Ok so I say I’m going to be off grid, however that’s NOT exactly true. What I really mean is I’m going to provide for as many of our utilities that I can provide. This means I’ll now be in charge of my own power production using solar and batteries, water delivery using gravity, pumps to get water uphill, and then pumps to pressurize and deliver this to “modern” standards inside our living facilities, and finally the shitty side of things, the Poop and Waste Water management, like how to get rid of black and grey water.
This blog is being written to you from my mac laptop that sips power gently from our solar panels that are generating power topping off our nickel iron off grid battery system, while I have an 110v electric fan blowing air into the living room of our rv camper trailer while both Kelly and I are on our machines doing work… (well Kelly is actually browsing the internet), I’m writing this blog.
Let me do a quick speedtest here and I’ll attach a screen shot of our current internet speed.
You city folks which I was — was used to having speeds like 50-100Mbps download speeds and something like 10-12 Mbps upload speeds, which was super nice and fast, and I’d normally think that the above speeds are super slow, however in a remote area there are MUCH less users on the network, which causes the internet to not be as “clogged” with tons of people streaming porn, youtube, netflix, amazon fire, apple tvs’ etc, and not to mention gaming systems using TONs of bandwidth to keep everyone connected in a low latency environment.
Here’s what I can tell you. At about 1.5Mbps down and 1Mbps up, I can still stream my Amazon Fire attached to my digital tv and stream the Hunger Games — at reduced quality with ok audio. However with the above speed in the image, I can stream full HD fairly quickly. Youtube opens and streams quickly and I can upload images and videos in minutes vs hours of a DSL quality connection that is even slower out in some remote areas. Without mentioning names of carriers that could provide location identification lets say the local broadband company supplies upto 10Mbps down and 1.5Mbps up in a rural community that’s huge and costly — around $65 per month. The actual speeds that are delivered are shared and the real throughput is about 1.5Mbps download and about 0.5- 0.75Mbps uploads.
So to achieve the above values, which at times I can get consistently, are shown in this next image of around 20Mbps download and around 5Mbps upload capability.
To achieve these speeds here is the equipment that I installed to make this feasible.
First is a cellular signal as high as possible. Using my last blog that shows how to place your smartphone in a field test mode, you can walk around your property and find the BEST possible location for your remote antenna — usually the higher the better, and sometimes it’s on the specific side of a hilltop where the cellular signal hits. Once you find you can get an LTE signal of 1-2 bars (the higher the better) the next step is to get a YAGI (outdoor antenna) that looks like a plastic flag on a pole. Here is picture of my Yagi Highly Directional Antenna, the wire ties where in the pic right after I installed it. I’m like a modern day MacGyver and for you young farts who dont know who that is here is a clip from Youtube.
So I just found this wood pole in our box of shit, that we moved here. My goal was to find something that was NOT metal, was more rigid than PVC, that I could place on the Camper as High as possible in the BEST spot with the highest signal.
The goal is to use the least distance run of cable necessary to find the highest signal. So my cell phone would receive a signal of around -120db to as low as about -106db. In layman’s terms the LOWER the db number the BETTER the signal. So on the modem shown here with my wireless portable Canon IP series printer.
you can place it into a mode where you can see the signal in db as well. I simply took the modem outside and connected the external antenna into the modem
and changed the display to data signal mode so I could see the signal strength in decibels (db), and simply turned the antenna 360º until the numbers showed the lowest negative number. So -110 is a worse a signal than the -96dBm, so i just kept turning it in about 1-2 degree increments until this number was the smallest I could get, then I screwed and locked down the mast onto the pole.
And if you’re going to say.. but wait… this is going to cost me a fortune the answer is absolutely, be prepared to bend over and take it in the tailpipe as, there are NO more unmetered Unlimited Wireless plans out there. Or are there? Hmm…. (contact us).
To be able to make this work financially, you’re going to pay at least $100-$150 per month for UNLIMITED wireless internet service but you’ll have to seek out someone who has a corporate Verizon account that has been Grandfathered into the Unlimited LTE program in 2011, and rent a modem from them and pay them twice what they pay to verizon. In our case that is what we did, as the local internet provider cancelled our request for services order, and just said — we’re too far out and can’t provide us any service. So this was our ONLY UNLIMITED option. This option does however allow us to have a semblance of city life as I LOVE movies and just try to stream Netflix OR Amazon Fire on a Metered Cellular connection and you’ll quickly learn to do without as your 20 movies just cost you around $500 or more to stream on your regular cellular data service.
UPDATE on Nov 2016: Cellular speeds for the Internet have been slower as of late. As low as about 2-3MB Download and 1-2 uploads, and a reset of the modem, restored a consistent 6-9Mbps downloads and 2-3Mbps uploads. Sometimes it’s very slow, but SLOW where there is NO internet beats NONE. So the only challenge is on occassion, streaming on the Amazon Fire – it was in Standard Definition – vs High Definition and the video was a little choppy. But switching to an Amazon HOSTED video was much better than a pass through provider like Netflix or Hulu. Netflix runs much better on our Apple TV than it does on the Fire.
If you are not a heavy user and still would like to order the CURRENT offerings from Verizon you can get the modem here on verizon’s website.
The Modem is a: Novatel T1114v (click here to see what’s available on Ebay here)
The YAGI antenna I purchased from Amazon is this one.
The only other off grid solutions are Satellite internet, and by far HughesNet & Exede are the fastest, followed by the following WildBlue, DishNet (these are no way in any specific order as I have not personally tested them all)
I hope this helps you and if you want to reach out and have any other specific questions, use our contact us section on the website. We intentionally do NOT include our phone number as — the purpose of being off grid is to “manage” who can reach us. So if you’re nice and want to possibly work with us… we’ll give you a set of keys into the magic kingdom (see the video). If you’re a internet troll – than fuck off and screw yourself.
John and Kelly