Internet everywhere!

Do you like to visit the remote areas of Australia? Do you also want to remain connected to the rest of the world?. I reported a few months ago on the portable satellite internet system developed by Australian Nomad Technologies (ANT) – We have now had the opportunity to “hands-on” test the system for over a month now.case-1

The equipment arrived (by Australia Post) well packaged and without damage (quite a feat given the size of the dish). As is normal, I attempted to set the equipment up after only a brief glance at the supplied instructions. This was not a good idea! After an hour or so, I gave up and decided that it would be best if I read and fully comprehended the instructions before my next attempt.
The ANT team has put considerable effort into the instructions and I recommend careful study of these by anyone setting the system up for the first few times – even if you are a computer tech with years of TCP/IP experience.

I have seen many people give up setting up their satellite TV dish in frustration of not being able to fine the correct satellite. The ANT team has made the process of setting up their system much simpler by the inclusion of a digital inclinometer. This clever little device attaches to a specially designed surface on the tripod mount, and allows the exact inclination of the dish to be set. Once you have the correct dish angle, finding the correct satellite is very simple. A light on the modem very quickly lights when you are pointing at the correct satellite and at this point the process is almost complete.
The last phase in the setup operation involves making minor adjustment to the dish while watching some real-time graphs on the computer screen. Once this is correct you are ready to go surfing.

The first few times we setup our system it took us perhaps 30 – 40 minutes. Having now set the ANT system up 10 of 15 times, it takes us less than 10 minutes.

Performance
ANT offer plans starting from 128kb/s (about twice dial-up speed) up to 512kb/s (broadband speed). Our plan is a 512kb/s (download) and 256kb/s (upload). I have measured the actual speed (on a number of occasions) and have found the download speed to be quite close to the mark – however the upload speed is very disappointing, averaging around 65kb/s. This unfortunately makes VoIP phone calls (Skype etc) impossible. I have been told by ANT that the system is currently undergoing an upgrade and they expect a substantial performance improvement in the next few weeks. I will update this report once the upgrade has been completed (I have a new VoIP phone that I am just dying to try out!).

Conclusion
The on-going costs to operate the system are quite reasonable with monthly plans starting from just $19. This compares very favourably with simular plans offered by other companies.
The hardware supplied is of good quality and the tripod is one of the best I have seen. The instructions are comprehensive but perhaps lack a little polish – however, all the information is there (be sure to read all of it!). The level of support provided has been very good, I have had responses to emails and phone calls very quickly and the ANT team are friendly and very helpful. The product is new, and the development team at ANT are still introducing improvements. It is refreshing to find a company that welcomes customer feedback and is prepared to make improvements based on that feedback. Current performance issues aside, we are very impressed with the ANT satellite internet system and can recommend it to travellers with out reservation.

www.ausnomadtech.com.au

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10 Responses to “Internet everywhere!”

  1. Aussie Bob Says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for reviewing this product. Are you still happy with it? I’m thinking about buying one for camping.

    Thanks. 🙂

  2. Hobo Says:

    Yes, we are very happy with the product. We are currently parked a few hundred km’s north of Perth and it is our only form of communication.
    We have now fully tested the VoIP system and are happy with how that performs too.

    Cheers

  3. Aussie Bob Says:

    Thanks sooo much for that. I am so getting one of those sat units now. 🙂

  4. Bellflower Wanderer Says:

    I had made preliminary inquiries about this system last year and it is certainly the most cost effective of those on offer. Now I am getting closer to actually purchasing a satelite internet system (intending a lot of remote travel and free camping). You are the only people I have come across that has commented about this type of system so if you don’t mind I would like to pick your brains. It seems like the voip capabilities have improved since you first acquired the system, is this so? I couldn’t see a voip phone included in the system so did you buy one from another source, what brand is it, and do you subscribe to any voip providers? Did you also purchase the SF3000 Deluxe Satellite Finder? (any comments) I believe this system comes with a 90cm dish; another provider states one needs a minimum 98cm dish; what has been your experience with the dish provided? Do you use the same dish setup for TV?
    Thanking you in anticipation

  5. Hobo Says:

    Hi – to answer your question regarding VoIP. Two things have happened since my initial review of the system …
    1. The service has improved and the upload bandwidth has been increased.
    2. My expectations have been brought into line with reality

    In reality I would rate the quality of voice communication as “usable”. The delay is generally quite long and at least as long as a bad satellite link on a normal phone call. However, so long as the person you are communicating with is aware of the delay and can modify their responses to deal with the delay, the quality is quite acceptable. This is NOT an ANT issue – it relates to the way data is sent over any satellite based system (70,000km round trip).
    No VoIP phone was supplied with the system that we purchased – this was because we chose to use Skype (rather than the engin system recommended). We use a normal headphone mic set.

    A few years ago I purchased a SF3000 sat finder from a seller on eBay. Personally, I found that it was useless! The battery in the unit I owned lasted about 5 minutes and it was way too slow to respond to make it useful. The software was buggy and it simply did not work well. I no longer own the finder (BTW – this is NOT the finder supplied with the ANT system).
    We use a standard $10 finder and feel that it works very well. The electronic angle finder supplied with the ANT system is brilliant, it makes finding the satellite very easy.

    The 90cm dish supplied with the kit is of good quality and is very solid. We have never failed to get good quality signal with this dish.
    We use a second dish to obtain TV as the internet comes from Optus D1 and the best TV channels come from Optus C1 (and we don’t like the idea of moving the dish each time we want to change from Internet to TV).

  6. Bellflower Wanderer Says:

    Thanks for the prompt reply. TV is not a priority for us and already have a Skype account so your information has been very helpful.

  7. Bellflower Wanderer Says:

    Hi Gavin
    Welcome back to Australian soil. Now that you have had the ANT system for a further four months and have been into more remote locations is there anything to add to your initial appraisal of the system. I am hoping to purchase prior to Christmas. Also what do you use for emergency communications, eg. satellite phone or other?
    Regards
    Gazza J

  8. Hobo Says:

    Hi Gazza,
    for us the satellite Internet system has become one of our most important investments, we would have a hard time adapting to life on the road without it now. We run a small web design and optimization business from the bus. It would not be possible to offer our customers the level of service they require were it not for the ANT system.
    Emergancy communication – well we are perhaps a little over equiped. We of course can use the sat system to make calls via Skype, we have an epurb – mainly purchased for use on the boat, and we have a satellite phone. We have been talking about dropping the sat phone now that we can use the ANT system for phone calls.

  9. Bellflower Wanderer Says:

    Thanks Gavin
    You have sold me on the benefits. May see you on the road next year as we commence our travels.
    Regards
    Gazza J

  10. Andrew Says:

    I purchased the ANT portable satellite system about 3 months ago and have used it a few times up north with great success. I have had to stop my traveling for a while and would be happy to sell my system if someone is interested. Send me an email to info@sydneysailing.com.

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