Wi-Fi Revisited

For nearly a year now I have spent time toiling over how to acquire the best wireless internet and for the cheapest cost (I'm still paying student loans) for those stormchasing adventures. The 3G network is ever-growing with cell phone providers such as Verizon and Cingular (the aforementioned is my provider). Though the coverage for the Great Plains, aside from Oklahoma, is relatively GPRS rather than EDGE, and UMTS/HSDPA is confined to cities (12 as of now), there is still the possibility of good data feed at a 56k modem speed if you're in the right area.

Mr. Andrew Revering has a great solution provided that you can piggyback off of wireless internet networks. If I am not mistaken, though, many hotel locations were making wireless internet password sensitive and only for those rooming at their establishments. Still with the advent of improving technologies Wi-Fi hot spots are surely increasing, and truck stops especially are open markets. There are suggestions of the best Wi-Fi technology for mobile adventures below from Mr. Revering.

Mr. Jeff Snyder also provided some suggestion for keeping costs low utilizing slowly-improving Wi-Fi cell phone markets (Cingular in this case). The unlimited MediaNet is still available with Cingular for $19.99 a month and you should 'tether' to wap.cingular and not isp.cingular otherwise you'll face overages on your bill (see the second post at http://discussion.treocentral.com/showthre...ad.php?p=663403, further discussion can be found here: http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php...hreadid=580122). It doesn't seem like Cingular has the time to go after offenders of using wap.cingular to obtain the internet onto their PC from their GPRS cell phone.

What I'm looking for here is advice and suggestions. I've tried to summarize all my findings to the best of my abilities but I am curious if anyone else happens to have any suggestions or ideas for connecting mobilily to the internet. As always I've looked over peoples personal stormchasing webpages to see what they are using and over old posts in stormtrack ... following the rules and policies as best possible. At least there are public libraries with free internet access ... and running in and out often burns the fast food I eat on the road.

EDIT: I do own Mobile WXWORKS from Baron and of course along with the XM Weather Package (I only subscribe to this during the chasing season).



Download speeds
GPRS: like a 56K modem
EDGE: up to 135 kbps
UMTS/HSDPA: up to 700 kbps

Data Coverage Map:

Cingular Data Rate Plans - NON PDA, with PC Card (Each is a 2 year agreement with a $36.00 activation fee):

Early termination fee of $150 ($240 for FL, GA, SC, NC, AL, KY, TN, LA, NY and parts of IN and NJ):

5 MB $19.99/month $239.88/year
10 MB $29.99/month $359.88/year
20 MB $39.99/month $479.88/year
50 MB $49.99/month $599.88/year
Unlimited $79.99/month $959.88/year
$59.99/month (for a limited time only) $719.88

MediaNet Unlimited $19.99/month $239.88/year

Novatel U730 vs. Sierra Wireless Aircard 860

Sierra Wireless Aircard 860 PC Modem
* Compatible with UMTS/HSDPA and EDGE/GPRS wireless networks
* Average downlink speeds of 400 to 700 kbps on 3G UMTS/HSDPA networks
* Bursts up to 1.8 Mbps on 3G UMTS / HSDPA networks
* Average downlink speeds of 70 to 135 kbps on EDGE networks
* Compatible with nearly all popular laptops with Windows operating systems.

Novatel U730
* 3G compatible
* Compatible with UMTS/HSDPA and EDGE/GPRS wireless networks
* Average downlink speeds of 400 to 700 kbps on 3G UMTS/HSDPA networks
* Bursts up to 1.8 Mbps on 3G UMTS / HSDPA networks
* Average downlink speeds of 70 to 135 kbps on EDGE networks
* Compatible with nearly all popular laptops with Windows operating systems.

Roughly the same ...
The Sierra comes with an external antenna
The Novatel comes with an internal antenna and RF jack for an external antenna (unsure as to what type of connector)
BOTH have firmware upgrade capabilities

A solution from Mr. Jeff Snyder (November 21st, 2005):

"I use my MPx220 to tether to my laptop... This allows me to use the $20 unlimited MediaNet deal with my laptop.
Since my phone isn't EDGE-capable, I'm stuck on the GPRS network, which is about 56k dial-up speed.
If you have an EDGE-capable phone, you should be able to get into the 150-300 kbps range.
Don't tell Cingular you are doing this, however, since they'll make you get the $80/mo ($60/mo on sale now)
DataConnect plan since the MediaNet isn't intended to be used with a laptop. Regardless, it's worked fine for me.
FWIW, the DataConnect, I've heard, is a tad faster. Head on over to howardforums.com or
Google "Cingular tethering" and I'm sure you'll find lots. The MediaNet doesn't require you to "dial into"
and ISP as you may have done in the past... You just set up the dialup networking to use something like *99#,
and you're set (well, need to set a modem string). You don't use your minutes with this, as it's digital data
(thus the reason why you'd want the unlimited data)."


Previous STORMTRACK.forum Discussions

From Mr. Andrew Revering (April 14th, 2005):

"What one really needs to do is look at the specifications of your PCMCIA card you plan on purchasing.
Don't settle for anything less than a 200mW output power (23 dBm) with at least a -89 dBm receive sensitivity.
The larger the output power (higher positive numbers) and larger negative receive sensitivity the better.
For example 24.3 dBm (300mW) and -91 dBm sensitivity would be better yet.

Also, make sure your card has external antenna jacks, and then get yourself the highest gain antenna you can find.
Depending on the manufacturer, the gain published may not be entirely true, but there really isn't any way to
find out for sure until you try it.

Directional Yagi antennas tend to have the best focused power, however you have to hold and point it,
which can be annoying I think. I prefer to just go with a mag mount omni directional antenna.
The highest gain I could find was a 8.5 dBi."

"The card I bought was only $30 off of EBay. It's the SMC2532W-B.

There is another out there that is better yet... that one will cook your noogies and I believe is
above FCC regulations. It runs $149.95 and can be found here:

and while I'm at it, the best omni antenna I could find
(which isn't as great as some of these directional ones you guys are talking about) is this one:

...and yes, it's most typical to find output power of 3x mW or 15 dBm.
That's far lower than what you could have for output power."

PC Card: $119.95
Omni-Directional Antenna: $59.99
Internet Access: FREE(?)

### There could be possible NEWER and BETTER products released since this information came to light ###