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Mobile internet connectivity: Keeping up when you’re heading out

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Not long ago, you would keep in touch with friends and relatives using a payphone in a dusty old town and the odd postcard detailing your caravan travel. Today, however, staying connected is a priority for many – especially for those who have to take their work on the road.

Coverage maps

There are three mobile networks in Australia: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. If your telco is not one of these three, then it is what is known as a ‘mobile-virtual-network-operator’ and it piggybacks on one of the above networks. For example, Virgin Mobile uses the Optus network.

Before you head off on your caravan travel, check the coverage maps for your telco so you have a good idea of where you should and shouldn’t expect to receive a signal. For decent internet speed you’ll need at least 3G coverage, but in some regional areas you’ll get a 4G signal, too. If you’re only getting a 2G signal (also displayed as Edge) it’s still possible to use basic web functions, albeit slowly.

Telstra coverage

Optus coverage

Vodafone coverage

Telstra and Optus have the best country coverage, but they won’t always be consistent and coverage maps should be taken as a rough guide only.

Shared data plans

Telstra and Optus now offer shared mobile data plans. These plans allow you to share your phone’s monthly data allowance across as many as five devices, such as SIM-ready tablets, laptops and USB/pocket modems. Optus possibly offers the best value here, with a one-off $5 fee per device and no on-going costs. Telstra is more expensive, with a $10 per month fee applied to your mobile, plus $10 per month per extra device.

Optus My Plan Plus

Telstra Mobile Accelerate Data Share Plan

Smartphone tethering

Most popular smartphones can now act as a modem. Connecting a laptop to a smartphone is known as ‘tethering’ and most telcos make provision for this. Most smartphones can tether in three ways – direct USB connection (for laptops); Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Tethering isn’t available on all plans, though, so check with your provider. Also, your laptop may automatically download large files without you knowing it, using up your data allowance and potentially giving you bill shock.

USB modem

This is a little device about the size of a USB thumb drive. Optus offers 100MB at $10/month going up to 10GB at $65/month.

Wi-Fi pocket modem

Even better than a USB modem is a Wi-Fi modem – it’s a hotspot in your pocket. These modems allow multiple devices to connect to them via Wi-Fi and they’re available in 3G and 4G versions. Telstra offers a 3G USB + Wi-Fi modem with 2GB data for $29/month. For the same money, Vodafone offers a 4G modem with 4GB of monthly data.

McDonald’s free Wi-Fi

There’s a McDonald’s in just about every decent-sized town. Apart from being a convenient rest stop, many McDonald’s restaurants are now free Wi-Fi hotspots. You can use this Wi-Fi locator to find any McDonald’s restaurant that has it.

There’s a range of ways to stay connected when you’re away from home. It’s just a matter of considering which type of devices, how many you wish to connect and being mindful of coverage and data allowance.

Find out which other ways AL-KO can improve your next caravan holiday.

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