The text below is a transcription by otter.ai of a voice-only input by Ray Robertson. I have done minor editing to correct technical terms, but I’ve preserved the conversational story-telling feeling by not editing for grammar or sentence structure.
So I really wish I could talk as fast and clearly is Allison to share this everything’s fiddly story, but I’m really just a lightweight developer and introvert and I stutter quite a bit, so I’ll just do my best to share this story of mine. I’m actually recording this from my new camper van which is integral to the story because I need to stay connected on the road.
Before I even dreamed of a camper van, a few years ago my boss handed me this AT&T Velocity hotspot, so I could work while I was on the road, and it was great. It was just about 42 gigs of data a month but it was enough for me, it was enough speed for me and it worked perfectly. And so you would think that would be perfect for me to be on the road when camping as well.
But of course, camping, you’re in remote areas, so I really needed a hotspot to connect, which had two T9 antenna ports. Those are essential to get an antenna on the outside of your vehicle to connect up and be able to reach further. And then you also have to look for your vehicle. Do you want to cellular booster? Like WeBoost or do you want a MIMO antenna, multiple in multiple out, and entire Holy Wars could be waged online about which is better.
But I turned to the great folks at the Mobile Internet Resource Center. Watched their videos, read their articles, and decided I really wanted MIMO. So I’m going to look for a MIMO antenna, but of course, my hotspot did not have ports for the MIMO antenna. But then as a part of my owner’s group which is fantastic, I saw another user had an AT&T hotspot hooked up directly to a MIMO antenna, avoiding all the booster technology the router technology, all that and I thought this would be perfect for me.
And I learned from him that his hotspot was an AT&T Velocity 2. So perfect, it’s the newer one. It’s from AT&T, it has ports, it works for him, he’s on AT&T, so it made perfect logical sense that this would work for me. But as most of you know, logic seldom works in today’s technology world. What you really need is more information first, and then what you especially need is voodoo magic to get things to work eventually.
So from Amazon, I gotta use philosophy too and encounter my first rookie error when I learned that of course, the newer Velocity 2 wants a nano-SIM, whereas what was in my Velocity 1 was a micro-SIM. So, my first instinct was to call my boss and ask him to call AT&T and see if they can get a nano-SIM, but I kind of had a feeling that that was going to be difficult.
But I learned online that you can buy a SIM cutting tool. I’m so clueless. I didn’t even know that Sims could be cut. But with the SIM cutting tool, I could cut down my micro SIM to a nano-SIM and use it in my hotspot. It was worth the $10 to get that SIM cutting tool, which came with its own adapters as well as its own adapter trays, which means worst case scenario if I cut down to the nano-SIM, and it didn’t work, I could still use an adapter tray and put it back in my Velocity 1 mimicking the micro-SIM.
So all was good I said a little prayer I cut my SIM. I stuck it into my Velocity 2 hotspot it booted up, and I did a few tests at home to see that yes, with the antenna, I was seeing increased speed.
Now I should backtrack a little bit here. I mentioned that instead of buying a $250 rooftop antenna, I decided to go with a Netgear $50 portable MIMO directional antenna to do this test first because I was soon about to be on the road for five days in remote locations. So I thought I’ll test a smaller device and see how it works.
So first night out camping, I hook up my Netgear MIMO portable antenna which is directional, that means you might have to play with which window of the van it faces out. I popped it into the first window, did a speed test without the antenna, and then one with the antenna, and it was spectacular! It may have just been lucky (it probably was just lucky) but I had tripled the download speeds, and I had doubled the upload speeds from what would have been otherwise a very weak signal. So I continued on my trip. The next night, hooked up the antenna, ready to do some more work, and got the message from the hotspot invalid SIM.
And those who are more familiar with this than me probably know what happened in that case. I don’t know why it worked at first but eventually, the great hand of AT&T reached out and realized that I had put the SIM into a device with an IMEI number, which was not the one that they were tracking with that SIM.
Now I don’t know exactly why AT&T requires control over where you put a SIM, but they do. Even though I’m using data from them that I paid for, they still want control over where that SIM is so I had a SIM which would not work. So I thought okay, I will put it back because I have a failsafe plan, I’ll put it back in the Velocity 1 with my tray.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite fit. I don’t know why sometimes you have to use sandpaper to get a SIM to fit. This wasn’t the case, maybe I brought the wrong tray. Checked online with people who encouraged me to try this and that. I tried this and that. And then finally, one person said well you might as well put it in your old velocity hotspot loose, and see if it works in because sometimes they do. And of course, I put it in, it didn’t work, and I cannot get the SIM back out.
So I go to the backup plan, have my personal cell phone is with Cricket, you know, the low-cost AT&T carrier, same network as AT&T. Even though ideally as an RV you want to have access to both the major networks, perhaps, Verizon and AT&T, but what I had then was Cricket.
So I was able to go online and changed my family plan to add a personal hotspot for a fee to my cell phone only my fee went up drastically way more than I thought a hotspot would cost. So I had to call in Cricket and say what’s happening here? And I had to learn that because I was on a family plan, you have to add the hotspot to every phone, even those that don’t need it in order to get a lower cost overall, even though you’re still paying more for each of those phones.
So Okay, weird situation, but I had to pay, I had to get the hotspot working. The person at Cricket was very nice. I was pleased with how that support was done. So then I began to think, Hmm, well maybe I can get a Cricket SIM to go into my Velocity 2, because it is after all an AT&T branded device.
By then I know more about the IMEI number, And I go on to Cricket and through a very easy interface, I’m able to key in that number. And it says, “not compatible”. We no longer support this device technology something about technology we’re no longer working with a network.
And I think, okay, but I know my friend has this device working with AT&T, so I go into the AT&T site, key in the IMEI number, and it doesn’t say explicitly okay, but it doesn’t say bad, it just takes me to a data-only sales page where I can purchase that so that was to me confirmation that yes, this device, still works with AT&T.
So I try everything I can with Cricket because I really want to know, okay, you’re on the AT&T network. Why are you telling me this device, long, no longer works? I don’t get a satisfactory answer, anywhere.
I end up going to the local Cricket store, which was close to where I was camping in just to confirm that no, this device will not work. And yes, we sell one hotspot, and yes we have it, and this hotspot does not have antenna ports.
So what is my option to get a hotspot with antenna ports at Cricket? Well, the only option is to pay $300 to get a third-party hotspot with antenna ports for Cricket, the low-cost carrier. So again, I’m wanting to buy data from them, I’m willing to buy more data from them, but they’re still dictating the devices that I can use, and they don’t even sell one that has the feature that I want.
So I began to think, Okay, I need to give up on Cricket, especially after they didn’t respond to any of my protests or to the feedback, email, calls, and so forth. I need to get rid of Cricket. What I’m going to do is I’m going to switch to Visible, the low-cost carrier for Verizon. So I always have a personal hotspot with Visible, which is included with every plan and is, although it’s slow, it is unlimited, so I don’t have to deal with all these hassles. Overall that goes well. So now I need to go back and get my AT&T hotspot working with my boss’s AT&T plan.
So I call my boss. And, of course, he doesn’t want to call AT&T. Who wants to call AT&T? I don’t blame him for that at all. So he wants me to imitate him online, so I can try and work out all these things with AT&T. I don’t tell him yet that I’ve cut the SIM. Hate that, but I just didn’t reveal that yet, but he’s also asking me to do something that you know feels sketchy: imitate him in every way for an online chat.
And so I do that, who else wouldn’t do that in that case? But he gives me all of his personal information, his account number, social and all that, so I can imitate him online, and of course there was still information missing. So I had to as I was online as they were asking me for info I had to be like uh, sorry, I’m a slow typist, which is not true at all. I’m a fast typist, there I am lying again. Or oh it’s taking me a while to find this file where I saved it, which was true because I am very disorganized.
But eventually, they tell me okay no problem, we will send you a nano-SIM for this device and you will have it the next day. Great! Victory with AT&T Instead of Cricket. Okay, so I’ll have it the next day, being sent to my boss, but I’ll still have it the next day.
Then it doesn’t come doesn’t come, doesn’t come, doesn’t come. Eight days later my next trip nearing, we still don’t have a SIM from AT&T or any indication of when it might ship.
So I call back, or chat again with AT&T, imitating my boss, go through the same procedures again. And they say, We’re sorry we don’t know when this will ship, but you can just go by your AT&T local store and pick up a SIM there. There’s normally a $5 charge but we’ll even waive that for you because you’ve had to help.
And so then I say, Hmm, well, is there any chance that I could get my associate to pick it up for me? And of course, using my name, and they say sure, we will add that person’s name and he can then come pick it up for you. So great! Victory, victory. I can go into my local AT&T store and get the SIM
I go into the store masked up, ready, and they won’t give it to me. I am not authorized on that account. There is no mention of your name. And besides, you would have to bring in the hotspot because we have to activate it for you. It was a complete Stonewall I had no choice.
So I went back home wondering what my next strategy was going to be. And the next morning I woke up and I thought okay, why am I being so cheap. I should spend the 300 plus dollars to buy a new AT&T hotspot, and thereby leave behind all of this complication and know that I getting something that’s working, even if it is expensive, and I’ll pay for it. As long as my boss is still paying for the data.
So I go onto the AT&T website into the hotspot area where I get a sales associate instead of a support associate as you know, most times in life, the sales associates are less knowledgeable than the support people, but that’s not true at AT&T.
This person was so much more knowledgeable about the hotspots. And they go through this weird interface of you give them your number, they call you for audio on the phone, you can see a video of them, they can’t see a video of you. I pity the people who work in this area. But this person said basically to me that there was a way that I could get this to work.
And I just needed to become an authorized user on the account, and then I would be able to get the SIM. So I went through the whole procedure of becoming a true authorized user on my boss’s AT&T account, which was weird because I don’t have an AT&T number, and I could not have two-factor authentication working to confirm that I was an authorized user. But for some reason, it did start to work.
And then I decided before going into the store I would try online one more time in the sales area for hotspots. I get a different guy on video, who was helpful. I explained to him what has gone on. I tell him the whole truth, the whole story, and he’s very helpful. And he says, Okay, now that you’re an authorized user. Let me associate your device with this new IMEI number. He keys it in. And then he goes, hmmm. Keys in a little more. Uh oh.
And I say, Is anything wrong? And he says, well, your boss has an older plan that is not a data-only plan. Keep in mind that it’s not an unlimited plan, it’s not like we’re getting any extra data, data for cheap, but it’s just the type of plan that they no longer allow. And because they no longer allow that type of mixed cell plan, they will not let me work with a new type of old hotspot (my Velocity 2) or any hotspot for that matter. Any new hotspot would not have worked with this plan.
So he tells me, kind of an aside, he says, Listen, this is what you do. You need to go into the AT&T store again. Oh no, go into the AT&T store again? You don’t tell them anything about what’s going on, and you just say here’s my hotspot. The SIM is no longer valid. Please give me a new SIM and I am an authorized user, and that that will work.
And he said, I got your IMEI number fixed for this, but you need to have that new SIM. So I tell him thank you, tell him okay and hang up, and then think about this for a while and think, Wait, if he changed the IMEI number, I still have that old SIM, so it might now work in the Velocity 2. The only problem is, is stuck in the Velocity 1.
So I look up on YouTube to see how to get out of stuck SIM and if you haven’t done this before, believe it or not, the only answer, the main answer is super glue.
You take super glue and put it on the end of a piece of a credit card or slight piece of cardboard, stick it in, hold it for 30 seconds, and then it bonds, so you can pull out that SIM.
Ironically, I use the cardboard from an envelope from Visible, cut up with superglue to get out the SIM, from the AT&T Velocity 1, I put it into the velocity two. And it works! It finally works I have VICTORY, VICTORY, my SIM is now working!
All is good because I have an AT&T network through my work authorized hotspot, as a backup. I have a Verizon network through my Visible devices, slow, but unlimited. All is wonderful.
And what I should backtrack and say here is going through all the time that I spent trying to make this work. In the middle of it all, after that first visit to the AT&T store, I had to run another errand downtown in our small town where some stores are still not actually open on Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t know that was the case with this store but I badly needed something from it.
I went and the door was locked. But the woman who runs it who knows me saw me. She was there with her kids after school, and she let me in, so she could take care of getting what I needed. Very nice. And importantly, she didn’t lock the door behind me.
And as we’re trying to get the transaction done, suddenly we see this little five-year-old girl, opening the door, and coming in. Her mother had left her.
She was supposed to be left to be with her Nana. Her Nana wasn’t anywhere around. She didn’t know what to do. So the store owner and I exchanged glances,s we did our best to comfort her. And as I went out, I scanned the street for anybody looking for a lost girl. I didn’t find anybody, but I did find a police officer, just sitting about 200 feet away in a squad car and I said, there’s a situation over here you need to come and help with this little five-year-old girl who does not have anybody.
I won’t tell you too many personal details of this story. But yes, there were major family problems. There were subsequent arrests. And I don’t know who that little girl is with now, but at least she is with somebody. And I’m glad that that door was unlocked so that the first person that she encountered on her own, was us.
And so all this gets you to thinking. Aren’t there more important things in life than what we do to deal with technology? What kind of change, should I make in my life to be there for the people who need me, friends and strangers, as opposed to what I have to do to maintain current and online in the world of technology. That’s really something to think about.
But hold on, excuse me, Apple says I really must update my iPhone, I need to do that first.
1 thought on “Everything is Fiddly – Ray Robertson on RV Hotspots & Life”
I love this story, especially the unexpected ending. For anyone attempting to achieve a similar objective (getting a hotspot to work), I’d recommend the MVNO Ting. I used to be a customer of Ting, and found that their customer service was amazing: knowledgeable and committed to solving whatever problem you brought to them. At the time I was signed up with them they offered service on the T-Mobile and Sprint networks; I think that they have added Verizon now.