Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Middle of Nowhere

I took the MiFi to PhilBurn Pharms, northwest of Albin, WY. Yes, this is one of those middle of nowhere places.

I set up the MiFi in the detached garage and got a very nice EV-DO signal--1Mb down, 400 Kb up. More than sufficient for this type of remote access. However, I noticed the signal / connection varied a lot depending on unknown factors (though potentially my location with respect to the MiFi.)

After the successful garage test, I tried to connect to the MiFi's wifi router from the house. There are 50 yards are so from the house to the garage. No joy. My laptop couldn't make a solid connection to the Verizon SSD over that distance. I then repositioned the MiFi within the garage trying to get a connection to the house. No location provided a connection.

The next step was to try the MiFi itself in the house. The MiFi never saw an EVDO signal. I could generally get a low grade 1xRTT signal (19-90k at times), but that is no better than dial up (which is already available in the house.)

The garage is situated south of the house on slightly higher ground. Anecdotally, some folks were able to get cell phone coverage on the south end of the house or on the porch steps at the south end of the house. So I next positioned the MiFi on the Southeast corner of the roof of the house. Bingo. This provided an EV-DO connection (albeit somewhat slower than the garage's connection.) It also was a bit flakier than the garage connection. I might get an EV-DO signal long enough to run a test but then have it decay to 1xRTT immediately thereafter. (The signal type is reported by the MiFi web gui.)

I then proceeded to try the other three corners of the house and the ridgeline on the north and south sides of the house--no joy. Only the southeast corner of the roof would pickup a signal. Also, it seemed vary dependent on how the MiFi was oriented. No signal at all at times and a flakey signal at best. At this point, I tried to regain a strong signal in the garage. No luck. It appears to be very, very transient and spotty. Here is the Verizon wireless coverage map. Select Broadband and V-CAST and see what coverage is near Albin, WY. Lot's of pockets where there is no connection and nothing much north of Albin more than a mile or so.

It's also difficult to assess where there cell towers might be located as there is no clearly defined direction from the map.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

MiFi -- Wifi via EVDO

Well, nothing but kudos for the folks at Novatel and Verizon Wireless for coming out with the MIFI 3G Hotspot. Works like a champ here at my office and at my home. The real test will be the middle of nowhere. I'll give an update then.

The short story is: works as advertised. It does seem to require Windows or Mac to perform the initial activation via USB but works fine providing WiFi and DHCP afterwards. (It will connect wifi prior to being activated, but you have no uplink.) Also, you can view some statistics/configuration information via the MiFi's web interface with any device after it gets a dhcp lease.

More about this new toy later.