Mobile internet on the road

Hi All, getting down to the tin tacks and final plans for a 4 month trip to WA from QLD. I am after some opinions on what you fellow travellers use for internet. And what costs are involved. I guess Telstra is the best provider. Thanks in advance and safe travels to all.

Greg & Dianne
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 16:34

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 16:34
Telstra/BigPond is the only way to fly in the outback. even then you will not get service at all camp spots along your route. If you have a tablet with 3G capability then consider this.

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Follow Up By: Twiggy - Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 14:48

Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 14:48
Yes I agree with this post. Telstra continues to surprise us with the coverage across australia. I have had a samsung tablet with wi fi and 3g for over 3 years. It has travelled around Oz with me and europe and the UK. Just add a mobile data sim anywhere you go. I have the 12 gb $180 fof 12 mths which is great, useage can be monitored easily then use free wi fi when available. Much more reliable than the little telstra mobile wi fi gadgets that plug in with a usb, would never go back to that. They are just another thing that need to be charged, and more cords!
when buying a tablet most salespeople will tell you you dont really need 3G as wi fi is enough, my response to them is " you haven't crossed the Great Divide or left the coastal strip, have you!"
Would definitely buy another samsung tablet 3/4 G and stick with telstra if planning to leave home.
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Reply By: Racey - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 16:35

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 16:35
Hi Greg & Dianne, I use my mobile phone as a modem and link via WiFi to my tablet or laptop. My current mobile plan has 1Gb and if I need more I buy an extra data pack which is much cheaper than going of the plan limit. A few years ago I did use a separate telstra dongle but that was just something extra. No matter what you go you must be within mobile reception. In the fringe areas I have an external antenna attached to a coupler for the phone. All works well, but as I say you must be within mobile reception.

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Follow Up By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 17:04

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 17:04
Yep, What Jon said is what I do. I am on a post paid plan, which Jon appears to have. I can upgrade the data plan from the phone but down grading is a bit more difficult in that I have to ring them. Your plan will depend on how much you want to speak on the phone.
At times we have been out of reception for a few days at a time and the world did not end.
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Follow Up By: Member - BRAD n JENNY - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 18:20

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 18:20
Same as John and Rod, I have an iPhone 5s in a Bury cradle connected to a 6.5db aerial on the bull bar and get very good coverage with Telstra and just go online to increase my data allowance @$15.00 / GB but as said coverage outback is not good
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Reply By: Hoyks - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 18:44

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 18:44
I have a Telstra pre-paid USB dongle modem thing (see below) that I plug into the laptop, I also have a 1m long USB extension lead, so if reception is marginal I can lift it a bit higher, which often makes all the difference.

It is easy to use as you just plug it in and it will tell you if there is sufficient signal strength or if you are waisting your time. I have used it in North Qld to book a camping site whilst standing in the back of the ute and my mate was hanging out of the tree above to try and get reception..... only to find we had 5 bars of signal when we got to the booked site :-S.

I have used the phone as a personal hotspot before, but the data charges for the dongle are a bit less and the dongle seems to be just a bit more stable. When I am home I can just toss it in the draw and then buy a $15 or $30 data block when I go away again.

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Follow Up By: init2njoy - Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 08:51

Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 08:51
The Telstra dongle is the way to go, we have been using this device at home and when we are on the road for about 6 years now.
I suggest also go to Jaycar and get a 6.5db gain aerial and patch lead to suit the dongle and your phone, we have had good phone and internet reception many times when no-one else did. We wandered around WA for 15months 2009/10 Tassie 4 months in 2011 and last year NT & Top end for 5 months. I stay on a plan at $45 a month which gives us 12Gb and our mobile is pre paid $50 which gives us up to $1000 of talk and text, call or txt any number in Australia 6am to 6pm NO charge. Hope some of this helps -Oh carry a big long stick or aluminium extension pole to get the aerial up high when you stop over in the van - I tie or tape it to the rear of the van - cable under the window seal. Kind regards - wishing you safe travel's
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 19:27

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 19:27
Greg & Dianne,

I've had a Telstra sim in my iPad for past 2 or 3 years. Originally used a $30/mth card, then changed to $180/12 month - 12gig (now $200/12 mth I see). Has been good for me as I was away from home for 6 days every 8 days, so was able to check emails, and surf this site, and others, like Weatherzone.

Ran out of data a bit before the plan was first due to run out, but now use wi-fi while at home, so that saves the gigs for when I am away.

We also have a dongle similar to one mentioned by Hoyks. Used to use it with a laptop while we were away on holidays, but haven't used it since we got iPads. Ours has an external aerial socket too, so would be able to utilise an external aerial, for greater range. Dongles are just a simplified mobile phone, without the keypad, screen etc, and have their own phone number. If you were wanting access in fringe areas, a dongle with an external aerial socket, might be a better option than a tablet/iPad, that don't have an external socket.


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Follow Up By: barry22 - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 22:36

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 22:36
I have a Telstra/Netgear wireless WiFi 4G modem. 4GB per month for $35 (this includes a $10 discount). Cant recall exactly why Telstra are "so generous". We have everything with them however. 4G will drop back to 3G speed when 4G not available. Speed will drop back to dial up when my 4GB limit is reached. Therefore no surprises with additional costs, but horribly slow on dial up !!!

My wife has 12 month 3G prepaid Telstra plan on her iPad for $180 for the year. We will maybe increase my plan to 8GB when my wife's plan runs out, and we can then both share my plan. ($45/month then I think for the 8GB.)

We have been really pleased with reception thru outback QLD and in Tassie recently. We are off to WA in August, and are looking for more of the same.

All the best with your choice. I am sure Telstra is the best. They also know it, hence the fees they like to charge.

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Reply By: Rob J8 - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 23:16

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 23:16
we have the same Netgear 4G modem as barry 22 and it works well. Be aware of the distances in the West especially up North. There are still lots of km's without mobile reception even with external antennaes ; towns have reception and the communities with up to 30k radius. You'll be driving along say between Meekatharra and Newman and all of a sudden you get a signal. if you want to transfer money etc that's when you do it don't wait another 50 k's you'll lose the signal.
Enjoy your trip
do go into Broome it's not a bad spot.
When you get down South stay in Busselton for a bit.

Regards Rob J
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Follow Up By: Member - Twocrowsdown - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 09:45

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 09:45
Telstra has "filled some of the gaps" in the Pilbara. There is a new tower near Andy Well North of Meekatharra and Kumarina was online for a month or two but as recently gone quiet (not sure why). The DeGrussa and Plutonic mines near the Gascoyne River Middle Branch Bridge are one of the areas that mobile service seems to appear out of nowhere. North of Newman also has a lot of mines with their own Telstra mobile service which overlaps the Gt Northern Hwy - in fact, there is almost constant service between Newman and Port Hedland now. A new tower at Strelley extends the coverage to the north of Port Hedland. The last remaining large dead spot on the Gt Northern between Perth and Hedland is at Paynes Find.
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Follow Up By: Member - Ian S15 - Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 17:48

Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 17:48
I find this topic interessting.
I have joust bought a new Telstra Wifi Modem which receives the new 4GX signals. This is a standalone unit, which acts as a hotspot for up to 10 devices. I'm in Katherine NT at the moment, and getting a better speed from the modem than I do at home in Canberra. This modem receives a better signal than my IPad 4G card. This is the way to go! Ian
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Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 23:30

Sunday, Feb 01, 2015 at 23:30
I've got a Telstra 4G prepaid modem and it has been brilliant.
$180 for 12mths and 12Gb as Bob says - and the reception all through the North of W.A. and the Centre has been terrific.

You can also transfer up to $10 credit from the modem to a Telstra mobile if that mobile is running low on credit.
It's simple to use, works without fail, and you can even plug it into your desktop if your landline fails!

I haven't had a smartphone up until about 6mths ago (when I bought a Samsung Note 3), but I can see where a good quality smartphone could be used in place of a modem and laptop.
However, I still haven't been weaned off my Toshiba laptop, I like having the big screen and the large memory capacity, and I still take it nearly everywhere I travel.

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: Jim* - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 06:51

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 06:51
Greg and Dianne
I guess you now have the message that Telstra gives you the best coverage in remote places (Check the different provider’s coverage maps to see the differences)

That said - we use ‘Boost Mobile’.
‘Boost’ use Telstra’s 3G/NextG network, which is the network to be on in the bush.

The phone I use as a modem has an antenna connection, and with a small 6db antenna ($20 on eBay) the range is often improved by up to 50 km’s or more beyond the last tower. The speed is improved as well with the antenna.

‘Boost’ offer a - ‘no strings or contracts’ - $40/30 days with unlimited calls and up to 3gig data per 30 days. (Why not a month - one might ask?)

I only recharge the Boost phone when we are about to travel, and as long as the credit hasn’t expired by more than six months it works fine.

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Reply By: Sigmund - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 08:17

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 08:17
To get the best signal strength in marginal areas it's worth going for phones that get the 'blue tick' from Telstra. That means they've been tested and found to have better internal antennas. Fitting an external antenna is also an option if the phone is equipped for it or you can try an induction loop but IME that just brings a phone up to blue tick performance.

Going this route means you use the phone as a wifi hotspot. Telstra don't say whether their wireless broadband units have decent antennas.

One trap for the unwary when using exxy connection time is not to turn off background data transfers like auto backups and synchronising. A 'cloud' connection can rapidly deplete your data allowance. If you have to use it, just monitor the electron flow.
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Follow Up By: Gronk - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 17:22

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 17:22
I've found that generally, blue tick phones don't get any more reception than the others ( except phones with an external port )

I have been out west with several people with I phone 3,4,5 and 6.....some blue tick others not......I have nokia 520 ( blue tick ) and nokia 920 ( not blue tick ) and both nokias were exactly the same in reception and mostly the iphones were better than the nokias..

I've found an external aerial is a waste of time....unless you have a phone with an external port..
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Tuesday, Feb 03, 2015 at 20:30

Tuesday, Feb 03, 2015 at 20:30
What the blue tick means is that Telstra's tested the phone. Other phones, typically Apples, have good internal antennas but needn't have been submitted for testing. Apple did only recently.

Where I live there's a Telstra tower a km away but there's some stuff in between. My Motorola and HTC 'ticked' phones get 3 bars of signal while the Samsung Galaxy 3 and the rest in the house only get one.

The old 'ticked' Samsung 411 IIRC up at Michell Hut on Bogong got as much signal strength as plain phones placed on the induction loop. Without the loop they got little or nothing.
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Reply By: Sigmund - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 08:21

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 08:21
The furthest connection distance found with a mobile on its own was c. 46 km acc. to a test done by a farming organisation. Line of sight of course.

If getting more than that is critical there are satellite data devices.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 10:32

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 10:32
Got an sms late one night, Sigmund, about 90 clicks LOS from Barkly Homestead. :-)

Data retrieval might have been quite a bit more difficult, at that distance though.


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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 14:46

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 14:46
So you couldn't plead ignorance ;-)

Yeah, same deal with UHF. The max of 5 W is only sposed to be good for a few k's but I gather that 70 k's has been recorded - light of sight of course, up in the mountains.
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Follow Up By: Slow one - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 16:05

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 16:05
I have got sms messages at odd times and they have always come in very close to micro wave towers. The only towers where this has occured have always had 3 dishes on them. I have slowed and checked signal strength, which has normally been 1 or 2 bars and that signal only seemed present for around 3 to 400 metres.

If you remember where this happened, see if there is a tower nearby with 3 dishes.

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Follow Up By: bruce b2 - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 18:42

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 18:42
g'day Slow One (and everybody else)- not sure if your theory of a structure with 3 dishes is really on the track. More often than not, in out of metropolitan/rural areas, the dishes are possiby links to other Radio Sites which may have the local telephone exchange running (on Radio) off of them. Some of these structures and dishes will not be active. In remote areas, the local station customers phone/internet service will probably work of these structures on a simple omni or whip antenna (same type of aerial as we mount on our vehicles) whilst the radio link up and down the track will be via the dishes. What we should do...get some one to sponsor us (you and me) and we'll go on a fact finding tour, (all expenses paid of couse). I am fairly sure that some government department will come to the party.
last bit might be slightly tongue in cheek, but, if you don't at least ask, you don't know....
cheers - bb1
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Follow Up By: Slow one - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 19:26

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 19:26
I like your proposal re the investigation. I have a feeling many to those towers will be close to pubs and require through scrutiny over quite a few days to make sure the data is correct.

On the serious side I have encountered this quite a few times and it has never been with towers that are pure links straight through, it has always been with towers that as said have the 3 dishes where the link feeds and receives another spur. Maybe extraterrestrials are involved. Now that statement could give us some extended time in investigating this. LOL.

Bob is probably on the road right now out that way and can report back to us.
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Follow Up By: Member - Laurie K (WA) - Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 23:42

Monday, Feb 02, 2015 at 23:42
I use the internet for business on the road, and use Telstra 4G 8gb per month at $60. Did a lap in 2013, and found that I had phone coverage in most places, and dodgy internet. We subsequently found I had a dodgy modem. That replaced, all is good, and an antenna more often than not gets me reception when I have none in areas where towns and the like crop up periodically. GRR, there is nothing, but there is a hot spot in Kulumburu .... bit far to go out of your way for the "net" LOL.
There is access across the Nullarbor at most of the roadhouses.

Once I reach my data limit, it slows to dialup speeds. Slow, but no nasty bill surprises.

The alternative to no signal, is to stop and check the net each time you get signal, or go through a town. The phone is a good backup as a mobile hotspot ...... but beware the extra charges..... you can set a data limit cut out in your settings.

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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, Feb 03, 2015 at 19:36

Tuesday, Feb 03, 2015 at 19:36

The example I gave Sigmund was not far from Barry Caves, and less than 2kms from one of those ginormous towers that are scattered across the Barkly, and up to Darwin.

Since the fibre optic cable was run along this route, I think these towers have been de-commissioned, so I'd assume my sms came from the tower at the Barkly Homestead?

Night time improves mobile range, no end, as it does for UHF transmissions. Often get phone signal at Kynuna, when closest cells are either along Flinders H'way(@ Julia Ck, 100kms North), back at the Fullarton or at Winton.


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Follow Up By: Slow one - Wednesday, Feb 04, 2015 at 08:34

Wednesday, Feb 04, 2015 at 08:34
Bob, I didn't know the Barkly microwave towers were decommissioned, so that wasn't the source

Bob I will agree that picking up a signal at Kynuna is a long way from any source.
I know I have keyed up emergency uhf transmitters a long way from them.

On the micro-link towers, many new ones are being built for the NBN and signals transmitted between towers, so much for all fibre. Mate is having one built adjacent to his farm in northern new south wales by the NBN. Not a happy chappy is he.

Safe travels
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Reply By: Bethwyn - Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 12:29

Friday, Feb 06, 2015 at 12:29
Hi Greg & Dianne

My husband & I are from WA and returned form a trip to Cape York in QLD last year travelling down from Kununurra to Perth. We were advised in 2012 that it wouldn't be long before Highway 1 in northern WA would have Telstra phone coverage all the way and indeed in 2014 with an antenna attached to my Telstra country phone (one with the blue tick) I had continuous coverage.

Also, from the 24hour free camp at De Grey River (just north of Port Hedland) and heading south on Highway 1, if you pull in you will see some new style metal gazebos with concrete picnic tables near the eco toilets. Look up into the roof of these and if you see a metal box approx. 60 cm square you will have free WiFi coverage at the gazebo. That's why there are always people there!

I also have a tiny portable antenna which I can put up on the roof of the caravan (through the 4 season hatch sitting on a steel ruler) and continued to have coverage on my phone and my tablet/laptop. I even had phone & internet coverage at several places across the Nullabor using this method and in remote places in QLD, SA & NT when no-one else did.

I have used Wireless Mobile Broadband for a number of years now - not bothering with the ADSL broadband at home as we travel 3 to 4 months at a time. I do not use Pre Paid but have a regular monthly billing plan and in conversation recently according to a Telstra technical guru this makes a difference. The Wireless Broadband Modems supplied under the monthly billing plan are better than the pre paid dongles and I believe it. We have travelled with friends who use the pre paid dongle and I get coverage when they can't.

Hope this helps. Happy travels
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