This is the box of bits which will hopefully keep us in touch with the world while we’re away! Our mobiles are mid-contract and to be frank, the roaming charges abroad will cost us an arm and a leg so roaming will be turned off as soon as we cross the Channel.
We found there are various ways to stay online as we travel;
- Use our mobile phone contract rates
- Rely on free wifi
- Create our own network via 4g & wifi
We don’t want to use our mobile phone contracts – even with a deal Vodafone’s £3 a day would come close to £300. That’s £300 each, if we don’t want to limit ourselves to using just one phone for everything. There will be times when we need to use the iPad or the PC and we may pick up additional costs for tethering.
Free wifi will definitely help us stay in touch. Travelling through Europe on the motorcycle, Ken has found it much more widely available than in the UK and we’ve joined BT’s FON service as we’re BT Broadband customers. This opens up even more hot-spots. The downside to this is that much of the wifi is around town centres where parking can be an issue for us with 23 feet of motorhome, and as we want to spend time in more remote areas we can’t always be sure of a connection. One option we researched, and seriously considered was to get a signal booster – some of these can pick up a wifi signal up to a kilometer away as long as it has line-of-sight, and then broadcast it into the van so several devices can be attached. However it still depends on finding a signal, and that network still needs to be available for public use. We have heard of some campsites banning these as they believe users hog a lot of bandwidth and slow the connection for everyone else. We may yet get one, but not for this trip.
What we decided on in the end was to use free wifi whenever we can get access to keep the costs down, but when we have no free wifi we’ll resort to the box of bits above.
This is a Huawei (pronounced wah-wey – I love saying it!) mifi. It’s unlocked so you can install a data SIM from any network to get the best prices either on contract or PAYG. It connects to the fastest signal it can find then becomes a wifi hot spot so you can use a combination of up to ten phones, PC’s or tablets. It can be used as is with its own battery, or you can connect it to the van’s 12V supply for permanent power. It comes with a magnetic bracket for wall-mounting. We had it supplied with a MIMO antenna (which makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about – but that’s just what it says on the box!) The antenna plugs into the mifi unit to boost signal strength by up to five times (it says here). The shell of a motorhome is notorious for blocking signals so the antenna attaches to a window with plastic suckers to improve reception dramatically. It came with 200Mb of free data on an EE SIM which we’ll use next week when we’re away for a few days, then we’ll switch to the supplied 3 Network SIM as their charges abroad are very competitive. Amazingly we got it working straight out of the box thanks to clear instructions from Adam & Sophie at Motorhome Wifi who were recommended to us by Jason & Jules at Ourtour. Incidentally their delivery service was second to none – Ken’s first chat with them was at 5.30pm Tuesday, and the unit arrived first thing Wednesday morning. Excellent!
The unit is so small that it will go in a pocket if we’re exploring and can’t find wifi. As long as there’s a mobile signal we can sit in a bar and seek out local attractions on the web whilst bathing in our own little pool of internet!
We’ll let you know how we get on 🙂