Things Kept Improving for Mobile Satellite Internet

I mentioned last time that our first HughesNet system was delivered on a piece of plywood. My husband, Joe, was geology major in college and, as such, he was very familiar with tripods. 

The Tripod

To him, mounting the dish on top of a tripod seemed like a very logical thing to do, for several reasons:

  • It was a lot easier to transport and set up.
  • It gave one the flexibility of setting up on uneven ground.
  • It allowed you to get the dish higher off the ground, while still keeping a wide base.

Unfortunately, using a tripod “as is” created a very unstable structure, because the weight of the feed arm on the dish wanted to pull the entire thing over frontwards.

Nonetheless, when we returned to the RV park where we had first tested the tripod idea several months later, we saw at least 3 other mobile satellite setups, all using the same design as our first tripod setup, as shown above. 

This told us two things:

  1. The basic idea of the tripod was a good one.
  2. There was starting to be competition in the mobile satellite Internet market.

Competition in the Mobile Satellite Internet Market

A couple (Glenn and Margo) began selling mobile satellite Internet under the name Maxwell Satellite. A very market-savy dealer (Scott) ran a company called Dustyfoot, and used a custom tripod that didn’t have the problem of wanting to fall forward. 

Here is a photo of that tripod:

Dustyfoot tripod by Truepoint

There were other dealers as well, but these two stood out from the crowd.

The Offset Adapter

Our now good friend Terry came up with the idea of offsetting the weight of the dish/feed arm assembly, such that the whole things was nicely balanced over the center of the tripod. 

Here is a photo of an offset adapter, which became a standard part of most tripod setups:

Some Custom Mounting Solutions

There were some “custom” solutions during this time, as well:

 

The Stanley Keeper & Hardware Set

Another item added to the standard setup was the Stanley Keeper, first thought of by Stanley, of course. Once the tripod and offset adapter became common, the two would be held together by various hardware, which tended to slide around, rather than Keeping everything nicely centered … hence the Stanley Keeper! 

Here is a photo of a typical hardware set, which includes, from top to bottom, a big knob (for easy adjustment of the azimuth), a mylar disc (so, the dish/offset adapter assembly would move smoothly through the azimuth), a Stanley Keeper and a big eyebolt (to hang a ballast strap and ballast):

Changes in the Satellite Equipment, too!

While all these improvements were happening in the mobile satellite Internet world, the satellite providers, StarBand and HughesNet, were making their own improvements. They both went from the older modems that required communications software on your PC, to a “self-hosted” modem that could connect directly to a wireless router and share the connection on the LAN. And, there was no software to install on your PC!

StarBand went from the StarBand 360 to the StarBand 481/486 and then to the StarBand Nova SkyEdge modem. HughesNet went from the DW4000 to the DW6000, then the DW7000, and finally to the HNS7000S modem. 

That’s all for this week. Next week, I’ll show you some photos of the Ku-band satellite equipment that StarBand and HughesNet have offered through the years.

As always, comments and suggestions for future blogs are always welcome! 🙂

The Early History

Welcome to the Mobile Internet Satellite Blog!

I haven’t done any blog entries since we migrated to a new server and updated our forum software. So, I thought it might be fun to repost some old blogs, starting with a few blogs that document the history of mobile satellite Internet.

Suggestions for future topics are always welcome. 

The Early Years of Mobile Satellite Internet

We got our first satellite system (HughesNet) in January 2002. We had been full-time RVers for three years then and had been searching for two-way satellite for most of that time. I even called HughesNet and was told it wasn’t allowed, because non-professional setups could damage the satellite. (Absolutely, false! Though it is possible to create lots of interference on your satellite or on a neighboring satellite, with a poor setup.)

When we finally found someone who would sell us a system (Ron, the guy who started it all), it was delivered on a piece of plywood, with a standard roof/wall mount attached to provide the mast. The photo below shows a roof/wall mount attached to a wall, which was its intended use:
Roof/wall mount on a wall
       Roof/Wall Mount on a Wall
 The dealer who started the mobile satellite Internet phase of full-time RV life was more of a salesman than a technical support engineer, so one of the first things he did was have one of his customers start a private (by invitation only) Yahoo group called RV2WaySat.
The idea was that all of his customers could help each other, when problems arose … and arise they did in the early days of mobile satellite Internet!
Not only were there lots of problems, but we were all pretty paranoid about getting caught by HughesNet and losing the incredible luxury of having an Internet connection in our rig … no matter where we were parked! We hadn’t yet figured  out that HughesNet actually knew we were all out there, but they didn’t want to be responsible for supporting us or held liable for any potential issue that might arise. We called it the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

There were plenty of problems in the early  years and we did all help each other out via the Yahoo group. Many of the problems were related to issues on the HughesNet side … some were related to sun spots, rain fade and other temporary atmospheric events. As such, they would eventually go away without any intervention needed. Because of this, one group member named Dean would always tell the rest of us to get a life and go do something else for awhile. This became known as the “Dean Rule”.

 Remember, this was a time when you had to drive to the library to plug into a slow modem connection. If you were lucky, the RV park would have a place to plug in, but you  had to “take turns” with anyone else wanting to use it. Neither cellular data nor Wi-Fi networks had happened yet.
The HughesNet system at the time was the DW4000!  (Actually, there was a DW3000, which used a satellite downlink, but a dial-up uplink.) The DW4000 consisted of two modems: a transmit modem and a receive modem (shown on the right, below). StarBand’s equivalent technology was the StarBand 360 modem (shown on the left, below).
    HughesNet DW4000 Modems
StarBand 360 Modem

In both cases, you had to install software on your PC to talk to the modem. Microsoft Windows had the ability to share the connection on a local area network (LAN). But, getting networking to work with these devices was frustrating, at best!

Next time, I’ll talk about some of the enhancements RVers have added to the mobile satellite Internet setups … and more.