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post #1 of 12 Old 03-12-2002 Thread Starter
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Cellular/Wireless connection

With my cellphone contract completed, and my cell phone now obsolete (it IS two year old technology after all) I''m off to hunt down the next best offer available. This time I''ll expand to a regional (SouthEast) plan or a national plan with free long-distance.

Now the boat part. My boat is a mobile interest, seldom staying in the same port longer than two months. I''ve tried keeping my sailing and business time separate, but now the reality is that if I could check e-mail occasionally, I could spend more time on the boat.

Few marinas I''ve been to offer transient phone service. From what little I know, I understand that connecting to the internet via cellphone is VERY slow, 14000 baud being the max. I''m thinking for e-mails, this would be acceptable (wasn''t a 9800 baud modem the hotest thing about 10 years ago). I know there are services that use SSB, but I need to be able to check my regular e-mail account so my absense is transparent to my clients.

So, the question. Does anyone have any experience, suggestions or advice on what service would be best (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint...) what hardware would be the best match (phone, modem cards, etc), and if there is a way to take advantage of that 47'' antenna pole I have sticking out of my boat (the mast) to improve the connection.

Most of my travels are on the ICW between the Bay and Florida.

Thanks,

Don
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post #2 of 12 Old 03-12-2002
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Cellular/Wireless connection

Since you will be on the US East coast, the solution is pretty straight forward. Connection a cell phone to a computer is slow (9600) and clunky (BUT... if you must have your notebook, this is an inexpensive way to go. Most PCMCIA modems now are able to connect to a cell phone. Sailmail is for use with an SSB offshore and is for short emails only and modems are not cheap. Pocketmail is a little device that lets you use any phone, including a cell phone to connect through it to get email via the service. Its very slow and you cannot get to the internet. Still, it has its devotees.

The fastest, easiest solution is to use a Palm Pilot or WinCE device like the Compaq iPaq with a cellular modem. Connections are 14k and higher.

If you want to have a separate cell phone then use a Palm or iPaq with an Omnisky modem and service (omnisky.com). Or... perhaps the best solution would be to get a combination cell phone/Palm pilot. There are about 3 that I know of: SprintPCS, Verizon and Handspring have this option. It would be the least expensive and save the cost of having cellular service for a phone and service for a modem. My personal opinion is that the service range for the Verizon system is much better than the SpringPCS or Handspring GSM system.

Once you get the Palm/Phone for $399, go to Handspring.com and pay the $20 for Blazer... one of the best internet browers for the Palm. It will allow you to surf just about any web site.

These devices are all pretty sophisticated now. You can download and view email attachments, get weather, surf the net and trade stocks. And much more. There are also accessories for the Palm like an external keyboard. I now travel using only my Palm and cellular modem... I leave my notebook computer at work.

Hope this helps.
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post #3 of 12 Old 03-12-2002 Thread Starter
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Cellular/Wireless connection

John,
Some good stuff to chew on there.

My original goal is to use a laptop. I''ve got a Dell that I don''t use for much, so I thought I''d make it the ''boat computer.''

So, I get a PCMCIA card and a cell phone to match, sounds good. Verizon sounds good too, as I currently have their service and could upgrade. What I want to make sure I do right is to get a phone and card that will work best with my service.

Thoughts?
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post #4 of 12 Old 03-13-2002
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Cellular/Wireless connection

Not sure the speed or the coverage area but how about a Blackberry?

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post #5 of 12 Old 03-13-2002
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Cellular/Wireless connection

Hi Don

Connecting your notebook computer with a cell phone is a good, reliable and inexpensive way to go. You have the advantage of having all the software you want and a good keyboard. The connection will not be fast... but.... there is a next generation cellular system coming soon (I am not a telcom person) that apparently boosts the data transfer rate much much higher.

I have observed that Motorola phones are the most supported. It should be easy to find info on the phone/modem compatibility. A decent modem will cost something around $100.

Another advantage to doing the above is that a year from now, if an advanced capbility cellular system comes out, all you have to do is switch phones.

I think you will find it works well. Good luck.

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post #6 of 12 Old 03-13-2002
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Cellular/Wireless connection

Don,

You asked about the 47'' mast making any difference. Last year Jeff and I had a discussion about this same topic on a different BBoard. The short answer is yes.

In my case I had spotty reception in a marina where my boat is my "cottage" as well. The height of the antenna does make a difference (I tested that). There are different antennas available for cellular and even a VHF/Cellular combination. Shakespeare is the most popular brand.

I have not yet installed the antenna because I am cheap. I also do not like too many antennas on my mast and am worried about a cell phone antenna interefering with the VHF or something that is actually important (not sure if this is a concern). Basically it is on my to do list to obtain a marine cellular antenna that is NOT 8 FEET LONG and install it. The problem is that while it would be nice there are a trillion other priorities that seem to be higher up the list of sailboat maintenance items than this project. Also the marine antennas are not cheap.

Be aware that there are different ends for different phones and that not all cell phones can accept an external antenna.

Also be aware that there are cellular modems that skip the phone altogether. The biggest concern with cellular internet connections should be the cell plan and per minute charges.

In our discussion last year Jeff suggested that height was important because cell is line of sight. He was right in that it is important. Like VHF it only extends the range a little bit.

Mike

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Cellular/Wireless connection

It is my understaning that with the newer phones all you need is a serial cable, the modem is built into the newer phones.
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post #8 of 12 Old 03-13-2002 Thread Starter
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Cellular/Wireless connection

It''s a done deal now.

I signed up with Verizon again, got a new data capable phone with an external antenna connection and a phone plan that''ll give me 400 minutes of long distance and no roaming (except, it seems, in a few spots in North Carolina) between Florida and the Bay.

The phone (Nokia 3285) acts as a data modem, and plugs directly into the laptop (data cable on order). So far, so good.

Thanks for all your input!

Don
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post #9 of 12 Old 03-21-2002
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Cellular/Wireless connection

A note especially for Jeff H

Last year I posted on Yachtworld.com sailing BBoard about bad cellular reception. You kindly offered advice that an antenna on the masthead would probably be better.

Just thought that you would like to know I have finally ordered one. The one I ordered is a compromise. Shakespeare 4801 2" cell antenna. Hopefully this will improve reception and not look too ungainly at the top of my mast. I will update this thread in June when I take the boat back to its home marina to let you know how much of a difference it makes.

Thanks for all the input!

Mike
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Cellular/Wireless connection

That should reat 2 foot.

Mike
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