Around-Oz: Living the Dream!


Email and Internet
Inside Your Own RV Using Your Own Laptop
Using Telstra Sierra Aircard 580


This in our view is currently the best solution for any RV'er relying on the Internet for business reasons or needing better reliability and speed. We have been using it for 6 months now with zero problems. It is actually two devices in the one card. It has CDMA 1X as well as the newer EVDO - same as ADSL. The really high speed feature is generally only available in capitol cities and some of Canberra. It reverts to CDMA 1X in no EVDO coverage areas or when the EVDO signal falls below the threshold. This all happens in the background with no user intervention needed.



Sierra Wireless AirCard 1XEV-DO
This is currently the ultimate mobile solution although at first glance it appears to be quite expensive. So lets start with costs. You can buy the card outright from Harvey Norman, Telstra Shops etc. from $720.00 to $799.00 - it pays to shop around! Alternatively you can buy a 2 year plan which includes the cost of the card. For $100.00 a month you get the Aircard plus 50 hours. For $50.00 a month you get 20 hours as well as the card. Extra hours on both plans don't get cheaper and you get charged $1.50 per 15 minute block. ($6.00 an hour). This is however still competitive with most Internet cafes, and remember you get to use your own machine in your own motorhome. The huge advantage is time based plans are now offered as listed above - originally it was traffic (data) based and many were dying of shock when receiving bills around $600.00! There are absolutely no download limits or penalties at present (June 2005). The card uses the new 3G network. For those new to this technology you need to understand that the AirCard or your data equipped mobile phone is NOT an ISP and you can't for instance get your own email address. There are of course several ways around this if you don't have an ISP. Please write if you would like advice. We strongly suggest for those on the road, to use Telstra as their ISP when at home, as it works so well on the road as well. Using a landline you can dial in for the cost of a local call from ANYWHERE in Australia. We know this works well, as we have done it for years.



Installing and Using the Sierra Card
The Sierra installation is absolutely bullet proof on Windows XP and it truly is an absolute delight to install. Unbelievably, you are up in running in under 5 minutes! You don't even have to reboot! The Quick Start instructions are totally brilliant, as is the manual itself! WARNING: Be absolutely certain to install the software BEFORE inserting the card. Logging on is virtually instant and the clock doesn't start ticking until you are online - good one Telstra! All you do is click on "Connect". It dials #777 and negotiates all passwords etc. with zero input from you. To log off just click on "Disconnect". You must never remove the card with the computer still running. You are NOT charged a flagfall, but watch the clock like a hawk, as you are charged in 15 minute blocks. Our one and only criticism of this fantastic product is you can't get the Watcher Program to run on top of the current window. We use two monitors, but most wont have this luxury. A simple work around is to buy a $5.00 mechanical timer from Coles/Woolies. We have put other RV'ers on to this with great success. Another excellent use is for timing those 20 minute free calls, if you have the Telstra "My Hour" deal (soon to be dropped sadly!!)

Managing Time
Yes, you can't waste a second on line, so you need to prepare properly before connecting. We upload, get rid of rubbish emails using Mail2Web.com running a couple of pages at a time or different addresses and get Norton's downloading the latest updates, and then collect all email accounts using Outlook Express etc. We only use mail2web as we have found it faster than using our mailbox at Telstra - their pages carry to much "waffle" for mobile use. Sierra installsAirCard 580 Watcher in the system tray. This runs in the background whilst you are online. It also logs session times and traffic - handy if you disagree with Telstra's billing. The example below shows a "drop out" that may need to be argued about with Telstra! Tip: Make certain your "computer's clock" is set to reflect the state you are in - daylight saving, SA, WA etc.

Note: The Sierra works much more efficiently if you use an external aerial. This is almost essential if your motorhome is aluminium covered or if you have a bus/coach conversion. Rather oddly Sierra don't sell these, but have a look at www.wincomaust.com.au (Brendale near Brisbane) - 07 3205 7999 - or email to matt@wincomaust.com.au. The aerial simply plugs into the side of the card.



Summing Up
This is a beautifully thought out piece of equipment. The software install is absolutely brilliant and ideal for those even a little bit frightened of new technology. It simply works straight out of the box. Yes it does cost a bit to buy outright and is way dearer than the GPRS competition, but you own it in 2 years on the $49.95 a month plan. We would love to see Telstra do something about reducing the hourly cost once you have used up your plan hours, as you simply can't get the really high speed outside the city. It would also be great if you could offset some of your home based ADSL when you are on the road. Vodafone are doing this to some extent with their GPRS, but it is loads slower and has far less coverage.

Absolutely recommended 11 out of 10 (it's that good!!!)



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