Author Topic: How to get internet access? - complicated!  (Read 5184 times)

Sturton

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How to get internet access? - complicated!
« on: May 14, 2016, 12:45:13 AM »
Hi, all -- longtime reader.  I have a problem I'd like a Mustachian solution to, or even any solution at all.  I need internet access while travelling, in a complicated situation.  I do remote freelance work and need to have internet access wherever I am.

Right now I have a nice cheap pay-as-you-go flip cell phone which I use very little (because I don't need it much).  I get internet access through a hotspot which is on a two-year contract, ending early this coming July.  I don't want to renew it, for reasons I'll get to.  So one solution might be to get a smartphone and tether my laptop to my smartphone for internet access.  But.

Here's the situation.  In June I'll be at home, where I have house wifi, so that's welll and good.  For the month of July I'll be at my summer house, which has no internet.  (Why am I a Mustachian who has a summer house?  Because I inherited it and it's wonderful, that's why.  I'm hanging on to it.)  In August I will be in the UK for a year, and I'll need some kind of mobile internet access there.

Clearly it would be expensive and pointless to get wifi installed in the summer house just for the month of July.  I should mention it has no cable, no nothing, not even a phone line.  (It does have electricity.)

So can I get some kind of unlocked smartphone which I can use first in the US, then in the UK, to get internet access on my laptop?  Or what other way can I get internet at the summer house, then in the UK, without breaking the bank?  Preferably by acquiring some kind of equipment which can be used in both places, without being locked into any contracts.

Any ideas?


pk_aeryn

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2016, 12:59:53 AM »
Do you have any neighbors' wifi close enough at your summer house?  If so you could ask to chip in for a month for their pw.

Or is there a coffee shop nearby you could work from?  Usually it's not mustachian to order coffee every day but in this case, for a month 2-5 bucks a day might be a cheap solution.

But your idea of a smartphone is also good, IF that solves your "internet in the UK" issue.  You can buy older smartphones, don't have to get the latest iPhone.

Sturton

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2016, 01:42:36 AM »
Unfortunately the summer house is quite rural and doesn't get anyone else's internet.  There's internet in a McDonald's 30 minutes away, but I will be teaching an intensive course online and will need to be online several times a day, so the McDonald's isn't the most promising option, as driving back and forth seems exhausting and time-consuming.  I'm a newbie to smartphones (obviously) - are there carriers where you can get only one month's data usage at a time, and use a lot of it, without it being incredibly pricy?

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2016, 03:58:30 AM »
Get Google FI. It should match all of your requirements

  • You can use it for internet access in your summer home. You only pay for the data you use.Since this place is rural, do you know if there is cell phone coverage for this area?
  • Google FI works abroad. So you can use it on your trip to the UK

Check out Google FI at
https://fi.google.com

Also, our very own I.P. Daley has a awesome help guide. Have you checked it out?
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-son-of-the-superguide!/
« Last Edit: May 14, 2016, 04:06:39 AM by CowboyAndIndian »

kimmarg

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2016, 04:23:57 AM »
Have you looked into continuing to use the hotspot without a contract? With Verizon at least you can do that after the contract expires it's just month to month.  Even if the rate is slightly higher per month that would get you July. Never been to the UK so I have no idea.

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2016, 08:49:29 AM »
Get Google FI. It should match all of your requirements
...

Also forgot to add that I am using Google FI for the last 6 months and have no issues with it. Bought a Nexus 6 phone off Amazon.
I have not travelled abroad after the time I got the phone, but plan to make a trip to India this summer where I will check it out.

Daley

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2016, 10:31:29 PM »
Mobile data is expensive, unfortunately.

As for better recommendations in general, it requires some detail (where the location is, what networks service it ,etc.). This will shape hardware recommendations overall as it will depend on which carrier you go with, and may potentially rule out something like Google Fi given it runs on T-Mobile and Sprint LTE only domestically and you're talking about a remote cabin. That said, if you're travelling internationally and want to use the same handset, that pushes more towards avoiding CDMA-based carriers like Verizon. Knowing your overall data usage expectations will help with recommendations as well. Right now, you're not providing enough meaningful information to provide a reasonable suggestion.

If you want to do data-only plans, you might find some cheaper solutions. Say, if AT&T coverage works, Toast.net is cheaper than AT&T DataConnect month-to-month, and requires no contract... but you'll lose some of those cost advantages if you're just looking to do one month of service... but doing business with AT&T directly places far more restrictions on the devices you can get a data only plan with.

If you need/want a talk/text/data plan with tethering and a lot of data, it's gonna get expensive no matter what. You'll either go under some sort of contract with a major carrier and pay out the wazoo, or you'll have to go with an MVNO that charges you roughly $10/GB with a $20 baseline, such as through Google Fi or EasyGo Wireless (H2O).

Internationally, you'll want to talk with locals and ask who offers the cheapest decent plan that fits your needs. It'll likely be cheaper than using something like Fi for data prices.

Give the guide linked by CowboyAndIndian a read, and let me know if you have any questions (I authored the thing).

Sturton

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2016, 10:19:23 PM »
I've read much of the phone guide, but it's really geared for people who are going to be using their phones in the States year-round, not one month in the States and then a year in the UK.

It sounds as if Google Fi is the way to go.  My data usage will be fairly high for that one month, but then extremely low for the year in the UK (I'll have regular wifi in my housing and I don't need data when I'm out and about much).  So the most important thing is not to be locked into a contract that makes me pay a high monthly rate.

The Google Fi website seems to indicate that my summer house is in a good reception area.

Thanks, all!

Daley

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2016, 08:06:41 AM »
I've read much of the phone guide, but it's really geared for people who are going to be using their phones in the States year-round, not one month in the States and then a year in the UK.

You can say that if all you're doing is focusing on specific providers, but the guide covers far more than just providers. It covers approach and philosophy on how to save money no matter what providers you're using.

It sounds as if Google Fi is the way to go.  My data usage will be fairly high for that one month, but then extremely low for the year in the UK (I'll have regular wifi in my housing and I don't need data when I'm out and about much).  So the most important thing is not to be locked into a contract that makes me pay a high monthly rate.

This seems like an expensive mistake you're about to make based on incomplete information. What does "fairly high" data usage realistically entail? Are you seriously prepared to drop upwards of a half a grand for phone and service (or more) in less than a month? Do you honestly think this is a reasonable price to play?

Then, you're going to live in the UK for a year. Do you really think spending money on US-based mobile phone service for a year of UK living where you might need a local number and don't need heavy mobile data is honestly your best frugal solution?

The Google Fi website seems to indicate that my summer house is in a good reception area.

Coverage maps lie. However, more importantly, knowing what part of the hybrid map covers your area could help you save even more money if you don't just ride off half-cocked.

Do me a favor. Before you decide to spend the coin on Google Fi, just give me a ZIP code of the summer house, a rough number of GB expected to be used for the month, and your average per month minute/text usage. I suspect I could find you a solution that'll cost at least half of what you're planning to pay just going Google Fi.

Sturton

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2016, 11:56:20 AM »
I don't think I'm as ill-informed as you think I am, but okay, if you think you can save me some money, that's all good. 

I would estimate my month's data usage for July would be around 6 GB.  This is based on the amount I've used in similar situations before.  That would cost $60 for July on Google Fi -- but then nothing for the rest of the year.

Phone minutes maybe 60 per month in the US, maybe 20 per month in the UK.  Texts about 15 per month in the US, maybe 100 per month in the UK.  All based on prior experience.  As I understand it, texts are free on Google Fi no matter whether I'm in the US or UK.  I've never used a phone with data in the UK and have umpteen other data options free wifi in most of the places I'll be, both at home and out and about so I don't think that would be much of an expense.

I already have a pay-as-you-go phone in the UK it also helps that in the UK, calls and texts you receive on your mobile phone are free.  (Probably not true with Google Fi service).  Plus I will have a landline in the UK comes with the accommodation.  So I can certainly avoid paying much for phone calls via Google Fi in the UK, which it seems to me are the expensive part of the proposition.

But certainly tell me if something else seems cheaper.  Zip code for the summer house is 47246.

robartsd

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2016, 12:28:22 PM »
I don't think I'm as ill-informed as you think I am, but okay, if you think you can save me some money, that's all good. 

I would estimate my month's data usage for July would be around 6 GB.  This is based on the amount I've used in similar situations before.  That would cost $60 for July on Google Fi -- but then nothing for the rest of the year.

Phone minutes maybe 60 per month in the US, maybe 20 per month in the UK.  Texts about 15 per month in the US, maybe 100 per month in the UK.  All based on prior experience.  As I understand it, texts are free on Google Fi no matter whether I'm in the US or UK.  I've never used a phone with data in the UK and have umpteen other data options free wifi in most of the places I'll be, both at home and out and about so I don't think that would be much of an expense.

I already have a pay-as-you-go phone in the UK it also helps that in the UK, calls and texts you receive on your mobile phone are free.  (Probably not true with Google Fi service).  Plus I will have a landline in the UK comes with the accommodation.  So I can certainly avoid paying much for phone calls via Google Fi in the UK, which it seems to me are the expensive part of the proposition.

But certainly tell me if something else seems cheaper.  Zip code for the summer house is 47246.
The problem with Google Fi is the cost of the device. I'd seriouslly check with the carrier for the hotspot you already have for ongoing month-to-month service once you contract ends. You might also investigate if you can take the hotspot to a MVNO after contract so that you can shop other plans.

Sturton

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2016, 12:34:18 PM »
The hotspot I have now is AT&T, and I haven't had a good experience with them.   When things went wrong at one point, it was a nightmare getting them to put it right.  But I do own the device already.  They do seem to offer a pay-as-you-go option now, though the website suspiciously doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of my device (which I bought from them).

Kwill

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2016, 12:48:36 PM »
If your UK place comes with a landline, might it also come with Internet somehow? A lot of places seem to. Also, if you are affiliated with a university in either country, will you be able to use Eduroam? I wouldn't base the decision about US Internet access on what you need for the year in the UK. Things are so different. . . .

I recently relocated to the UK. I had switched to Republic Wireless back in 2014. Though I wouldn't totally recommend RW due to some connection and call quality issues, I've found it useful to be able to continue to get US calls and texts on my US phone for $5 plus tax per month. For longer conversations, I use Skype. The combination of the US cell phone and Skype has taken care of my international calling needs. I live and work at a university, so I use Eduroam for Wi-Fi at home and for some of my travel needs, depending on where I am. Coffee shops also tend to have Wi-Fi. Then I use a pay-as-you-go deal with "ee" for my UK mobile phone -- 1 per week for 50 texts and 25 minutes of talk, bumped up to 35 minutes of talk recently as a loyalty bonus for being with ee for 3 months. I don't tend to use mobile data in either country because I don't need it.


Daley

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2016, 01:02:25 PM »
I don't think I'm as ill-informed as you think I am, but okay, if you think you can save me some money, that's all good.

Oh yeah, I'm gonna knock your socks off.

But certainly tell me if something else seems cheaper.  Zip code for the summer house is 47246.

T-Mo coverage. Excellent. Let's lay it out for you.

Using Google Fi for your phone service means you're committing to a $200 phone and $20/month phone service for "unlimited" talk and text. For what you're using and needing? It's absurd.

Google Fi solution:
$200 Nexus 5X (be sure to get the international version and not the US)
$260+tax for 13 months of phone service
$60 data
TOTAL - $520+taxes

My first solution:
$30 T-Mobile hotspot (ZTE Z64 MiFi - resellable)
$35 T-Mobile prepaid 6GB data
(potentially cheaper or possibly a wash if you just ride out one more month of mobile data with AT&T out of contract or switching to prepaid - do the math)
$100 Alcatel Pop 3(5) Android handset
$20 Google Voice number port
$10 one month Airvoice, H2O Wireless or Puretalk USA phone service (plus $1 for SIM through dealer)
(probably cheaper still if you stay with your current carrier until you port your number to Google Voice before you leave - do the math)
$90 GiffGaff 125min/500SMS/100MB plan for 12 months PAYGO (or) $72 TalkTalk 250min/unl-SMS/300MB plan for 12 month contract
TOTAL - $286+taxes (or cheaper)

Nearly half the price.

For mobile data at your cabin for work, straight up T-Mobile prepaid data plan with hotspot if you can't get AT&T prepaid data rolling on your existing device.

If you want to go 100% no contract and roughly PAYGO for usage for phone service domestically and abroad and your usage is going to stay pretty consistent, one recommendation would be H2O Wireless Stateside given the minimal usage (with Google Voice as your primary number - just remember to disassociate your "hidden" US number from the GV account when you let it lapse) and GiffGaff for your UK usage and just swap SIM cards. Switching to an Android smartphone, however, will make it easier to use Google Voice/Hangouts for texting and phone calls both home and away.

Alternately, you could go Truphone SIM for your US/UK service and just keep using a cheap feature phone so long as it had GSM/UMTS 850/900/1900/2100 band support. They offer free incoming calls and texts both in the US and UK, so there's the potential for greater savings, but worst case with the numbers you stated? $6.75/month for US usage, $10.80/month for UK usage, you could port your US number to Truphone, and it would only be $8/month for a UK number. All calls to both numbers would come in on your phone with zero hassle.

My second solution:
$30 T-Mobile hotspot (ZTE Z64 MiFi - resellable)
$35 T-Mobile prepaid 6GB data
(again, potentially cheaper or possibly a wash if you just ride out one more month of mobile data with AT&T out of contract or switching to prepaid - do the math)
$50 Nokia 6350 (used unlocked - only if your current phone can't be used)
$136.35 Truphone (at most - probably much cheaper)
$96 UK phone number for a year (if needed) (or) $27 UK inbound phone number through Localphone (no SMS) for a year
TOTAL - $347.35+taxes (or cheaper)

The thing is, you don't go into detail on what you currently had. It's only been with prodding that you even mentioned you're with AT&T on your mobile data. Depending on what phone you currently have, you could easily optimize and knock your prices out of the park while still getting everything you need and more (and more simplified for doing the US/UK divide) than the way you're probably approaching it currently, for roughly half of what you're committing to if you go Google Fi, and it can be just as convenient.



Republic Wireless

There is always a cheaper and better solution. The $5 RW plan isn't anything more than you paying a price premium for using what is effectively Google Voice, which is a free service, only you're locked to a proprietary handset.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2016, 01:06:20 PM by I.P. Daley »

Sturton

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2016, 01:53:46 PM »
What I have now is Tracfone (using a $9 Samsung flip phone) and as the hotspot, an AT&T Velocity.  I don't remember the make of the UK phone offhand but it is a slide phone from 2007 (still works fine, though), using O2 as the carrier.  Does that change the calculations any?

Dicey

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2016, 02:13:54 PM »
I.P. Daley, you ROCK!

P.S. I do too, but I do not rock.

Kwill

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2016, 03:02:51 PM »
What I have now is Tracfone (using a $9 Samsung flip phone) and as the hotspot, an AT&T Velocity.  I don't remember the make of the UK phone offhand but it is a slide phone from 2007 (still works fine, though), using O2 as the carrier.  Does that change the calculations any?

For UK pay-as-you-go, I think 3 and ee would be cheaper than O2. There are a lot of sites that compare prices and services. Here's one that seems pretty comprehensive, though I don't know how up to date it is: http://mobilenetworkcomparison.org.uk/compare/

If you can buy or borrow a smartphone for either country, it could be helpful even if you can't or don't activate it with a cell carrier. I keep mine on airplane mode and use it for email, calls, Skype, and Internet over Wi-Fi plus photos, alarm clock, etc. When I don't have a Wi-Fi connection, I can still write emails and queue them to send later. You can find them used now on Amazon, and you may already have a friend or relative with an old smartphone stuck in a drawer somewhere.

Daley

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2016, 03:25:32 PM »
Does that change the calculations any?

Nope, and let me explain why.

First, AT&T is shutting down 2G services in the US leaving only T-Mobile 1900MHz 2G GSM services through the end of the decade - as far as I know, 2G services aren't being shut down in the UK anytime soon, but I won't die on that claimed hill. We need to factor this on what handsets are best suited for your needs for global network compatibility.

The O2 handset is probably 2G GSM only, probably still carrier locked, and I wouldn't bank on it absolutely supporting US GSM bands anyway - let alone 3G US bands (depending on the cost), so figure it a lost cause. I would also highly recommend ditching Tracfone when you leave for the UK and/or return Stateside in general - there's cheaper for the money without the stupid proprietary handsets that are carrier locked, but note the bolded words. Tracfone feature phones will only work on Tracfone. This means absolutely yes, a "new" handset will be needed if you're wanting to go to a single handset for both US and UK usage.

Either smart or feature, you'll need a carrier unlocked device that ideally handles 850/900/1800/1900MHz 2G/GSM bands and 850/900/1900/2100MHz 3G/UMTS GSM bands (that 3G combo is a tough one to find, so at minimum 850/1900/2100Mhz UMTS - which both the Alcatel Pop 3 and Nokia 6350 handle making it sufficiently global for your purposes either going unified global SIM card via Truphone or SIM swapping between GiffGaff and say H2OWireless). Either handset should let you use it both stateside and in the UK, though there are more options than just those if you look around. The thing to remember is in the US? The two major 3G voice bands are 850MHz (AT&T) and 1900MHz (T-Mobile) with only 1900MHz 2G working with T-Mobile, and AT&T MVNOs are going to be cheaper for your usage levels. In the UK, it's 900Mhz and 2100MHz for 3G voice bands (both O2 and Vodafone), and 900MHz and 1800MHz for 2G voice bands (both again). So, handset costs are going to be needed and won't change calculations if you want just one device no matter how you execute the mobile carrier end - either $50-ish or $100-ish depending on if you want a feature phone or a smartphone... consider it a fixed cost in those calculations.

As for where you port your number to (either Google Voice or Truphone SIM) depends on if you want a feature phone, a smartphone, and/or how you want to handle the UK number situation (you could swap SIMs in a feature phone or use Truphone in a smartphone - up to you). I can't answer that. Your call. The nice thing is, I have reasonable line item costs for everything. You can potentially mix and match to your heart's desire between suggestions to find what works best for you and how simple/complex you want to go. For example, I don't know if you have the UK plan because you can't roam on Tracfone or because you need a UK number or both. I've cited several plans/providers that'll give you what you need. Just decide what you'd prefer and do the math accordingly.

Just remember, hotspotting off a mobile plan with voice service for your data is always going to be more expensive than a data only plan, and your average usage is so low you don't need to waste money on the pre-requisite "unlimited" mobile plans necessary to get data tethering. So, no, don't use a mobile plan with a smartphone that lets you hotspot for data - keep using a dedicated hotspot and keep your phone separate from it.

Personally, I'd just ride out one more month with AT&T and probably go feature phone in your position using a Truphone SIM with your US number ported over and a UK number add-on to keep things simple, but I'm not you. Why? From a purely PAYGO only standpoint, Truphone's pretty competitive with PAYGO rates in the UK (excuse the UK DID costs), their rates aren't terrible here in the US when you consider you get free incoming calls/texts, you can stick both a US and UK number on the same account (if needed), and you can use the same SIM both places so you have unified billing. Potentially not as cheap as SIM swapping and package purchasing, but drop-dead simple and still a fraction of the cost of Google Fi.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2016, 03:28:40 PM by I.P. Daley »

Roadrunner53

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2019, 07:07:41 AM »
It has been three years since the last post. I wonder if there is any new technology.

A friend of mine is travelling to upper NY State to an area that has almost nothing for internet. She is bringing her laptop  but expects not to be able to use it till she goes to a nearby state that a relative lives in and has normal internet. My question: Is there any kind of a prepaid thumb drive you can buy to plug into a laptop to get wireless? I am definitely not tech savvy at all but it seems like there should be a simple way to get reasonable internet while travelling. I have heard of toggling from iPhone to computer but no idea on how to do that either. From what I read you have to have a specific plan or something done to the phone to allow that to be able to happen. I need a teenager to help me!

alsoknownasDean

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2019, 05:09:14 AM »
Is there any kind of a prepaid thumb drive you can buy to plug into a laptop to get wireless?

Yes such a device exists. Small Wi-Fi enabled hotspots are also a thing (where they create a Wi-Fi network using mobile data). As to whether it's affordable in the US...I don't know :)

One can also set their phone to a hotspot mode, which will create a small Wi-Fi network from the phone that can be used with the laptop. This of course depends on whether the plan the phone is on will support this feature, and will reduce battery life dramatically (and potentially have a large bill from the data use).

Khaetra

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2019, 09:36:27 AM »
You would need a plan (and not a cheap on either) in order to turn your phone into a mobile hot-spot.  I pay $80/month for unlimited data/calls/text and have 10 gigs for a hot-spot.

Kwill

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2019, 11:37:39 AM »
It has been three years since the last post. I wonder if there is any new technology.

A friend of mine is travelling to upper NY State to an area that has almost nothing for internet. She is bringing her laptop  but expects not to be able to use it till she goes to a nearby state that a relative lives in and has normal internet. My question: Is there any kind of a prepaid thumb drive you can buy to plug into a laptop to get wireless? I am definitely not tech savvy at all but it seems like there should be a simple way to get reasonable internet while travelling. ...

If she's going by car and only for a short time, local fast food places might be the simplest way. McDonald's and Burger King and Starbucks and the like tend to offer free WiFi. Walmart may also offer it. Getting a coffee or small treat and sitting for awhile on several days of the trip might be more cost-effective than signing up for a special plan, especially if she downloads some of the files she needs and works on them offline.

Roadrunner53

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2019, 12:54:47 PM »
The trip was to one destination and it was like a family reunion for several days so no visits to anyplace that had wifi. She has just left that remote area and is back in the land of internet.

How does dial up work these days? Is that still an option? I used that way back in the day but no idea how or if it even works anymore. Anyone know?

Khaetra

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #23 on: July 17, 2019, 05:36:31 AM »
AOL dial-up is still something millions use due to not having high-speed access in rural areas, so it is an option!

Kwill

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Re: How to get internet access? - complicated!
« Reply #24 on: July 17, 2019, 12:41:43 PM »
AOL dial-up is still something millions use due to not having high-speed access in rural areas, so it is an option!

I'm not sure it'd be a good idea in the case of a family reunion in a remote location with maybe one or two land lines to share among many people, some of whom might not have good cell service.