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Trying Insty-Connect...


trimster
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I purchased the Insty Connect system (4G) and antenna (without the mount they offer). Over the next few posts I'll share my experiences. Spoiler alert... so far so good.

Insty-Connect is a really small, new provider of Cell Data solutions for us RV'ers. The owners are part time RV'ers and really cleaver folks, seemingly thinking a bit outside the box.

The purchase went without a hitch. Arrived promptly and well packaged. 

The included instructions are fairly good. Unfortunately written from the 'nothing will go wrong' perspective. For decades I have created instructions for stuff, so a bit sensitive to those that assume all will go well. One of the issues I had is with the power hard wiring pigtail included with the system. The instructions only mention using the 120v wall wort. The issue is with the included red and black leads from the pigtail. Which is the hot lead? Cars typically use red as B+, and RVs often use black. A quick note via their support web page got an answer in a day. And they are going to clarify that in the instructions and on the FAQ support page. Nice.

Everything I needed was included in the box to mount the router in my chosen location (the cabinet above the toilet) which has a vent pipe chase through the floor to the basement. Easy cable run for power and the antenna cable.

On the antenna cable... it's USB cable. I purchased the extra 15'er knowing I was going to use a temporary mast arrangement for the Angle Wing antenna. You are going to mount the antenna on the roof of your RV, the 15'er included with the kit will be fine. Note: they advise not going over the total 30' foot run unless you use a powered USB cable. They do not offer that but easily picked up on-line. The line power added to long USB cable runs keeps the signal from dropping. Why USB for the antenna connection? They put the cell modem in the antenna housing to cut line loss to the router. So the cell data functions are taken care of in the antenna, then the resulting data signal is sent via USB to the router. Stroke of genius I think. And you can upgrade the antenna or the modem without having to replace the whole system.

I used a painters poll and some Harbor Freight suction cups to create a mast. . Works great.

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Fired the system up and followed the instructions. Everything went well. Just be ready for certain operations to take longer than quoted in the instructions..."this could take a minute or so." I will appear to be frozen at times. Grab a beverage and chill. The suggested updating of firmware takes the longest and seems to freeze. But it works fine.

I purchased an AT&T data only plan ($55/mo for 100 gigs) sim. Although the folks at the store said it might now work because the literature says 'hot spots' and not explicitly modems/routers. IT worked fine. System found it, initialized the system and found the tower. I had the Angel wing antenna just laying in the RV basement (not ideal for sure) and the antenna had a darn good signal with good data rates. We're located in Salt Lake City by the way.

I'm now on the road and will fire it up this week to do more testing. In a few weeks we will be in a more challenging location for cell service. More information and photos to come.

NOTE: I have nothing to do with Insty-Connect other than as a customer. I looked at other solutions (PepWave was one) and decided to try the new guys on the block. Some technologies I wait for them to get the bugs out. Other stuff, I jump on when it's fairly new. Not always with good results but the ride is interesting at times.

Edited by trimster
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Kinda interesting.  Would like to see some head to head testing against a Pepwave with external antenna.  I see that it's dual sim - can it use both, or just failover to the second sim?

On a different note, when we were at Hill AFB, LTE sucked.  Maybe the rest of Salt Lake is better.  I was disappointed in our service there.

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2 hours ago, aknavy said:

Kinda interesting.  Would like to see some head to head testing against a Pepwave with external antenna.  I see that it's dual sim - can it use both, or just failover to the second sim?

On a different note, when we were at Hill AFB, LTE sucked.  Maybe the rest of Salt Lake is better.  I was disappointed in our service there.

I would like a test as well.

I'm still digging into the software side of things so I can't answer your question. My understanding is that right now, it does failover. However, Insty is hinting at further upgrades on the software/firmware side that might open this ability.

So fired it up here in Fruita, Colorado. AT&T signal is strong so good base numbers for a hot signal. Connect speed test....

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The system can lock to a tower manually or you can let the system roam towers looking for the better (less) traffic. I have it set in auto/roam.

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Edited by trimster
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On 9/24/2021 at 9:13 AM, aknavy said:

Kinda interesting.  Would like to see some head to head testing against a Pepwave with external antenna.  I see that it's dual sim - can it use both, or just failover to the second sim?

 

The InstyConnect is dual SIM, not dual modem. You can switch between them, but it does take minute or two for the modem to reconfigure for the second SIM. So it's not an instant failover like you'd get with a dual modem setup.

We've had an InstyConnect 4G (our overview: https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/gear/insty-connect/) in testing since before it was officially released earlier this winter and are about to get in their new 5G version. It is an impressive piece of hardware, especially for such a small company new in this space.

Our members over at the Mobile Internet Resource Center have access to our head to head testing against many other setups including multiple Pepwave/antenna, MoFi, WiFiRanger, hotspots, etc. 

 - Cherie

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  • 2 weeks later...

UPDATE:

We're now in Bayfield, Colorado in a campground with a somewhat limited view to towers. Our T-mobile connection is useable so hot-spotting is working for most things.

With the InstyConnect antenna on pole about 6' above the roof of the trailer, oriented NE to SW....

we get 65% signal strength. 

Change the antenna orientation 90 degrees and we get.....

gwsOhltl.jpg

Lower the antenna 2' and the signal drops to 51% but the data rates go up.

RH6xGHrl.jpg

Now, I am experiencing the same issues with AT&T prepaid that other are. Randomly the data thru-put drops like a rock to unusable speeds. Their throttling makes no sense.

As well, not sure if this is an AT&T issue or InstyConnect, but router boot times are loooooong to get a internet connection. Sometimes 15 min to get a full handshake with AT&T. My bet is on AT&T for the issue.

 

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Soooo, stability went to hell in a handbasket yesterday. Download speeds racked wildly from 2-cans-and-a-string speed, to 25 Mb in a matter of minutes. Signal strength keeps changing from 45% to 78%. Same tower. Same channels.

Dug into the FAQs on InstyConnects site. Found that the firmware was a version behind. Upgraded that. Some things got better. Others, like download speeds and signal strength didn't.

Not sure where the issue is. Major part is AT&T prepaid. Many are now complaining that they just have a messed up management system for their towers. And from what I am reading, a CEO who is clueless to manage their problems.

Anyway, have a support ticket in the works with InstyConnect. They have been very helpful. 

 

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New update....

The folks at InstaConnect are wonderful. Customer support is outstanding.

They got back to me in 24 hrs. They even did a screen cast video explaining what to look for and tips to fix the issue. Wow!

We've moved from that location to a much better AT&T signal spot. I still have a sneaking hunch that AT&T are intentionally throttling streaming when they sense it. Maybe there's a setting in the router that I can do that would fake what the router is (more like a hot spot or cell phone)? Hmmmm.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

UPDATE: 26 Oct 2021

Moved to Coronado monument east of Albuquerque.  AT&T service was strong, fast and reliable. However, the router side of the Insty would do weird things. Connect with no data. Change from the High Speed to Long Range (different wifi frequencies) and that often would fix it. There were times when the router could not be logged into via the url, so a power down and back up was required. Insty really needs to put a switch on the router. Pulling the little plug on the side of the router is a pain. NOTE to future owners... if you hard wire it to your RVs 12v side of things, install an in-line switch.

But things got ugly when we needed to stop on the road (headed to the Petrified Forest) in Gallup, NM to join a virtual meeting. Checked AT&T coverage and Gallup was good. Tested the Insty an hour before and had 20Mbps download. But when I tried to join the meeting, download speeds dropped to .7 Mbps. Needless to say, it didn't work. Missed the meeting. But I'm sure it's not Insty's problem. I think it's AT&T. But T-mobile was no better.

I've been impressed with Insty's customer support. Always helpful and fast response times.

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  • 2 months later...

I took a look at this at Quartzsite. Interesting hardware but I'm not too sure about longevity. The case looks to be 3D printed. How well will this hold up to UV? The other thing I noticed when looking at the USB port was that the opening to the pcb was exposed to the elements and it didn't look like the pcb was conformal coated. The choice for using USB instead of long runs of coax is brilliant though.

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Had my antenna up in the wind, rain and sun for 3 months. So far, do good. I am going to paint it white however. On summer days when it's 100... I can't see a black case with electronics and a sim card inside feeling really happy.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I decided to give the Insty-Connect a shot.  I met the owner of the company at the big tent show in Quartzsite last week.  I talked to him quite a bit.  Based on your reports here and other research I did, along with my conversations with Nick (the owner), I decided to pull the trigger.  I bought the new 5G set up along with the optional directional antenna. 

Two other members of our HDT group in Quartzsite also bought identical systems at the same time.  We got a pretty good deal between the show discount and a group purchase discount.  I haven't set my system up yet because the sim card I intend to use in it is the wrong size and needs to be cut down.  (I have a sim card cutter in my Amazon in box but am waiting to purchase it until I get home early next week.)  I did set up one of the other units our group bought and was impressed with the system and the data speed gains achieved with just the Omni directional Angel Wing antenna.

The owner of that unit left out group temporarily to go to another location outside Phoenix to meet up with some family and friends.  When he arrived at his new location, he had no cell signal at all on his cell phone.  He couldn't make a call or anything.  The Omni directional antenna wasn't doing much either.  He decided to give the directional "Binocular" antenna a shot.  He set it up on a 16' pole and went from no cell signal on his phone to 81 mbps download and 39.1 mbps upload.  He still couldn't make a phone call with his phone, but was able to make WIFI calls with his new data connection.  Needless to say, he was very happy with that.  He was the only one in his group with any internet or calling capability.

I'm looking forward to getting mine set up in my rig when I get home.  I don't expect miracles from it, but I am impressed with what I have seen from it so far.  I am also very impressed with the owner of the company.  I invited him and his son's out to our HDT group area in La Posa South LTVA.  They came out to check the trucks out and hung out for a while.  He was very willing to give pointers and installation tips to those of us who bought his system.  He even came back the next night to assist the third member of our group who bought one of the systems and was having an installation issue.  That issue turned out to be a user error, but Nick was gracious about coming out to help diagnose the issue and get it corrected.

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Watching for new info. 

I have been using PDA Net for years and have been very happy with it. I tried the WiFi Ranger, but was less than impressed, for my application. 

I have one phone and use it for all of my internet use. It's always better than any WIFI signal at any of the RV parks I visit. It also sometimes did better than the "Cable" internet at my Mothers home. She has changed recently so will see which one is better now. 

 

Rod

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Watching for new info. 

I have been using PDA Net for years and have been very happy with it. I tried the WiFi Ranger, but was less than impressed, for my application. 

I have one phone and use it for all of my internet use. It's always better than any WIFI signal at any of the RV parks I visit. It also sometimes did better than the "Cable" internet at my Mothers home. She has changed recently so will see which one is better now. 

My question is do I have to add another "Phone" to my plan to get an available "Sim card" to use? 

I'm on a "Grandfathered" unlimited data plan and don't want to loose that by adding another phone and having to change plans. Is there a way around that? 

 

 

Rod

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