Rogers Rocket Hub
The Rogers Rocket Hub (Ericsson W35)
It's a Miracle
Ten years ago, my wife and I moved our family to a wonderful rural area in the Muskoka region of Ontario, Canada. One of the things that was missing was access to broadband internet connection. I assumed that it would only be a matter of a year or two before either cable or wireless technology would reach our little patch of heaven (I had very little hope for DSL at the distance we are from town).
I was wrong. After a decade of waiting and watching areas in all 4 compass directions get broadband service, we were still sitting in our little bubble of dialup only (and poor dialup at that -- a good connection was 36 Kbps). Last year a wireless tower was installed that came to within about 200 m of our house -- sigh.
Well, all that has changed. Enter the Rogers Rocket Hub. This amazing device is the Ericsson W35 Mobile Broadband Router and it works on the Rogers HSPA cellular network. It provides up to 7.2 Mbps download speed and up to 2.0 Mbps upload. And it is a wireless router that allows all the computers in our house to connect AT THE SAME TIME!
No more hollering "Can I connect to check my email?" between my office and my wife's. No more worrying that my wife is missing a fax while I'm updating my blogs or researching some new technology. No more dreading a 1 MB attachment to an email when my wife's colleagues send a Word document through. Plus the kids can now play on their favourite Flash intense websites while we do our work.
It truly is a miracle!
So, What Can it Do?
Let's look at some of the features that this little unit packs into it's tiny footprint.
First, it is fast. The speed is better than what I can expect from a WiFi tower in the area. I don't know if I'm seeing the full 7.2 Mbps, but even with a weak cellular signal the connection has been consistent and fast (to be honest, it is only been 24 hours so that may be premature). I can watch YouTube video with few or no pauses. System upgrades are quicker than they are at the library hotspot, so it's impressive.
But the features go way beyond a speedy, consistent connection. This has a built in WiFi b/g hub that allows up to 10 devices to connect. I still need to check the documentation to see if I can use it as a router for my home network (I may not want to, but we'll see how that goes down the road). It also has 4 ethernet ports and a USB port to attach a printer or external hard drive..
That's not all! It also has telephone capability. You can connect a regular telephone to the unit to have a fully functional phone system complete with Caller ID, Voice Mail and many other features. We didn't sign up for the phone capabilities since our needs include multiple lines which it doesn't support (at least, not with Rogers).
To top it off, the unit is mobile -- you can use it anywhere that you can get a Rogers cellular signal. That isn't important to me (at least not now) but for people who move regularly or those who travel to the cottage, you can bring your internet with you.
Well, How Hard is it to Use?
I'm glad you asked, because I was very pleasantly surprised. When I got the unit home I had my wife's computer and mine accessing the internet within 15 minutes. That includes opening the package and moving the UPS for my wife's computer to a new location so that I could plug the hub in (I definitely want it surge protected and the UPS will allow us to access the internet when the power is out for a while).
To activate the unit you just need to plug it in and wait (provided the SIM or PIN card has been inserted -- the staff at Beyond Wireless did that for me when they activated the unit). It takes about 60 seconds if it can find a cellular signal.
To connect, you just need the network ID and passphrase that are printed on the back of the unit. Connect as you would to any WiFi network and you're surfing the Internet!
It is really as simple as advertised!
I know that getting at some of the advanced features will be more complicated and I may want to change the passphrase at some point, but getting it up and running was a piece of cake.
Must Be Expensive for All That
Cost is always an issue. I've always known that our rural lifestyle would cost a little more. We've come to expect that. But this unit really isn't that expensive.
To purchase the unit is $399.99 (or $149.99 with a 2 year plan which was the route that I took). Plus the taxes of course. There is a $35 activation fee and then the monthly fee.
Since we're running the Data Only plan, the base cost is $35/month plus the system fee (about $2.50 -- depends on which province you live in). This allows us to transfer up to 3 GB of data per month. If we use between 3 and 5 GB then it costs $45. Using up to 10 GB costs $60. Comparing this to a typical cable subscription, the pricing isn't really that bad. And I can only see the rates coming down (or the allowable usage going up) as competition heats up in this market.
Comparing this to the options we have available right now (satellite and possible wireless if we build an antenna tower) we've got a bargain on our hands. Even if we have to buy an external antenna to get a stronger signal, we're still ahead of the game.
Well, There Has to be Something Negative
To be honest, I have only used this unit for 24 hours. I can't say that this is a rigorous test. But I've been very impressed with the setup and performance of the unit. I'd still like to see a more generous monthly data usage allowance, but this is better than any other cellular rate plan that I've seen in Canada.
This solution isn't for everyone.
If you have access to cable, dsl or a good wireless signal, then that is probably a better solution, unless you move a lot or would like to take the unit with you when you travel, say to the cottage.
If you are only wanting to connect a single computer to the internet, there are USB cellular modems that are now running up to 21 Mbps. There are some limitations to these devices (I actually tried one and it wouldn't allow me to run my WiFi network and the cellular at the same time) and the current rate plans do not allow as much monthly usage. But for raw speed they may be a better solution for some people.
However, for those of us in rural Canada, this is a great solution provided you have a decent cellular signal.
- Rocket Hub Antennas
This hub has been started as a way to address antenna questions for the W35. If you want to find out more about antennas, you can ask questions here.
- Rocket Hub Update
Well, the Rogers Rocket Hub and I had our first spat. It wasn't a big thing, really. It just stopped letting me onto the internet. Just stopped. Well, I wasn't too pleased with this and had to call Rogers...
- Adventures in Internet Access | WWW Ramblings
Some of you may be wondering how I settled on Rogers and the Rocket Hub vs. other cellular options available, so I'll do a quick run down of what transpired.
- Canadian Cell Tower Location Map
You can look up cell towers from your provider to maximize location of your hub or antenna.
- Rogers Rocket Hub
Home page for Rogers Rocket Hub.
- BitMeter 2 at CNet Downloads
BitMeter 2 is a free utility for monitoring bandwidth usage (discovered and reported by MaryAnneR -- thanks!)
- Storm Gods Blog Archive Rogers W35 Rocket Mobile Hub
A well written article by another rural W35 user -- some excellent tips in the article and the comments.
- Jeff Bocchino, "The Wizard of Draws"
Jeff Bocchino has a wonderful set of cartoon clipart. He is the man behind the web-surfer graphic.