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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 01-29-2009, 07:19 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Question What equipment do you need to get wireless internet access in the country?

OK, here's the deal...

We live about 2 miles outside of Camas, WA. We found out that Cricket had coverage here. We know AT&T and Sprint also have coverage here, but their wirelsss internet is too expensive. We want CHEAP wireless internet - $40.00 a month MAXIMUM. Anyway we signed up, hooked everything up, and got 4% signal strength Called around, found we could spend $300.00 for a wireless signal booster. Did some more digging around, found out that all this kit contains is an antenna (can get one for $30.00 or less), POSSIBLY a repeater (need verification, prices, recommendations here), and of course various needed cables.

We're in a two-story house, and would like to get wireless internet through the whole place, as cheaply and with as high a signal strength as possible. What do you recommend? What equipment should we get if we wanted to sign up for Cricket again, but this time boost the signal so we can actually use it? Is there any hardware we can get that will also help boost the DTV signal, as well as help our wireless internet access (kill two birds with one stone)? Are there cheaper, but not too slow (like 128k or 256k) wireless plans with coverage in the 98607 area? What are they, can you provide links, reviews, opinions, etc.?

Please no recommendations for internet plans that unreasonably limit or restrict use (want to be able to watch YouTube videos, run the stock tickers at Scott Trade, etc.). No, we are not interested in anything that uses the phone line. Any other internet access is just fine. Appreciate your help!

Back to digging...
- Deathbliss
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 01-29-2009, 08:14 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 99

From a hardware perspective, before I say anything can you share with me what frequency your ISP runs on ( i.e. 2.4GHz or 5GHz), and what antenna you have currently that is giving you 4% SS, and what you were offered to replace it with for $300?

Changing the antenna is defienatly an option to be considered seriously - but at 300bucks!! - hell just what kind of antenna is that??

I know where you can get a 35dBi grid antenna for half that price. A 35dBi antenna is like having a signal that is close on 1000% stronger (yes - one thousand - not one hundred!), or been approx 1/3rd as far from the service antenna as you currently are (meaning: 2/3 closer)!

So - a correctly chosen and setup antenna can and will make a huge differance and improvement - but at 300bucks!

DTV - is this terrestrial or satellite digital TV?

By the way - the ISP you are trying to establish a good link with - is this a broadband link? - how many Mbits are you supposed to be able to get on the upload and download if things are working as they should?
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 01-29-2009, 08:27 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4

Here are the details from Cricket, yes it is broadband:
Wireless Cell Phone Plan | Cricket Wireless | Broadband Internet Service $40

Antenna was one of those USB wireless models- no antenna that could be replaced or enhanced as far as I know. There was a little screw hole in the side as I recall, but it was really small.

They didn't offer some replacement antenna, I called Vancouver Radio Shack and they said that folks up in the hills in the area were using this to boost their cellphone, and wireless internet, signal:
Wi-Ex zBoost YX510 Dual-Band Wireless Phone Signal Booster - RadioShack.com

I figured I could do a lot better getting the separate parts, but maybe I'm wrong on that.

DTV is referring to the transition to digital TV coming up February 17th. Got a TV with a digital tuner, still using the same old external TV antenna outside and getting weak signal errors when trying 12.1 or 2.1 etc (no picture). Figured this problem might be solved with the same kind of antenna that would work for wireless internet, but not sure so don't laugh at me too hard.

Main problem was not speed. Due to the low signal strength we couldn't even get online! We don't care (too much) about speeds, we just want to be able to access the internet. We were unable to do so using the USB modem with Cricket Wireless, even though we are in the coverage area.

Hope that clarifies things -
- Deathbliss

Last edited by Deathbliss; 01-29-2009 at 08:34 PM..
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old 01-30-2009, 10:01 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 99

Lets deal with the DTV first – as it’s a lot more simple: you are talking about terrestrial digital television. Okay – with DTV, you either have or do not have a picture – its seldom in between as you experience with old fashioned analogue TV signals. That’s the beauty about digital TV – its either 100% or 0%, with the occasional breakup that is experienced occassionaly more often than not down to poor quality control in the MPEG2 or H264 compression techniques used, or the inability of the consumer hardware D/A (digital to analogue) to re-constitute the analogue TV signal from the digital input.

Me thinks: all will be fine, but if its not in any event my advise would be to wait till the 17 Feb and see how things work before making any decisions, because that in any event is going to be an entirely different matter to deal with than your ISP (and a different aerial).

Your ISP: your broadband service is CDMA modulated – the same as the mobile/cell phone service modulation technique in the States. Its not something we ever used in Europe – its kinda old fashioned and limited – but still, for rural areas, it is a viable solution. So this is not a 5Ghz or 2,4Ghz signal – it’s a 900Mhz or 1800Mhz signal. Have I understood this correctly?

Before you spend any money, please ask the service provider what uplink and downlink speed (in Mbits) users in your area are garunteed, or can expect. Also ask them if they can tell you typically what signal strength is required to achieve the above speeds (it will be a figure in dB or dBi).

And you can chase up users in your area and ask them, typically what uplink and downlink speeds they experience on average. Compare what the service provider says to what users have to say – good chance there’ll be a fair old difference!

These are technical questions, which are not absolutely necessary to understand but would help “fine tune” things. The core of the problem lies with that damn USB dongle thingy they give you – I can see quite why its not working (hopeless antenna)!

I am not very familiar with the CDMA 900Mhz and 1800Mhz consumer hardware options avalible in the USA for internet connection, but I would imagine there are a whole bunch of competing products – from PCI MCIA types cards to conventional PCI cards, to external standalone cards ect ect ….. In any event, I think what you need here is to purchase whatever type of card is appropriate for your laptop or desktop (PCIMCIA if a laptop or PCI if a Desktop) – just ensure it has a coax socket onto which you can screw an external antenna, and you are not forced into using a built in aerial – then purchase an antenna separately.

The thing about the antenna, is if this is CDMA that is supposed to be able to run off a USB type dongle, you are not going to be needing to now use a 35dB type antenna. I would think, so long as you can see the tower from your property (can you?), or you know where it is in relation to your property (do you – and how far away is it?) any directional type antenna (which is going to have to be pointed to the tower) with around 12dB – 15dB is going to do the job fine. Mount it outside as high as you practically can (on an exsisting TV mast is fine), and run the coax cable down to your computer in doors.

Something else you need to check please – a minor tech detail in the USA which I am not familiar with in Europe: do CDMA internet antenna’s/connections run on 75ohm or 50ohm coax and coax plugs – when it comes to purchasing any coax plugs and coax cable make sure you purchase the appropriate type of cable and plugs (i.e. 50ohm or 75ohm) and also make sure the coax connectors you purchase are made specifically for the diameter of whatever type of coax cable you purchase, otherwise it becomes messy when putting it all together. If you can solder – get solder type connectors, otherwise get crimp types connectors and wrap up all external connectors good and tight with water resistant /sealing electrical tape. Just a couple drops of water in the coax cable, and the capillary action will suck right down the sleeve and really mess things up for you.
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  #5 (permalink)  
Old 01-30-2009, 02:52 PM
Senior Member
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,110

Got a TV with a digital tuner, still using the same old external TV antenna outside and getting weak signal errors when trying 12.1 or 2.1 etc (no picture). Figured this problem might be solved with the same kind of antenna that would work for wireless internet, but not sure so don't laugh at me too hard.
No. People who try to sell you "DTV Ready" antennas et cetera are evil. DTV fits into part of what was the UHF spectrum. Antennas are not aware of the modulation scheme in use, just the frequency band. Same antenna should work, if it has UHF capability.

I live 80 miles from the local TV stations. Radio Shacks $120 antenna and a mast mounted preamp bring the digital stations in far better than the analog version of the same station.

There is a thread on this board about a 3.7 mile link. Poster put up a pair of Ubiquiti Bullet 2s, which are apparently network devices optimized for long links. I have not tried them yet, but will someday.
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  #6 (permalink)  
Old 01-31-2009, 07:24 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Cool OK, a few updates...

Regarding DTV:
I called the local Radio Shack today and they told me to automatically scan for the channels. When I went into the menu for this I found an option for Cable or Air. I changed this from Cable to Air, and now my grandma (who we're doing this for) is able to get digital channels just fine! So TV problem is solved, minus the irratation pixelation block thing I saw happen on I think it was 28.004. Local news and TV shows should be OK, we just have to find her a guide now.

So all DTV problems are currently considered solved. However I'm still open to antenna suggestions, if they exist, that work as a kind of all-in-one antenna and will pull in UHF for DTV and whatever kind of signals are typically used for wireless internet. I just want to know if such an antenna exists - maybe we could get more channels or something - mostly just curious.

Regarding Wireless Internet:
That same Radio Shack employee told me some guy bought what they thought was a $30.00 or $40.00 antenna, the kind you put on your car for your cell phone with a magnetic bottom. I guess he hooked up this and bought a $10.00 adapter for that little screw hole in the side of the USB modem and was able to double his bars from 2-4. I assume that this setup would also roughly double wireless internet strength, which is stil too little. My guess is that I need at least 20% - perhaps even 50%, so here are my current qurestions:

What exactly are the specs of that tiny screwhole in the side of a USB modem? I mean what in the heck is it? I assume other USB modems have it also, probably hidden under a plastic or rubber cover in the side of the unit.

What is the best indoor antenna to use with such a USB modem? Does one exist that has a cable which will screw right into that hole or is the USB modem using some kind of propriatary format requiring an adapter?

If I decided to forgoe the whole indoor antenna/adapter thing, and went with an external antenna on the house, and some device inside to broadcast the signal wirelessly to the laptop, which would have the USB modem plugged into it, so that I could use the laptop online anywhere in the house, what device do I need to do this? As I understand it I need an external antenna, and a _____. Please help me fill in that blank, antenna and device recommendations are welcome. Looking especially for an external antenna that could be portable, and moved from the house to a motorhome without damaging either.

Please understand I no longer have the USB modem from Cricket. I think it was a Star something or other. I'm hoping other USA wireless internet customers using a USB modem out in the boonies will lend me a hand here.

Maybe sometimes it pays to click on the banner advertising... Will this work with the USB modem?

If so, I just need some antenna recommendations.

Any thoughts on these?

Looking more and more like indoor setup is the way to go.

Thanks for all your help so far, and your continuing patience -
- Deathbliss

Last edited by Deathbliss; 01-31-2009 at 07:47 PM..
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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 02-02-2009, 06:57 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Default More updates...

Verifying this now, but it appears that the Cricket USB modem uses an FME connection. Considering this new fact and my questions, what's my solution?

Please help!
- Deathbliss
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