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Mobile Internet Options for Construction Sites

By Jaimy Ford for America's Backbone Weekly

Technology makes it possible for small business owners to do just about anything from a smartphone or tablet. On job sites access to these devices is even more important, whether to use your BIM application or to call a vendor to locate the whereabouts of a lumber delivery – and coverage on job sites is seldom guaranteed.

When you're in a remote, spotty service area, high-tech gadgets can be effectively useless. But you can use one of these options to stay connected to the world—even when the wireless coverage is less than ideal:

Fixed-wireless broadband Internet
This option allows you to access broadband Internet without having to install DSL or fiber optic cables. You subscribe to the service and install transceiver equipment -- typically a small dish or antenna, at your building site. The transceiver equipment receives radio signals from a transmission tower maintained by your Internet provider.

Fixed-wire devices usually pull power from a utility main, rather than batteries, which can be a plus. As the transmission is short-ranged, customers typically don't have network latency problems, but the service can be compromised if you don't have line of sight access between the subscriber and the transmission tower. Also, because the service is tied to just one access point, fixed-wireless doesn't support roaming. You will need to pay a monthly fee, and some providers put caps on data usage.

Satellite broadband Internet
Mobile satellite solutions can be used practically everywhere without phone lines or cellular hookups. Some satellite devices are as small as a laptop; others are larger and may need to be mounted on your work truck, for example. Once you turn on the device, it automatically locks onto a satellite and interfaces with your modem to provide Internet service.

As with satellite T.V. and radio, service for satellite mobile Internet can be compromised by rain, snow and fog. Satellite mobile Internet can be slow at times given the distance the signal must travel, and can be cost prohibitive for some people. Units range in price, from the hundreds to the thousands, and you will also need to pay a monthly service fee.

Cellular signal boosters
A more cost effective option: cellular signal boosters are designed to amplify a weak Internet signal when you are located too far from a tower, and also to bypass obstructions that weaken your signal.

Simply locate the booster in an area where you receive a signal—even just one bar—and the unit amplifies the signal and broadcasts it out to the immediate area. The booster also amplifies the signal from your cellphone so you have stronger two-way communication.

Cellular boosters range in price, with many popular off-the-shelf units in the $300 range. Check with your cellphone service provider however, as some providers make them available to customers at a lower price -- or even for free.

Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots
Mobile hotspots such as the ZTE Unite allow you to connect any Wi-Fi enabled device, including laptops, to any mobile network you choose. They tap into 3G and 4G cellular networks and wirelessly share that data connection with devices within 30 feet or so of the unit.

Mobile hotspots are fast enough to support streaming, downloading large files, and can even support videoconferences; a single hotspot can provide signals to your entire crew.

Off the shelf versions can start as low as $50. However, do check with your cellphone service provider, as many offer mobile Wi-Fi hotspots at lower prices or for free if you sign a service contract. In a pinch you can even use your phone as a modem by tethering it to your device, which a data plan such as U.S. Cellular's 16GB Shared Connect Plan will allow you to do.

Regardless of the location of your project site, an investment in the right equipment, data plan and service can ensure you always reap the full benefits of your smartphone and mobile devices. One of these options will help you stay connected to the world, even from the most remote locations.

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Jaimy Ford is a professional business writer withnearly a decade's worth of experience developing newsletters, blogs, e-letters,training tools and webinars for business professionals. She contributes to bothThe Intuit Small Business Blog and She also serves as editor-in-chief of SalesMastery, a digital magazine writtenspecifically for sales professionals.


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