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Thread: Data plan suggestions for road trip in CA

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Data plan suggestions for road trip in CA

    What would be the best data plan option for two students that are doing remote learning through Zoom but will be on the road for several hours during class time? I think connections with Tmobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon should be fairly good on the 5 and 101 freeways in the central valley in California. I am guessing I will need a minimum 25 GB at full 4G LTE speeds to support Zoom video conference calls for up to 3 days class time maximum estimated at 5 hrs per day for 2 students. I think these are my best options for hotspot to laptops, tablet, and cell phone use:

    - I have a spare Iphone 7 that I can purchase a visible unlimited plan for ~$25 for hotspot to two devices. This is attractive since data is theoretically unlimited, but I hear data speeds fluctuate wildly, which might translate into subpar video performance.
    - I have an I phone SE that I can switch to an unlimited 25 gb plan on tello for $39 for hotspot to two devices.
    - I have a spare Iphone 7 that I can purchase a simple mobile 40 gb plan on Tmobile for $40 for hotspot to two devices
    - I have a unite hotspot that I can load with 25 gb of AT&T data for about $50 for hotspot to two devices

    Factoring in experience with and reliability for a good video connection and hotspot use, would anyone expect acceptable results from visible or any of these options to maintain a reliable video connection?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Feedback Score
    FYI Visible hotspot upload speeds suck.
    I will be Judged on how I helped the poor, sick & others in need; strangers & loved ones alike.

    Visible (Verizon) UTT & Unlimited Data $25/mo
    Liberty Wireless (T-Mobile) UTT 07.26.21
    T-Mobile Gold Rewards $10yr exp 01.11.21
    Truphone (AT&T) every 180 days by 02.06.21

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    New York
    VZW - Work phone / T-Mobile (iPad) / Sprint (personal phone) / AT&T MVNO (for fun)!
    Feedback Score
    As noted above, Visible's hotspot speeds are capped (on-device data isn't), so two simultaneous Zoom calls might be pushing it. One at a time, perhaps, but I don't think I'd try two simultaneously if you're using video.

    So, Simple Mobile's $40 for 40GB Hot Spot plan might work, since Zoom uses 500MB - 1.5GB/hour (depending on resolution and a number of other factors). So 5 hours/day x 3 days x 2 people is 30 hours, so you'd need somewhere between 15GB and 45GB.

    I'd prefer the dedicated hotspot option (the Unite), but 25GB might not be enough data, and it's $10 more.

    If you don't need to interact in the class, you can keep your video off to save some bandwidth...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Feedback Score
    my experience is cellular data is never very stable while in motion, for example i can make reliable google voice calls nearly every time if i am stationary but very hit or miss driving in car.

    i would be hesitant to think video conferencing is likely to be reliable while riding in a moving vehicle.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Feedback Score

    Data plan suggestions for road trip in CA

    OP I wish you and the students a fantastic voyage , it will be a super learning experience even if perhaps not “book learnin” via curricula.

    Please consider maximize itinerary to be PARKED during class hours, for the nontechnical reasons as much as the technical. Maybe could do all classes via free wifi for some destinations but that would be a different approach for a different OP.

    To any extent tech can ensure reliable schooling, each student will need two redundant handsets and plans, each fully capable for all needed tasks, probably each on a different non-virtual carrier. Avoid MVNOs. Max out the gigabytes on the handsets.

    Student should use one handset for dialing normal audio-only cellphone call to the classes. Student may occasionally turn VOLTE on and off when in mountainous or glitchy areas, to compare audio quality.

    Student should use second handset for video only, cellular data connection, disable audio entirely.

    Above “out of band audio” approach is useful from home too.

    Look at the actual radio frequency bands used by the carriers and the available handsets and select carrier and handset so that the largest total number of radio bands are covered per student and in total. Make a grid/spreadsheet to track that info, there is a b u n c h of it per carrier and per handset. Become familiar and track exact model numbers of iPhones such as the revered A1662.

    Local/other peoples or searching online can probably provide you some good data about which radio bands are used by which carriers in remote areas you will be traversing.

    you will probably need direct accounts with the carriers - MVNO are likely insufficient although some of the carrier-owned MVNO have option to pay extra to “reprioritize” the customer traffic arbitrarily.

    Select the two carriers for each pair of student handsets based on others recommendations here who are most familiar with path of your Trip(Tik).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Shenandoah Valley
    Feedback Score

    Not exactly the same trip, but I was out to California last month and drove Highway 1 from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. I'm using an iPhone SE (2020) on RedPocket AT&T. I was also using an esim from Airalo that was on the TMobile network.

    There were several areas where I had no service on either network. When I did have service, I usually had both AT&T and TMobile service that provided good cellular service.

    I'll second what bald said above about stopping at a location where you have service and attending your zoom class/meeting. It is safer and you'll know you can attend. My daughter had a work call and while we had spotty service where she could have called in (if we stopped), we continued on and had NO service for about 20 miles........

    I'm not sure if you have an original iPhone SE or the newer iPhone SE 2020? If you have the newer iPhone SE, it has esim capability. You can sign up for an esim from Airalo (uses AT&T and Tmobile network) for 10gb for $26 for 30 days (renewable); DENT also has an esim. If you use a referral code you can purchase the 1gb plan for $4.99 and receive an additional 5gb for free. DENT uses the AT&T network.


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