Cellular phone coverage is available in all Long Term Visitor Areas featured on this web site but you should check with each phone service provider for best coverage for your travel area. Reception can also be spotty. For example, we found that the mountains surrounding Slab City and Imperial Dam seriously affected reception.
Major US carriers are Verizon and AT&T, followed by T-Mobile and Sprint. Others include Telus, T-Mobile, Verizon, Cricket or the roaming only carrier Commnet Wireless. Cellular Maps (.com) offers some very useful coverage maps that should give you an idea of which providers should be considered.
STANDARD INTERNET AND EMAIL SERVICE
Any of the large communities offer free internet and email service at the public library. No library fee is requested although there is usually a small charge for use of their printer. If you plan to do internet banking you will need a secure computer with 128 bit encryption installed on the internet browser program. This is a high tech security browser add-on can be downloaded and installed free of charge to non-commercial users.
There are a number of companies that offer internet and email services.
WIRELESS INTERNET SERVICES
Evolving from the wired plug-in ports (such as those installed in airports and hotels to provide business travelers with internet service), wireless network (Wi-Fi) has become more practical. Most portable communications devices now come with wireless connectivity included at the time of purchase or adapters such as a laptop stick can be purchased for any device that has a USB port on it.
The difference between wireless networks:
Wi-Fi provides access to the internet via a wireless router and a broadband modem that is wired to a service provider by cable or telephone line. Otherwise known as a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network), the wireless router is actually a box with an antenna that sends out radio signals within a limited range creating a region of connectivity around it. When configured to allow access to the public, this region of connectivity is called a "hotspot". For example, some coffee shops install access points so that you can get online from an outside table. The usual range of connectivity is about sixty-five feet indoors (20 meters), further outdoors, depending on the obstacles that impede the radio waves.
These access points, as well as those in private homes or large office buildings, create regions of internet access that roving laptops can access. More and more of these "hotspots" are being made available to the public every day, some free, others at a (usually quite reasonable) service fee. Although it is possible to accidentally stumble onto wireless access that isn't legally open to the public, it is advisable to find one that is intended for public use. Currently, these connections provide faster download speeds than 3G and, to access them, it is generally just a matter of asking the establishment offering the service for the password and paying the fee, if any. Websites listing some of the available hotspots can be found under Services While You Travel on our links page.
3G cellular service is provided over a cellular telephone network which is connected to the internet. Most 3G providers place a cap on data activity requiring the user to pay extra for data transfers exceeding the limit. This service is only available within the range of the cellular network towers.
Choosing a wireless access provider will depend on the type of device (desktop computer, laptop, notebook, netbook or web-enabled phone) that you want to use. If you are on the road and simply need to check your stocks, get news and weather reports or check your email, the small screened web-enabled phone (smartphone) may be all that is required. This service has now evolved through 3G (third generation) to 4G and is likely the most secure for this purpose when compared to Wi-Fi. The top providers, Sprint, Verizon, Telus and AT&T Wireless offer a variety of plans and rates, too numerous to mention here. (Cellular Maps (.com) offers coverage maps.)
There is an increasing security concern surrounding the use of Wi-Fi services. Quoting CNET.com, "It is common for people to unintentionally use others' Wi-Fi networks without explicit authorization. As operating systems such as Windows XP SP2 and Mac OS X automatically connect to an available wireless network, depending on the network configuration. A user who happens to start up a laptop in the vicinity of an access point may find the computer has joined the network without any visible indication. Moreover, a user intending to join one network may instead end up on another one if the latter's signal is stronger. In combination with automatic discovery of other network resources (see DHCP and Zeroconf) this could possibly lead wireless users to send sensitive data to the wrong destination.
A good source of information regarding
cellular and wireless connectivity can be found on the
Lifestyle (.com) or John's
DOS Web pages. (Please remember to use your
browser's BACK button to return to this page.)