Verizon EVDO is a good way to surf while RVing in the US

 ********** Should you subscribe to Verizon EVDO broadband? ********** updated June, 2009  *********

- Faster ($60/month) than satellite surfing in areas which have broadband.  You also do not have to setup a satellite antenna to surf. Verizon does NOT have to be your cell phone provider. EVDO is more expensive than most DSL services but less expensive than satellite internet connections.

- Verizon bills your more for traffic >5 GBytes per month at this time. 5 GBytes should be plenty unless you video or game a lot.  Sprint imposed 5GB limit May 2008 on data cards and tethering, which means that anyone with a handset-specific unlimited data plan, including Simply Unlimited subscribers, will not be affected. Sprint will be using a three month rolling gauge, with a given user having to exceed 5GB in 2 out of the 3 months to register an infringement. AT&T also has GByte limit

- Cingular (AT&T), T-Mobile, Sprint, and others provide EVDO/3G high speed service, but have much less US coverage. Same $60/month.
  Old discussions of Verizon vs. Sprint EVDO: http://forums.wirelessadvisor.com/wireless-data-and-internet/13956-sprint-verizon-evdo-compared.html  
    and http://www.evdoforums.com/thread6432.html

As of Feb 2009  https://members.millenicom.com/members/signup.php?clienttype=18&package=53 has a $60 a month EVDO package with NO CONTRACT and apparently NO TRAFFIC LIMIT which uses the Sprint EVDO system. Note: they do not indicate which EVDO USB device they provide, and many devices do not have a connection to an external antenna.  Altell also does not require a contract, but has limited coverage.

- Verizon EVDO is available in about of the US as of May 2008, this appears to be better coverage that Sprint, etc.

- Be careful of cell phone/ EVDO coverage maps. Especially maps which show coverage in the middle of deserts and very rugged mountains.
   I think that some telecoms cheat by saying that if there is any coverage in a ZIP code then the entire zip code has coverage - NOT!

- 2 year Verizon contract is virtually required.  Termination fee = $175 - $5/month of usage, thus termination in 1 year = $115.  

- Can surf with a USB modem (USB720 is good) or smart phone (some smart phones are free on Verizon web site, but you will also need a $40 office kit).  You might be able to get an older Rev -0 modem at low cost on the internet since Rev-0 max rate about of the Rev A.  If there is a chance that you will be more than 1 mile from a Verizon cell phone tower you should be sure that the EVDO device has a connection for an optional external antenna.  The external antenna sold by Verizon has a magnet and I have a 3.5" diameter steel disc glued to the top of my RV from a previous cell phone antenna.  It seems to work well.  A somewhat larger disc would probably give better reception.  The disc does not need to be grounded.

- You can get a good map of the cell towers and antennas near you at www.antennasearch.com 
      Note: it seems to require that you enter a street address, not just city and state.

- Canada:  If you will be traveling thru Canada it may not be cheap to use any EVDO service.
   Sometime during the past few years Sprint EVDO coverage extended into Canada.
   It appears in 2008 that both Sprint and Verizon now require 1 year contracts for Canadian high speed service if you wish to avoid expensive roaming charges. 

 ****** Things to know if you subscribe to Verizon EVDO *******

- Delivery is next day by FedEx - very convenient for RVers who are on the move.

- Data rates vary with signal strength, which varies with your distance to the provider, amount of foliage, amount of rain, thickness of building walls, hills in the way, etc.  There are similar reduction in data rates with WiFi, WiMax, and DSL. Verizon claims EVDO download speeds of 600-1400 Kbits/sec. (70-160 KBYTES/sec.) 

- The USB720 modem can plug directly into a single USB computer port, but the modem apparently provides better signal reception and thus data transmission rate if you use the short Y USB cable provided but only if you do not have an external antenna and if the second USB connection can draw power from a second computer.  You can check your signal strength ( Help) with and without the 2nd connection to see if it helps.

- Updated Aug 2008: Verizon now provides the USB727 modem for free on-line, instead of the USB720.  It has a slightly different external antenna connection http://www.evdoforums.com/thread7013.html   http://www.evdoinfo.com/content/view/2114/40/ 

- Make absolutely sure you use more than 5 GByte/month data traffic. Click on Usage to get estimate of how much the modem has downloaded thus far in the month.  Verizon charges an incredible $250 per GByte if you exceed 5 G Bytes/month, and they apparently cut your service when you exceed 1GByte extra traffic. Updated Aug 2008: Usage is an ESTIMATE (perhaps off by a single day, they think, which was 1GByte higher than my log of actual usage for  Aug 2008.

- F4 toggles the Verizon connection off and on.   for both Broadband and National Access.  Can also click on Connect or Disconnect. We often just pull the pulg - no problems.

- The only indication of the type of connection being used is near the bottom of the Access Manager: Broadband/NationalAccess = fast/slow. 
A graph of data rate vs. time is available in Tools/Statistics.

- A EVDO modem can be used on multiple computers. 

- About every two months you should run both Options/Wizard  and Options/Activation to update for any changes in the Broadband system.

- Help/About shows both Broadband signal strengths: 1xRTT (slow) and 1xEVDO (fast). Numbers above 100db are fairly weak and have slow data rates. You might not get any reception if a signal is greater than 110db.   Signal levels below 75db are great. Verizon invisibly and continuously switches between fast and slow connections based on signal strength without informing the user.

- 1xEVDO signal is often greater than 110 db, and thus unusable, during rain or fog. The 1xEVDO high frequency is strongly attenuated by rain and fog.

- The Verizon web site allows you to order an external antenna with a short 10 cable and 4" cable adapter, which are virtually required if signal would otherwise have to go thru a wall..  When using the small Verizon external antenna 2.5 miles from a cell tower I get 100db signal and 400 Kbits/sec.  I had no success with adding  2 different yagi antennas. The Verizon antenna seems optimized for EVDO and its used actually reduces the lower frequency (National Access) signal. You might also consider using a 10' USB extension cable to place the modem near a window while your computer is 5 or so feet away.

- Link how ideas of how to get even faster EDVO access: http://www.sprintbroadband.com/speed_guide.html

- Link to Google Shopping for cell-phone magnetic antenna.  The $20 antenna will significantly increase your signal strength, and thus your datarate.

-  Verizon EVDO supports ultra-low cost VoIP telephone service from Skype.  Such service is not possible with communication services with long delays (satellites are 22,000 miles above the Earth). The EVDO Rev-A greatly reduced latency problems, hopefully enough for VoIP service. Link: http://www.evdoinfo.com/content/view/138/63/

- FireFox 3 is much faster than previous version and AdBlock really speed up the internet (does not take the time to download the advertisements, much less display them).
   However, one of them may occasionally cause a web page to not respond until it is refreshed.

- You can also speedup your surfing a lot by downloading links to view in a FireFox background tab: just push the cntrl key while clicking on a link.

- FireFox 3 can even be speeded up 2X+ by letting it make many requests for information concurrently.
     Enter about:config in FireFox address bar
         network.http.pipelining   set to TRUE
         network.http.proxy.pipelining    set to TRUE
         network.http.pipelining.maxrequests    set to 8 (which had been set to 4)

- Technical details on EVDO, such as packet data rates, are at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evdo  The EVDO packet data rates range from 38,000 to 2,400,000 bits per second, with the lower data rates being used for poor signal or high traffic conditions. Even when not moving and in good weather we find that the data rates change constantly, so we assume it is due to changes in Broadband traffic

We have been happily using Verizon EVDO in our RV since May 2008.
30 years ago my first computer used an acoustic coupler to communicate at 300 bits per second.
Now my 22nd computer uses EVDO and WiFi to communicate at 1,000,000 bits per second.

Nice EVDO information at http://www.mobile-broadband-reviews.com/ev-do.html , including REV B - 8X faster

Update June 2009.  We have had excellent EVDO connectivity on our our trips around Washington State and out to Wyoming.  Infrequently EVDO drops down to low data rate (National) when there are miles of wet forest between us and the cell tower. As it happens, there is a lot of wet forest where we normally park, so we are buying a booster from Zboost.

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