I have, with much assistance from Louise, my ‘virtual assistant’ living in Spain, determined a feasible way to stay connected.
The main considerations were
- Wifi (open/paid)
- Mobile broadband (3G) from the UK, and roaming
- Getting a local mobile broadband account upon entry to a new country
- Mobile satellite
The conclusions are:
- Wifi: Not accessible enough, particularly if we plan to freecamp often
- Mobile broadband: Vodafone is a viable option at £5/day for up to 15Mb (You pay less for up to 1Mb, then the full £5 up to 15Mb), but 15Mb/day is very limiting – No video chat, no watching TV online, certainly no downloading applications/SDK updates, etc.
- Satellite internet: Only viable option is the Alden Netmaster 90, which over two years (£3200 installation, €600/year = £524/year service fee) works out at about £5.82/day. Quota is limiting (see below), although perhaps not so much as mobile broadband. Will probably require custom software to manage bandwidth/quota.
- Getting a mobile broadband account per country: Tricky, as we need to research the best plan each time, but this is the best option. Pre-paid mobile Internet seems to have come far of late, and is a fairly decent option.
Have not heard particularly good reports on free WiFi availability. Trevor and Jane, who travel and stay in caravan parks all of the time, tell us they’ve only found open WiFi a small number of times, during their travels.
Others say there’s open WiFi available ‘everywhere’, but standards differ between individuals – for one who needs Internet to be available much of the time, WiFi doesn’t sound like an option that can be relied upon.
As far paid WiFi, the same problem exists – it only works where there’s a base station.
This is a particular issue while ‘freecamping’ which we want to do a fair amount.
3G mobile broadband from UK
Appears not to be a viable option, given any kind of Internet usage above low-volume email checking. Vodafone appear to be the least worst for roaming, although their data plans are very limited.
- Plans – eg. £25/month for 5 gb
- Roaming in Europe: £5/day for up to 15 MB, £2 per MB over, only includes HTTP traffic presumably, not VoIP, IM, etc (charged separately at £5/MB)
- Plans – eg. £30/month for 5 gb
- Roaming – unknown
Mobile satellite-based Internet access is more expensive than traditional static satellite. Traditionally, one uses a telephone line as the ‘return path’, presumably so that less resources need to be dedicated to you — the satellite doesn’t need to manage uplinks. When you’re on the move though, obviously, a phone line isn’t available. Consequently, two-way satellite is required, where the local satellite dish also provides a direct uplink to the satellite. This works out to cost around three times as much as services such as ADSL.
Self-seeking/Auto-deploy – Typically three times price of a manual mount system
- RVSats (Datastorm reseller)
- DirecStar Europe
- EthNet UK (DIRECTWAY/Hughes Net reseller)
- Bentley Walker
- El Molino Systems
- C-ComSat, who are a top-level provider not directly servicing individuals; asked them for a recommendation on dealers
El Molino Systems
Suggested a Tooway KA system – €650 + tax
Basic (1.2 gb/month): €35 Bronze (2 gb/month): €49 Silver (3 gb/month): €67 Gold (6 gb/month): €125
Also suggested a Tooway system, at €460
Quota services and pricing as above
- Servicesat (DirecStar Europe) – Rick could only suggest the DT740 74cm antenna at $8,000 USD, well beyond budget
- RVSats – Shirley just replied “We are certified installers in the U.S.“; presumably not servicing Europe at all
- EthNet UK – Jacquie replied with a G74 spec, but well above budget at £5990 + £500 installation, and noted that they offer no products suitable for mobile use
- Excelerate – Referred by Joe from C-ComSat, no reply yet
Providers who never replied
- BeyonDSL (ASTRA2Connect reseller); Some additional searching revealed some pricing information:
- 500 mb/month ‘priority’ download, shaped to 64 kbit after 2gb (£20/month with annual payment)
- 1.4 gb/month ‘priority’, shaped after 5 gb (£40/month with annual payment)
- 2 gb/month ‘priority’, shaped after 5 gb (£80/month with annual payment)
- Hardware costs £300
- No mention of applicability to mobile use – probably not suitable
Other provider info
Speed ‘on par’ with 1Mb broadband, drops dramatically at busy times (6pm – 9pm weekdays) Provides TV also (can’t be used at same time as Internet)
VoIP seems to work well
Approx. £3200 fitted
Quota: Very vague currently – IPcopter say “Depending on the selected model this limit probably will be up to 40 MByte within 30 minutes. The datarate will be reduced for about one day.” This will be very limiting for someone like me, wanting a large monthly quota around the 20-60gb mark. A 40 MB/half hour limit will mean, for example, a 2.5Gb iPhone SDK will take 31 hours to download, assuming that I can find or write an appropriate piece of software to auto-limit bandwidth to avoid breaching the 40mb/30min limit and be shaped for a day. A single 350mb TV episode will take over 4 hours to download. Better than nothing, but not much for the amount of money.
EUR 730 per year (Is this for Internet as well?) EUR 355 for 100 days out of 2 years EUR 210 for 40 days out of 1 year Additional time can be purchased
Wind is a problem (above 15-20 mph it should not be used); satellite is in geo-stationary orbit above Greece, so does not work reliably in Northern regions.
- IPcopter, the service providers, here and here
- Outdoor Bits
- Adventure Motorhome Hire
- Motorhome Facts – here and here
- Motorhome Fun forum
Mobile broadband per-country
This option involves signing up upon entry to each country for an account, and using that while in-country.
This is the solution for us – read local prepaid mobile broadband for more info.