Cellular Modem Internet

Verizon High Speed Internet Set up in Your Home – Courtesy of Rob Bergstrom
There are NO cell phone minutes associated with a data plan. The data plan and associated modem is independent of time (minutes) but instead works on a data limit (5 GB for 59.99/month). You can be connected to the internet night and day but if you don’t download/upload anything you won’t move towards your data cap. After you exceed 5 GB per month there is a per MB fee.
I wanted to share our experiences with Verizon Wireless High Speed Internet Service in Alpine Peaks  (Tahoe Area) . Last year when we moved to the neighborhood we explored options and weren’t thrilled about the cost, long term contract and variable speed of satellite options so we created a solution using Verizon’s EVDO data service.  We do not get Verizon cellphone reception at our home and the modem does not work “as is” but with a simple antenna we are able to tie a modem into the tower above Tahoe City and boost the signal despite the fact that we have no line of sight to the tower.

ADVANTAGES of Verizon High Speed Internet:
1. No contract – it is month to month via Verizon if you procure your own modem.
2. Higher speed than satellite and no slowdown during peak times.  We get 1.5 Mb/sec downstream and 0.6 Mb/sec upstream regardless of time of day or weather conditions (storms included). Latency is so low that we routinely do video conferencing from our setup without problems.
3. Low fixed up-front cost for equipment.
4. Modem and service works at other locations around the Lake (and country) with a laptop

DISADVANTAGES of Verizon High Speed Internet:
1. 5Gb per month limit – still pretty generous, even for our heavy usage.
2. A hour or two of legwork to procure equipment and install.

Everything you need to know about getting Verizon EVDO data service can be found at http://3gstore.com.   I will outline below what we learned and executed to make the service work.
The basic equipment setup to make this work costs around $140. You own the equipment.  The optional wireless router to convert this from a single computer account to whole home wireless solution costs an additional $85.

1. Verizon EVDO USB modem
2. Verizon service contract ($60/month with 5GB/month limit + one time $35 activation fee)
3. Antenna, antenna adapter, and antenna extension cable if necessary
4. Wireless router (OPTIONAL)
Modem:  The revA EVDO capable Verizon USB modem can be one of several models.  Compliant models
include the Verizon USB720, USB727, USB760, UM150, UM175, UMW190. There isn’t a speed difference between these modems. You might want to purchase your modem used on ebay or craigslist. This enables you to get month to month Verizon service instead of signing a two year contract with Verizon which includes a modem for a nominal fee of $20-$50.  I bought a used USB720 on ebay for $24 including shipping.

Antenna: There are several antennas available for use with these modems.  I suggest using a directional Yagi antenna. I purchased my antenna here.

Connecting Antenna to Modem: You will need an adapter ($13) and may need an extension cable ($20 for 10 feet) depending on your mounting solution to connect your antenna to your modem. See the link above to find the correct adapter. 

Mounting Antenna:
Depending on the signal at your location you may be able to mount your antenna indoors or may want to mount on your outside wall, rain gutter, or roof.  This will impact the length of the extension cable you need.  My antenna works fine indoors but I mounted on my deck for convenience.  You might want to mount the antenna with a simple bracket such as the one found here ($6).
Wireless option:
If you decide build a wireless network in your home Cradlepoint routers are plug and play
with all Verizon USB EVDO modems. This also frees you from having to leave a computer on to have the internet working and enables you to have multiple users (computers, iphones ect.) and maybe even share your connection with a close neighbor if you want to do so. The Cradlepoint CTR350 is probably the best value at $85. These can be found here.
Additional resources:
3g store homepage: http://3gstore.com/index.php?main_page=index
EVDO forums: http://www.evdoinfo.com
EVDO blog: http://evdotips.blogspot.com/
Also from Steve Drake:
I can suggest five things about the process.  1) Know how the US Cellular deal works.  2) US Cellular has an optimization code that tunes your modem to the signal at your location.  You might need to ask them for it.  3) Moving the wireless modem up and away from they computer helps.  A USB extension cord does this.  4) Evidently, if you get one or two bars reception, the data rate will be at capacity.  And 5) It is very important to monitor usage.  There is a 5 GB data cap and it becomes very expensive to overrun it–as in $0.50/MB.  Beyond this for me, it’s Google it . . .

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