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Musings on a Broadband Aircard Connection

Keep in mind as you read this rambling post that I am not an expert in the field of broadband internet technology-whether it pertains to a recreational vehicle or not. I have been around the aircard end of this for quite awhile— all my equipment says Cingular on it and my connection package (which is no longer offered) is for unlimited use at $59/month.

I sometimes question how you can quantitatively measure the strength or quality of an aircard connection. When you are in a large Metro area, a good 3G connection is effortless. A good, strong steady signal that almost rivals a hardwired internet hookup…. and it is so simple! No fooling around with Wi-Fi networks or DSL gateways, you just plug that little card in and you are off to the races.

However, get a little off the beaten path and things change. You feel like a red headed orphan most of the time. I tried to explain how the entire system kinda works in the second installment of The Ultimate Internet Access Project here so I am not going to go into all of that again.

Here is what I believe after a few years of experience.  The broadband signal you receive from the cell phone tower is subject to all kinds of limitations and vagaries. Rural towers transmit at a higher power level; metro cell towers are pitifully weak in comparison,  atmospheric conditions,  time of day, cell tower load, line of sight —  all these things affect your signal.  The one thing that makes me the craziest is an inconsistent signal .  Keep in mind the higher dBm  number is the weaker signal.  So I am internetting right along, happy as a clam with a -80dBM signal. Then all of a sudden I get the “Page not found” or some such message and  I scratch around and discover my signal strength has deteriorated to -98dBM.  Usually about then , it will swing back to a -82dBm or something and here I go again.   It reminds me of a bad commute, stop and then go like hell and then stop.  I gave up stop and go traffic years ago and this “bad” broadband signal thing drives me crazy.

My best solution if you are going to get off the well traveled path and still expect a usable broadband internet connection is to aim for a consistent signal.   I have found it easier to deal with a steady -90dBM signal than one that swings from -65dBm to -100dBm.   You do this by deploying quality equipment that is going to draw that signal in and then send it back to the tower with a little punch.  That is what the whole focus has been this last month — that is what the Ultimate Internet Access Project is all about.   I am not trying to set some Guiness Record for internet access from the greatest distance; I just want a reliable connection if there is the faintest whiff of a broadband signal floating around the Fish Bus.   The preliminary reports are encouraging –damned encouraging.  Stay tuned

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