Author Topic: CDN/US cell phone & data for truck driver  (Read 4442 times)

curiousnomad

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CDN/US cell phone & data for truck driver
« on: May 22, 2014, 10:27:00 PM »
I didn't get very far in Daley's guide before he mentioned me -"drive a truck for a living"!  So I'm looking for some more specialized advice. I may do a full case study request eventually, but really the connectivity is the worst issue. (Sorry, this got long as I tried to cover everything!)

I am on the road 365 days a year. I love living in my truck, I love my job (which I describe as "getting paid to watch the scenery!"), but I do not love my cell phone bill that sometimes approaches rent levels! (Please note that my actual home to work commute is approximately 36 inches despite driving 2500+ miles per week to ensure you have toilet paper etc. available to purchase; no face punches here please.)

I primarily run between Washington state and Alberta, but sometimes wander towards Saskatchewan and Montana. I basically cross the border evey other day, but spend more time in Canada more than the US overall. I have both a smart phone and a tablet. I also pay for a friend's smartphone in exchange for work done on my behalf.I don't have a house with land service, and wifi where I drive (work) is VERY rare.

I currently have Verizon and have been very pleased with the coverage. I average about 200 minutes US talk time, 550 minutes Cdn talk time, upwards of 500 txt messages (bill does not split which country I got them in), 4-5 GB US data (remember, I have no other internet connection!), and struggle to keep Cdn data below 500 mb (at $25/100mb bucket!) My friend, who does have a house with land service, uses closer to 1,000 US minutes and also up to 500 text messages, but less than 1Gb data (mostly for nav).

So I am paying premium prices for name-brand US service, and highway banditry prices for Cdn service. Sadly, I really do need data in Canada for google maps to view customer locations at a minimum, but I also like to read on my downtime. I have never been into YouTube or streaming movies thank goodness!

I get a work "discount" of roughly 5% of base package. If I had enough expenses to itemize my taxes, I could write the whole thing off, but lacking a house/apt, I can't even legally claim a per diem deduction!

Cold hard numbers:
Shared US/CDN/MEX 6Gb: $84 (discounted)
Unlimited txt, unltd US voice, 1,000 min cdn voice
Line access 2 phones 1 tablet: $90
Cdn data, first bucket, each device: $50
Average 3 extra Cdn data buckets: $75
(Random taxes)
Total monthly bill base: $310.66

March went over Cdn data addl $75!

 I believe just the Cdn talk/txt is $15/mo, so really it's the data that's an issue. (Well, and the high base rate for US...) A prepaid canadian dumb phone probably wouldn't help much. I tried to buy a hotspot device from Rogers wireless, but since I don't live in Canada, they couldn't do a credit check on my paying the bill. Americans are only allowed to buy prepaid devices apparently.

Ideas, suggestions? Note that staying out of Canada is NOT a price I'm willing pay (it's prettier, the people are nicer, and I get a bonus every border crossing! [Which, monthly, is in fact more than my entire bill])

Thanks for reading!
-curiousnomad

Jags4186

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Re: CDN/US cell phone & data for truck driver
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2014, 01:39:35 AM »

Daley

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Re: CDN/US cell phone & data for truck driver
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2014, 09:30:47 AM »
Curiousnomad, let me see if I can help you out here. The first thing that jumps out at me is data usage for your line and your buddy's, and the mention that you both extensively use it for navigation. Now, I understand the need for and desire to not cut back on mobile data usage given your situation, but I'm going to throw something out there that's worth investigating anyway.

Live downloaded GPS maps waste a huge amount of data. Your buddy's data usage attests to that, as does your Canadian usage. Given how expensive data can be, it's best to save that data for instances where you actually need it. Enter Sygic's offline GPS maps. In your case (and possibly your buddy's as well) specifically, Sygic Fleet Truck Navigation. It's $139 for the North America maps, but there's free updates and given how much you're getting eaten alive in data usage it might pay for itself rather quickly. If your friend does a lot of driving and navigation but doesn't need the truck path restriction, there's Sygic's standard offline GPS Navigation available for significantly cheaper. As for reading, text is text and text doesn't take up much room or data. If you use a browser like Dolphin that can disable downloading images while browsing or use an app like Pocket while on the US side of the border to download what you're wanting to read in advance, that would help put a major dent in your Canadian data usage, or even just data usage in general. If you're mobile, and you're only interested in the text, there's no sense in you paying the bandwidth costs to download the fat, worthless but pretty graphic assets for all these various website templates.

As for the service itself, I am assuming everything is being billed through Verizon. You also didn't specify the type of smartphones you have. I'm honestly and genuinely hoping you're using Android devices and not Apple (especially in the case of the Sygic fleet maps).

A few suggestions and thoughts, however. Ditch the data service on the tablet and do WiFi only on it. If you're on an Android smartphone, it's going to be trivial to do tethering and get a WiFi hotspot going on it, especially since you're on Verizon. Data is data, after all, and you're already paying for 6GB worth of it plus $25 for every 100MB bucket of Canadian data, and I doubt your tablet (and laptop potentially if you have one) is ever more than a few feet apart from your smartphone. Just kick the WiFi hotspot on with your smartphone while you're in the US when you want data access from the tablet (mostly to save battery life versus running it all the time). That should make at least a $35 dent in the bill, which is a move in the right direction with minimal inconvenience.

You didn't mention if your friend is US only, or wanders up North as well. Now if he's US only, depending on his phone (this would be more problematic with an LTE handset as Verizon LTE devices aren't permitted to activate on Verizon MVNOs and flashing to make them work makes them unreliable), and his need for LTE data and speeds (which would likely be greatly reduced using an offline navigation app like Sygic), there might be the option of moving him off to Page Plus' Talk & Text 1200 Plan, which might save you an extra $10 a month over a second line on the Verizon account... but that's assuming a lot of potential things that would go in favor of this sort of transition, like the reduced data usage from offline map usage. Page Plus or any other MVNO is clearly not an option for you, and the extra $10 a month for the hassles this path might open up just might not be worth it for you. Truthfully, you probably need to stick with Verizon.

As for the Canadian data end, it might be worth looking into a cheap Android device and Virgin Mobile Canada Prepaid. The coverage map looks favorable to your needs, and comparable to Rogers for your area if not better for Sask. They have a 500MB for $20CAD prepaid data bucket, and also permit data tethering. It looks like their cheapest prepaid Android handset that can do WiFi tethering is the Alcatel Idol Mini at $99CAD, but you might be able to pick up something used for cheaper with a little pre-planning and effort. After all, they're a GSM provider and theoretically any carrier unlocked GSM handset with WiFi should work. If they will let you pair their data bucket add-ons with their pay by the minute calling, that should keep you around $25CAD a month for all your Canadian data usage with taxes. Otherwise if you have to use a monthly plan, even with their $10 package with the $20 data, that still keeps you around $35 a month, which is considerably cheaper than $100 a month through Verizon for the same amount of data (or less, technically). Then you just turn off data roaming on your Verizon smartphone, and tether it to the Virgin Mobile phone via WiFi for your data on it as well as on your tablet or any other devices. That should restrict your Verizon bill to around the $164+tax mark if my math is accurate.

tl;dr: Use offline navigation maps from Sygic. Use WiFi tethering. Use a cheap Android smartphone with Virgin Mobile Canada prepaid for your Canadian data use. Investment cost will be around $250-350ish to enable the savings (so long as you're both already on an Android device and not Apple). That should potentially cut you down to around $200/month or less with an ROI of 3-4 months. I don't think you can do much better in your situation short of shaving data usage down further, but you never know how much data you may actually use outside of navigation until after you gut it from your bill. Who knows, you might be able to get by with 4GB from Verizon between the two of you instead of 6GB. You might only need 100MB a month while in Canada. Don't know until you try.

I don't say this often and I certainly don't like doing so, but this one took a fair bit of effort and research. Keep my website in mind if you feel inclined to thank me.



https://www.globalgig.com

Nice try, but they don't do Canada and the prices are still steeper than any local mobile data carrier.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2014, 09:51:40 AM by I.P. Daley »

curiousnomad

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Re: CDN/US cell phone & data for truck driver
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2014, 09:34:02 AM »
Sadly, they do not cover Canada, and there appears to be no savings at my usage levels for US.

curiousnomad

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Re: CDN/US cell phone & data for truck driver
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2014, 09:51:19 AM »
Clarification: I do not use nav in Canada (we have a system in the truck), but I do like to look at satellite view to see what I'm getting in to space-wise, and if the truck nav is giving me the best approach. Good lord, I can't even imagine what my data usage would be like if I used googles turn-by-turn!

Both phones are androids.

Hotspot in US would have no advantage, it already draws from the 6gb. The $10 access fee is contractual.
Pocket sounds awesome!
I did not know you could get a data capeable prepaid smartphone!  I suspect that'll be the way to go.

Thank you for the time and effort, it is appreciated! I am not good at geeking hardware, just books...

Daley

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Re: CDN/US cell phone & data for truck driver
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2014, 10:06:09 AM »
Hotspot in US would have no advantage, it already draws from the 6gb. The $10 access fee is contractual.

I figured you were under contract with that tablet, but look into the cost of breaking contract on it anyway. Unless it costs more to pay the ETF than it does to ride it out, break contract, pay the ETF off on that tablet, and turn off the modem. Unfortunately, Verizon's pretty opaque on what the ETF fees are on tablets so you'll have to research that point on your own.

Thank you for the time and effort, it is appreciated! I am not good at geeking hardware, just books...

I did a few tweaks to the post, unfortunately. Mostly added details on how not to waste data on useless image assets for website templates in general if all you care about is reading. Anyway, glad to be of service!
« Last Edit: May 23, 2014, 10:08:32 AM by I.P. Daley »