I need data for about 1 day, and I'm willing to pay to make it happen.
July 5, 2017 10:31 AM   Subscribe

I have an important presentation early next week that I need to attend via WebEx and phone while sitting in the passenger seat of a car hurtling down the Interstate in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. If I can get a reliable WiFi hotspot (Verizon preferred, AT&T okay) I can make this happen. For reasons I'd rather not discuss, stopping somewhere to take the call is not a good option. What's the best way to make this happen?

I'm willing to spend up to $200 (yes, this meeting is that important).

My 2 thoughts so far are:

1) Sign up for a Verizon unlimited plan (which include tethering) and pop the SIM into either my Nexus 6P or my iPhone 5s, use the phone as a mobile hotspot. Cancel when the meeting is over.

2) Buy the cheapest Verizon hotspot and buy a prepaid data plan with it. Use it for the meeting then immediately return it.

Are there other options I'm not thinking of? Being pretty certain that it will work is more important than saving money.
posted by Tehhund to Shopping (15 answers total)
Check with your public library to see if they have wifi hotspots available for loan. Mine does.

Also, I personally have run into problems with cell signal & data while hurtling down the interstate in Indiana. I don't know if it was because I was in the middle of fucking nowhere and far from a good tower, or because of all the wind farms causing interference (is this a thing?) but for long stretches of time my phone picked up nothing, zilch, not even able to send a text. I don't know what to tell you about how to prepare for that.
posted by phunniemee at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you haven't already checked, there are sites like https://opensignal.com/ that show the quality of cell reception by provider along your route.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Can't you join a Webex via an iOS or Android phone directly? Would at least eliminate one point of failure (hotspot, laptop)
posted by neustile at 10:49 AM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Option 1 may be problematic if you're only bringing one of the phones, as voice and data simultaneously can be problematic on Verizon, depending on the phone configuration and the type of network you're on. In rural areas, you may fall back to an older technology that will drop the internet connection if you're using voice. If this meeting is important to you, get a portable hotspot or bring one to use as a phone and one to use as a hotspot.

Verizon is probably your best bet for reliable coverage but as phunniemee noted, you may still get dead zones even on the interstate. If you can try to at least schedule your driving during the meeting to be near cities or areas known to have good coverage per Homeboy Trouble's link, you'll be doing yourself a favor.

I also don't know if they've changed since I looked, but option 1's cancellation fee may be high enough to make it not worth it.
posted by Candleman at 10:57 AM on July 5, 2017

neustile, good thought but it's a training meeting so I also have to access things on the Internet on my work laptop. If the signal fails and I lose connection that's not ideal but I can recover - at least I tried and can catch up later. I know from previous experience that my phone has enough coverage on my toe that I can listen in, but that my data coverage with T-Mobile will be completely unusable.

Basically, as long as I dial in and try to participate via Internet, that's good enough and I can catch up on anything I miss later. But skipping it entirely, or only dialing in without attempting to follow along, is not an option.
posted by Tehhund at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2017

Experienced remote-presenter here.

Do you have someone else who is on that call being able to do the upload / advancing the screen for you? That way you can just dial in while hurling down the highway in the middle of nowhere, and you are presumably speaking from the same slides on your laptop or a printout. If it's very important like you indicate, it's worth the peace of mind that you won't risk any mishaps with a data connection.
posted by scooterdog at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I will have both phones with me. Good point.

I'm not presenting, I'm attending. I just have to prove that I'm not totally out of pocket. Basically I need my name to show up in the attendees list so they know I'm taking it seriously.
posted by Tehhund at 11:04 AM on July 5, 2017

Just to clarify - do you present or just watch? From your update it sounds as if you will participate in the training but not present yourself?

If you're the participant then try whatever and if it doesn't work it doesn't work. In my organisation people would rather you dial in and read the downloaded slides. If that's not acceptable for your situation I'd argue that the sort of unrealiable connection you'll be dealing with is a waste of time but the people who need to see you try seem to disagree.

If you are a trainer then do not attempt to do this - it would be extremely unprofessional to waste all the participants' time while your connection drops every 30 seconds.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

- Get an iPad with cellular data from a friend/Apple Store
- Sign up for a pay-as-you-go data plan for the month/week either using the data-menu built-in to the iPad or get a sim card from a vendor of choice with a couple gb's of data.
- Use it as a Hotspot for your journey, optionally dial in to the conference directly with it.
- Return when done.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2017

my data coverage with T-Mobile will be completely unusable.

Unless you have experience along this interstate using voice with T-Mobile, you might want to consider even voice to be unreliable. I've had long stretches along interstates in other states when I was on T-Mobile where I had no signal whatsoever.

I just have to prove that I'm not totally out of pocket. Basically I need my name to show up in the attendees list so they know I'm taking it seriously.

Depending on your level of technical sophistication, you might consider using a desktop/laptop computer someplace on a landline to connect to WebEx and then use some form of remote desktop software to connect to it. That way if you have a blip in data connectivity, you'll still show up on the participant list.
posted by Candleman at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

Seconding a desktop somewhere with a hard connection that will not drop.

Call into the audio portion by voice, and watch the screen presentation via a remote desktop viewer. You will appear to be 100% online the entire time even if one or the other drops out momentarily.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

If this meeting is really so crucial, and if money is no object, what about logging in from *two* different devices on two different cellular networks, using two slightly different IDs?
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:15 PM on July 5, 2017

I've had to do this while traveling internationally (that was fun). I used a Mobile Wifi Hotspot from XCOM. It was an absolutely smooth experience (I had three devices connected to the hotspot, on a bus, and was able to surf the web, email, and talk to people simultaneously.) It looks like they offer US-based hotspots now too.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:19 PM on July 5, 2017

Since you don't seem overly interested in actually attending the training, couldn't you get someone else to log in as you? Training sessions are usually available by recording after the event, so you could catch up when you get where you're going in case you're questioned about the content later.
posted by Joleta at 9:26 PM on July 7, 2017

Update: I have T-Mobile with tethering and on the drive out I realize that T-Mobile has really stepped up their LTE coverage. So on the way back during the meeting and I was able to turn on tethering and just attend that way. On previous drives the coverage has been awful in that area but I guess they fixed it up. Anyway, turns out the right solution was the easy one - use my current phone and plan. The connection wasn't perfect but it was good enough.
posted by Tehhund at 2:29 PM on July 14, 2017

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