Tiny & Slow to Big & FAST! Verizon 4G Router Aboard

Because we live offseason on a tiny mudpuddle lake in central Illinois for years we had no “real” internet access.  Now that the grandkids are getting old enough to Skype (video phone calls over the internet), I’ve been wishing for “real” internet.  But one of our challenges is having internet in two places (the marina where Winterlude resides for now only has internet just outside the dockmaster’s office and yes, we do have a high power internet antenna, but nada.)

As a result of living six months aboard and six months in Illinois, any internet service we get needs to have a “vacation” or “snowbird” plan that allows us to put it “on vacation” — i.e. not pay for the months we’re off cruising.  Several satellite companies offer internet services, but most don’t have a “vacation” plan, HughesNet being the exception, but then I didn’t have wireless on the boat.

Verizon just came out with a new Netgear router that picks up the 4G LTE signal.  I switched from my trusty, but extremely slow Verizon 3G USB modem to the new router.   So far we’re very happy — if you’re thinking of adding this new twist from Verizon, here are the pros and cons as we see them after using this router for several months.

The new 4G LTE router vs my old 3G USB modem — the router dwarfs the USB modem, but the speed compensates for the inconvenient size!

PROS

1.  It’s portable and can be taken in the car and on the boat.  It does require an a/c electrical connection which isn’t so good for a boat, but it’s doable.   I need an internet connection both places and the USB was also the boat’s only internet connection unless I wanted to go sit outside the marina office and some days get a wireless connection.

2.  We FINALLY have wireless wherever we are in a Verizon 4G LTE connection area!  With the USB 3G, we had “internet sharing” on my Macbook Pro, which believe me, is NOT the same as wireless.  Now our Kindles and other toys work on the wireless!  And David can surf sports to his hearts content.

3.  Speed – from my average download speed of .60 mbps (yes, that’s POINT 60, not even a full mbps) on a good day on the old USB modem to averaging anywhere between 10 – 18 mpbs on the new Verizon router … wow!  I can actually make a Skype call and see the kids or watch almost any YouTube movie out there without having the endless buffering wheel or the stuttering audio.  In fairness, Verizon is advertising it as 5 – 12 mbps download, but I just did a speedtest.net test and got 14.97 download and 15.50 upload speeds.

4.  It’s one device and we were already paying for it in our Verizon bill with the old 3G USB service.  So no added expense except for the $99 to buy the router, but no matter what wireless provider I would have selected, I would have had to purchase a router, so I figure it’s not an extra expense.

CONS

1.  If there’s no 4G service, the new router won’t work — Verizon was VERY careful to point out, no 4G, no router.  You can check 4G coverage in your area here.   But I have my IPhone and it’s hotspot will drop back to 3G, so I have a work-around.  Both the lake and the boat’s current location are covered by 4G service.  Anchored out it may be a bigger issue, but who needs internet while anchored out?  In fact, I should ban the internet other than e-mail contact while we’re out!  I won’t, but I should.  🙂  Like the good old days!

Click the map to go to Verizon’s latest 4G coverage map and check to make sure 4G will be available where you want to use it.

2.  It’s slow to connect when you first turn it on.  We turn it off overnight and in the morning have to wait as many as 10 minutes for the modem to be fully operational.  It’s not a deal-killer, but sometimes if I’m in a hurry, it can be annoying.  Even during the day when it’s on, it goes to sleep if the computer hasn’t been used for awhile.  When I first wake up the computer, I notice the wireless bars are waking up too.  If I wait until the wireless signal on the computer has all the bars, then the router is fully awake — this is usually just a couple seconds or less.  But “real wifi”, that I had in a prior life – cable – was fast and fully on all the time.  I also notice that it seems to slow down if I’m using it for a long period of time.  Not slow down enough to be unusable and still far faster than what I was used to, so se la vie.

3.  It requires it’s own a/c power source – the USB 3g modem operated on my laptop’s USB power.

4.  Anchored out, it will likely require true sign wave electricity on the boat – something we don’t have.  If you don’t have an inverter with true sign wave electricity a lot of electrical devices object.  So far we haven’t had a problem with the laptops or phones, but some of the electrical tool rechargers don’t seem to like it much.  I think our small inverter has true sign wave so we may need to use it instead of the whole boat inverter.   Or just use the new IPad’s 4g and not worry about it.

5.  It’s BIG – far bigger than the tiny USB plug in modem.   I’m sure these devices will get smaller as time goes on, but for now it’s BIG – but I’m willing to deal with that problem for the trade-off speed & getting to “chat” with the grandkids regularly!

It’s also apparently new.  When I called our local Verizon store to see if we could come and see it & make sure it worked with our laptop, I was told there was no such item.  I called Verizon *611 and was told it didn’t exist.  Finally we sorted out that so far it’s only available from Verizon online.  I didn’t have any trouble setting it up beyond a quick phone call to tech support to verify how to change the network name and password.    And VOILA!  I’m done.

I’m a believer.  If this new technology would work for you, look it  up, but be sure to go to the Verizon online store – if this link doesn’t get you there, click shop and then  look under home devices, far right column top on my screen – because it’s not available anywhere else … yet.

Anyone else using this new router?    Leave a comment & share!  Cheers — Jan

Comments

  1. If in a covered footprint area, you might want to review the Freedompop ( http://fpop.co/eob9 ) service as you can start with limited data for no monthly fee, then pay a relatively low price for 3 or 4G data if you are in a month that demands more. If covered, it is ideal for snowbirds or commuter cruisers.

    • Thanks RIch! I checked out FreedomPop, but where we live ls not covered and where the boat is now is now covered either. 🙁 But I’m very satisfied with the Verizon 4G Router, and it does cover both the places we need, at least for now. 🙂 THANKS, maybe another reader will be able to use this information! Cheers — Jan

  2. Seana O'Hare says:

    Just read the router’s tech specifications online. The Netgear MBR1000 uses 12 Volt DC at 1.0 amps. That is what the little “wall wart” transformer that plugs into it is giving it… meaning that it should work just fine if you were to skip the transformer (and the inverter) all together and direct connect to your “house” 12V system. I am planning to acquire one in the near future and will let you know how it performs on my bench 12 Volt supply and my battery bank. This router is already used to provide WiFi on buses and in car services.- Seana (aka “Gadget” or “Geek Girl”)

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