by turning off the engine. However, in my Civic (with no deep-cycle battery), I'm wary of leaving the inverter on for longer than a minute or two afterward. The Cradle probably doesn't draw much current, but the laptop and other items connected to the same power strip will, so my only option would be to constantly unplug and re-plug those (which would get old fast). Regardless, a battery as backup power would be a nice feature in a Cradle, but not absolutely necessary.

I'm also planning to use my rooted Galaxy S3 (AT&T) as a hotspot for backup this year. By installing a custom ROM like CyanogenMod, one gains access to the built-in tethering/hotspot features of Android, even if your carrier had hidden them in their ROM -- which, with U.S. carriers, is usually the case. It seems to work very well, and if I had service through Verizon, I'd strongly consider relying on it full-time.

Just out of curiosity, was anyone who chased later in the year able to verify if that changeover with Pioneer had an effect in coverage in the hole up there? I haven't happened to be back to that part of the Alley since that day.
I'm also interested to hear a definitive answer on this. Even more specifically, can anyone verify that 3G data through Verizon is working on the Pioneer footprint? There was one chase last May where a friend using an LTE tablet had great service near Watonga, while my 3G USB device had none. This is yet another reason I'm questioning the idea of using my UMW190 (3G only) again this year.

I just picked up a CradlePoint CTR35 yesterday via Amazon, and will use it with a Sierra Wireless 250U USB aircard, using Sprint service through Millenicom. The aircard was as plug-and-play as it gets with this CTR35 router. It connected to WiMAX 4G within 2 or 3 minutes automatically, and required me to make no configuration changes to the router at all. I'm using this aircard with a Rockies powered amp system as well, everything works just fine with this equipment so far.

I've had it less than 24 hours so far, but I am very impressed with this CradlePoint router so far. It seems to handle the 3G/4G switching fine, aside from a 1-2 minute lapse of internet connectivity while it makes the switch. The connection and reconnection process is fully automated by the router software, so it should require zero maintenance in the field! With the Sierra Wireless 250U, the 3G and 4G modems are detected as different USB devices, so the router allows you to prioritize which connection you want to use first, and which connection is the 'failover' connection. I've noticed some intermittent connectivity problems with 4G here in Irving, TX, so I made the 3G modem the #1 connection and left it on overnight. It held the connection for 8 hours solid at least. Also the router has a wonderful 'dashboard' screen which you could hypothetically leave open in a browser tab, which includes the signal strength of whichever 3G or 4G connection you are on, listed in dBm, so you can see exactly how strong the signal is, rather than vague and arbitrary signal bars.

Also a feature I didn't even read about in any reviews is that it can act as a network GPS server sharing with LAN clients, or WAN clients, if your USB aircard has GPS built in as well. Fortunately the Sierra 250U does, and it acquired GPS signal without any trouble. I haven't tested the GPS server function yet, but i am intrigued.

One thing to note with the CTR35 is the last firmware update for it was dated June 22, 2012. I'd assume any USB aircards from around that date or newer may not work at this time. I haven't tested this on a road trip or a chase yet, but from what I've seen so far I think it will work perfectly for my needs. I'd recommend it!
Thanks for the detailed and helpful response, Sean. I think the CTR35 may be the best fit for me, even without battery backup. I like its feature set, and while the latest firmware may be over 6 months old, that's far better than the PHS300 (discontinued 2-3 years back). I get the impression Cradlepoint has stopped manufacturing new portable devices, so the CTR35 may be the best one can do without upgrading to more expensive and bulkier business-oriented models.

Regarding your LTE USB modem, it is disappointing to hear of the 1-2 minute failover process. It may not sound like the end of the world on paper, but I'm envisioning a worst-case scenario in which a chaser rides along the edge of 4G coverage for awhile and it constantly tries to switch back and forth. It really baffles me that even low-end smartphones these days can switch between 3G/4G seamlessly without noticeable interruption, yet USB modems -- specialty products with relatively expensive data plans -- seem to have so much trouble. I've even considered a Verizon LTE tablet as my primary data source because of this, but the prices and lack of external antenna ports are steering me away.

If 4G LTE modems can be locked into "3G only" mode to avoid any switching I suppose they could be used just like a 3G modem, but while taking advantage of the $50/mo. LTE plan through Verizon. Unfortunately, when it comes to Verizon-compatible modems, the 551L has no antenna port and the UML290 has one that is well-documented as being extremely fragile and prone to breaking.

They sure don't make this easy on us. Unfortunately, we're a niche market, so they don't really have to. Like I said in my first post, I can only dream of the day coverage is good enough on all our smartphones that amps, antennas and standalone modems are a thing of the past.

Well that's the way to go if that's the case. I was always under the impression it was Sprint though, but you heard it from the source. The only downside to the hotspot is if it doesn't have a port for an external antenna, which the USB devices do. That helps a lot when getting a signal. I'd also be wasting my cradle if I got one, but it's its own cradle anyway.
I also looked into 4G LTE hotspots compatible with Verizon, and found their reviews were as bad or worse than 4G LTE modems. There were many, many complaints of constant dropped connections and problems relating to 3G/4G switching (often solvable only by powering the devices off+on). That's a shame, because unlike USB modems, Verizon actually offers prepaid plans for their hotspots (i.e., no activation fee and cheaper low-tier options like 2 GB/mo.). I believe the MiFi 4620LE actually does have an external antenna port.

By the way, I know that user reviews aren't always the last word on the quality of a product, but these reviews were consistently awful and many specifically mentioned that their experiences with older 3G hotspots were problem-free.

Regarding Millenicom, as I said last year, I still feel the startup costs for their plans are too large to make sense for chasers looking for coverage during the spring only. For example, their hotspot plan requires a $65 activation fee and $99 device purchase (this is probably at least twice what one would pay on eBay). If I had confidence the same device would be usable for several years into the future I might feel differently, but history has shown Millenicom radically changes their plans year to year.
 
I ditched Sprint last year and went with Verizon and I'll never go back. I picked up a broadband card for $45.00 on Ebay and had Verizon activate it on a 5GB "pay as you go" plan and it's $50.00 a month....No charge to suspend service for the winter and reactivate it in spring. I also went with the Cradlepoint MBR95 and it's worked great.
 
When chasing, I switch my LTE modem to full-time 3G. 4G really is unnecessary for chase-in-progress, even for streaming, so it's worth staying on 3G just for the stable connection. If I know I'm going to be confined to a metro area (like during winter storms, etc), I'll leave it on 4G. Does anyone know if a Verizon VL600 LTE aircard can be used with the Millenicom plans? My Verizon contract is up in June - and although I want to stay with their network for obvious reasons, being free of the 5GB cap would be nice.
 
I was reading over this thread and dreaming of the possibilities of what one could do with the current line up of products that have been mentioned in this thread. I've been running a Cradlepoint CTR-500 and have been doing so since 2008 and was really an early adopter and lover of what these magnificent little routers can do. Cradlepoint is simply awesome at upgrading their firmware in order to fix reported issues and the process is so bullet proof I think you'd have to try pretty hard to brick your router. Looking over their current lineup though makes me think they are moving away from the less than $100.00 crowd and aiming a little higher. The CTR35 that was mentioned above is listed on the Cradlepoint website as discontinued as of 01/01/13, so that leaves the current inventory that's out there for those who want to move now and not miss out. Speaking for myself, if I were to upgrade I'd pickup one of the CBR400's when the EVDO store is having a sale and give myself the flexibility to go either USB or Expresscard to open up my options. Then to add to my dream list I'd go with a Millenicom BYOD 50 GB of service $69.99 per month plan and find out what devices are supported, which carriers are involved, then go on a mad eBay hunt for the perfect device (to bring to Millenicom) that has an external antennae port that I could use with my Rockies amp. If there are no contracts and the cap is unlimited (50 GB) it sounds like a win/win situation to me.

The only question I have is has Cradlepoint worked on the heat output from their new lineup of mobile routers? My CTR-500 runs hot even in full on air conditioning, to the point that it can wind up adversely affecting connectivity in the field. I finally overcame that issue with a USB fan that I bought last year that keeps a constant stream of air blasting across the router. I really don't have a lot of hope of 4G or LTE being widely available in BF Egypt (where we chase) for another 5+ years, so for now I think it's a nice to have, but not necessarily a must have. It is that time of year to dream big though right?! :D
 
When chasing, I switch my LTE modem to full-time 3G. 4G really is unnecessary for chase-in-progress, even for streaming, so it's worth staying on 3G just for the stable connection. If I know I'm going to be confined to a metro area (like during winter storms, etc), I'll leave it on 4G. Does anyone know if a Verizon VL600 LTE aircard can be used with the Millenicom plans? My Verizon contract is up in June - and although I want to stay with their network for obvious reasons, being free of the 5GB cap would be nice.
Dan, it looks like the VL600 is another 4G LTE modem I wasn't aware of that offers an antenna port. How long have you been using it, and how has it held up on chases in terms of keeping connectivity? Also, do you have any experience using it connected to a 3G amp? Can you comment on the sturdiness of the antenna port? That's one weakness of the UML290 that really has me worried.

There are some used VL600s going for very cheap on eBay, and if chasers have had good experiences with them, I'll probably snag one to replace my UMW190. Knowing it can be locked to 3G only when needed is a big relief.
 
Not sure if this was mentioned but Pioneer Wireless has blanketed most of Oklahoma with 4GLTE thanks to its contract through Verizon. The past 2 years I have opted to go without a laptop and run mainly off of my HTC Thunderbolt with 4GLTE and use Radarscope. Though its not as detailed and stable then let's say GRL3, its enough to get me onto a storm and know when I should drop a storm. Albeit, in general this phone can get unstable with coverage no matter where you are. Also the app Easy Tether Pro let's me tether to a laptop without and surcharges, which is great since I still get my unlimited data through Verizon. I think this year I'll use the same setup, just for the price and to save room. Though looking at different radar apps might get my to stray away from RadarScope.
 
USB Modems: 4G LTE vs. 3G
Has anyone chased extensively with models like the Pantech UML290 or Novatel 551L and had good results? If it weren't for the reviews, it would seem like a no-brainer to switch over from my older UML190 for the cheaper plan and faster speeds. Also, with the external antenna port on the UML290, can one connect a 3G-only amp without adversely affecting regular 4G reception?

I used the UML290 last year attached to a Wilson amp and and 40" (13 dbi) antenna directly connected to it. Generally worked pretty good, but it did have its moments (especially in western OK when it started picking up 4g). My 3g only UM175 was much more reliable. Probably not even going to use that UML290 aircard this year (might sell it) as I ran internet just through my Driod Bionic by tethering on the Oct 12 chase and it worked great. I barely use any of my 4gb of data anyways and will save me probably $200 over the chase season. You also dont have to worry about reconnecting or anything, as the phone does everything for you. Only draw back is your internet gets bumped by phone calls if you are not in a 4g area, since on 3g the voice and data are tied together. Atleast with the Bionic I can always fall back to it and use PYKL3 radar in a pinch.

My only fear going back to the tethering route, which I used from 2007 to 2009 (flip phone that was directly connected to amp), is that my connection wont be as stable as when I could direct connect to my amp and antenna with the aircard. I am using a phone cradle, but testing it so far does not seem to bump my 3g signal at all. Amp and antenna are made for 3g, which doesnt boost any on the 4g frequencies. I like streaming video (mainly because it pays for a chase or 2 a year for me), but I might have to put on the back burner while on the tethering route, just to minimize any issues. Not worried about data usage too much because even streaming near all day on some chases, I dont think I ever went over 300mb in a day.

If 4G LTE modems can be locked into "3G only" mode to avoid any switching I suppose they could be used just like a 3G modem, but while taking advantage of the $50/mo. LTE plan through Verizon. Unfortunately, when it comes to Verizon-compatible modems, the 551L has no antenna port and the UML290 has one that is well-documented as being extremely fragile and prone to breaking.

I think most 4g/3g modems can be locked to 3g (CDMA) only inside the connection program, at least the UML290 could because I did it a few times last year. I can even lock my Droid Bionic on 3g now as I found and app called "LTE OnOff - HTC Thunderbolt". Tested it the other night. Real easy to use and is quick to switch over.

My inverter is hard-wired this year, so I won't technically lose power simply by turning off the engine. However, in my Civic (with no deep-cycle battery), I'm wary of leaving the inverter on for longer than a minute or two afterward. The Cradle probably doesn't draw much current, but the laptop and other items connected to the same power strip will, so my only option would be to constantly unplug and re-plug those (which would get old fast). Regardless, a battery as backup power would be a nice feature in a Cradle, but not absolutely necessary.

Brett, dont worry about the inverter draining your battery. It would take a good couple hours being on to get the battery below the point where you cant start your car. I can leave mine going, powering the whole dome setup, Wilson amp, charging batteries, and my laptop which is charge by the big 90 watt battery pack for extended periods (couple hours) without issues. Though if I leave my stereo on with my 600 watt amp going, my battery can be dead in 30 minutes. I would by a cheap stereo capacitor or just a voltmeter to hook up so you can keep tabs on it if your are worried about it. I just put my capacitor back, so I can watch my voltage. BTW, best inverter out there IMO is the one Walmart carries. Reason for this is that it is a "flip switch" inverter and not a "push button", so when you turn your car on you dont have to reset your inverter every time I had major issues with the silver Black & Decker inverters tripping all the time, especially when starting the car. The orange B&D didnt have the issue. I had some many headaches past few years because of those silver B&D inverters. It might just be me though.
 
Last night, I drove northeast of Highland, IL where there is no 4G service, and my Cradlepoint MBR95 did not switch to 3G (lost all internet connectivity). I went into the connection settings, and there was no CDMA option (only LTE, EVDO and 1Xrtt). I tried switching it manually to EVDO and then 1xrtt. When I did that, the modem led went green indicating a connection, but I couldn't pull any data through it. I will have to see if there is a firmware update to add CDMA support. EDIT: I just realized that my modem is still in LTE only mode - that may be the problem. I'll have to plug it into the laptop to switch it, then test again.

The VL600 has been a solid device when used on the laptop, no problems with it. I haven't used the antenna port, so I can't comment on that.

Regarding inverter battery drain, I have accidentally left my power switched on overnight a few times. If the laptop is off, I've seen it go more than 8 hours without any effect on the battery. If the laptop is on, it will only go a couple of hours before a noticeable sluggishness on startup. Any more than 3 hours with the laptop on, and the battery will be drained to the point of not being able to start the car. I've had a hardwired power setup in all of my vehicles going back to 2004, and in those 9 years I've drained the battery this way maybe 4 times. Keep a fully charged battery jump starter and that will get you through those incidents.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
IMO if you actually get to the point where your gear is causing car problems on a chase, you need to rethink the priorities of your setup a bit. Just saying.
 
My power setup hasn't ever caused problems on a chase, mainly because the laptop always goes into the hotel. I use my power system daily (non-chasing) for the dashcams/occasional laptop use. Battery issues 4 times over 9 years (IE, once every other year) isn't enough of a problem to worry about. That's just me..
 
I had used a Cradlepoint with a Sprint USB the last four years. When Sprint was dropped by Pioneer Wireless in NW OK I started to look around. I went with Verizon and got a 4620L Jet Pack. This works like the Cradlepoint up to 10 devices, 4g coverage in much of the Oklahoma chase area is very good and the unit falls back to 3g with no problems. It is way faster than the old Sprint card. I have been getting data in areas that were dead zones in the past. Uploading video in seconds when I remember the Tmobile days where I had to stop and wait forever to get the video to upload and lose the storm in the process.
 
I'm once again going with the good ol' Verizon USB760 modem - 3G Only. Only pay for the months I use it and I suspend service during the down months with no activation fee. I've had pretty good luck with it and got decent signal in NW OK last year with the Rockies amp. On the flip side, it didn't take much to lose all signal once the towers were getting pinged for data from chaser activity. I'm not for sure if that was more about weak signal or the modem itself, especially hearing others stories about having data issues. For me, the speed of data isn't so much an issue once I'm on a storm it's just a matter of being able to get data at all. The Cradlepoint sounds like something I need to look into though. What advantages would it give someone who is running everything through a laptop? I don't have data on my phone (yes I'm one of the remaining people on the earth who doesn't carry a smartphone:p), so would it help me?
 
If you're running everything through one laptop, then the Cradlepoint isn't necessary. The benefit is if you have multiple wifi-capable devices, or if you have others in the vehicle that also have laptops/tablets. I bought mine mainly so I could use my wifi-only tablet on the road along with my laptop.
 
I'm once again going with the good ol' Verizon USB760 modem - 3G Only. Only pay for the months I use it and I suspend service during the down months with no activation fee. I've had pretty good luck with it and got decent signal in NW OK last year with the Rockies amp. On the flip side, it didn't take much to lose all signal once the towers were getting pinged for data from chaser activity. I'm not for sure if that was more about weak signal or the modem itself, especially hearing others stories about having data issues. For me, the speed of data isn't so much an issue once I'm on a storm it's just a matter of being able to get data at all. The Cradlepoint sounds like something I need to look into though. What advantages would it give someone who is running everything through a laptop? I don't have data on my phone (yes I'm one of the remaining people on the earth who doesn't carry a smartphone:p), so would it help me?
Sean, how are you able to get out of the activation fee? How many months do you keep service activated each year? Also, are you an existing Verizon customer for your cell service?

As a non-customer, I was under the impression that I'll have to pay the $35 activation fee every spring when I activate my modem, since it's turned off the majority of the year (8-9 months). If this isn't the case, I'll not only be happy, but that will be even more reason to choose Verizon over Millenicom for service.

Like you, I have very often experienced an inability to connect at all during chaser convergences -- even in major metropolitan areas! For example, I recall not being able to connect near Chickasha on 5/24/11 as the tornado was developing. This is a perfect example of what has turned me off to using USB modems directly connected to a laptop. I guarantee that any Verizon cell customer with a smartphone would have had service at that location and time. My gut feeling is that it's the drivers and/or software (VZAccess Manager) that cause a lot of these problems. As such, I'm hoping a Cradlepoint-type router will make things go much smoother.

If the Cradlepoint doesn't help matters, then I might get desperate enough to consider an LTE tablet next season in lieu of modems or hotspots. Either by rooting or using third-party apps like FoxFi, it should be possible to get a cheap model and use it as a WiFi hotspot. The obvious downside is that no tablets have external antenna ports. However, I'd probably take slightly-reduced coverage (lacking an amp) over losing my connection every other time I'm near a storm.

If you're running everything through one laptop, then the Cradlepoint isn't necessary. The benefit is if you have multiple wifi-capable devices, or if you have others in the vehicle that also have laptops/tablets. I bought mine mainly so I could use my wifi-only tablet on the road along with my laptop.
My main motivation for buying a Cradlepoint is not to use multiple devices (though I may do that too), but more for the reasons I just mentioned above. This is where I'd love to hear detailed experiences from folks who have used USB modems in both configurations -- connected to a laptop and through a Cradlepoint. Is there any evidence that a Cradlepoint decreases the frequency of dropped connections and other flakiness?

I've never been able to shake the feeling when using USB modems that the drivers/software were adding a whole layer of problems on their own. I've had numerous instances of trying to connect through Sprint or Verizon's software and getting an "authentication error," which would never happen on a smartphone or tablet, since they don't try to "authenticate" anything -- they just grab a signal and go to work. I've also had flaky connections that suddenly improved after restarting Windows.

More than likely, if the device manufacturers and carriers put some real effort into the drivers and software, USB modems would be the best and most reliable option for chasers (which they really should be, given the pricy data plans). But I feel like the reality of the situation is that those issues compromise their reliability to the point of offsetting modems' advantages, at least direct-connected. Again, I'm curious whether Cradlepoint changes the equation.
 
I've searched here for information and discussion regarding XM/wxworx mobile satellite weather technology. There's not any discussion that I can find that is reasonably current. Is anyone using this and if so, are there any major pros/cons someone should be made aware of if interested (besides upfront and subscription costs)?
 
I discovered last year that the VZ Access Manager doesn't have to be running for the modem to work. Once you have the drivers installed, the modem works flawlessly without the access manager running. I had many issues with VZ Access Manager dropping connections and giving me 'sim failure' errors all the time, those disappeared once I stopped using the software. I still have to run it to switch from 4G to 3G and back, though - but I just close it once I'm done changing the modem settings.

WxWorx hasn't really changed much since the last discussions we've had about it on these forums. I still use it because it always works. Cell coverage is getting better, but even now is not enough to rely on. April 14 last year, WxWorx was instrumental in my intercepts. I had no cell service in that part of OK most of the day.
 
Back
Top