Wednesday Wonderings – Internet?

Welcome to the inaugural Wednesday Wonderings.  I’ve noticed that emails asking similar questions are coming my way…so, I thought maybe I should answer some of those questions on here. These questions are going to come from questions I’ve had on email and at our facebook page. Please send me an email, or let me know in the comments or on the facebook page if you have any particular questions you want me to cover.

So far, I’ve tried to make this blog more about our story, but I’ve noticed that someimtes there are questions about our what we’re doing that don’t get addressed just by chatting about what we’re doing.


We’d like to invite all other travel bloggers to join in the Wednesday Wonderings.  How?

  • Write a post about a travel question you get asked.  It can be anything from tips to travel questions.
  • Leave a comment here with the link to your post.
  • Link back here, so that everyone can share these Wednesday Wonderings travel posts.


What do we do for internet?

It drives me crazy!  It’s pot luck if we have it … and even when we do, it’s frustratingly slow and ridiculously expensive.  I asked about it on a general travel forum for long-term travellers from around the world.  People gave me helpful suggestions like using the WiFi at the local MacDonalds or Starbucks … um, yeah, OK…I think they might be about 1000 kilometers from where I am … In other words, it’s a problem that is much more particular to Australia than travellers in general (I think).


As far as I know, there are two options for internet as we travel – mobile broadband which works through the mobile phone network, or satellite internet.  Both have major limitations for travellers.


Just to give you an idea of why – this is the mobile coverage network from Telstra (as of October 2011).  That’s a lot of white area where there is no reception on a mobile phone.

internet coverage reception travelling phone mobile communication



Mobile Broadband

Telsta aren’t generous with the cost of the plans, either.  You can check here for the costs, but as I write $89.95 will get you 15gb per month if you are prepared to sign up for a 24 month contract, otherwise the best rate on prepaid is $150 will get you 10gb that you’ve got 365 days to use.  Either way, it’s ridiculously expensive.

It has actually improved slightly recently, we had been paying about the same for 12gb as we now are for the 15gb.

We’ve got an external antenna installed on the campervan that we can plug the modem into.  It doesn’t mean anything to me, but it is a 6 db gain aerial.  It’ll get us an extra bar or two of reception in areas that we’ve got low reception.  It does make a difference, but it doesn’t make it fast.



The other real alternative that we found was the Apple iPad.  The reception on the ipad seems often to be just as good, if not better, than the mobile broadband even if it is plugged in to the aerial.  It’s good for surfing the internet and making phone calls, but we bought it thinking that it was much more computer-like than it really is.  If you just want to use emails and surf the internet, it’s a really good option for internet as you travel Australia.  There is no external antenna plug, though, so there’s no way of boosting the reception any further.



We’ve half-heartedly looked at satellite internet a few times, and each time found it’s just not possible.  Most options are just too expensive.  The ones that are affordable, data can go one way only.  No good at all for sending emails even.

Some of the Schools of the Air provide free satellite internet to their students … catch is you need a permanent installation of a 3 meter diameter satellite dish.  Not exactly feasable in an RV of any description.

According to the lady I spoke to at the National Broadband Network (NBN) travellers are not eligible under the scheme for the subsidised internet.  You must have a fixed address in a location where you cannot access cable, ADSL or mobile broadband.


HF Radio

OK, I’m pretty sure you can’t use it for general internet.  But I’m told that some of the services will actually let you know emails that you have.  I think they also do updates on news, road and weather conditions.  So if you are wanting internet just for these, maybe it is a good option.


Other options?

Equally implausible.  I’m told that the satellite phones will allow you to use them as a modem to connect to the internet.  If you are on a plan with Telstra for $40 or $50 a month, it is an extra $24.95 to have the privilege to use it for data, too.  I’ve got no idea how much the actual cost to then use it for data is … and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.



So – what way do we go?

We’ve got an ipad, which we pay for as prepaid internet with a Telstra microsim.  We also have a 24 month plan with Telstra mobile broadband – $89.95 for 15gb a month.

We’re not really that happy with it, but it’s the best we can think of.  And hey, it’s better than nothing.



Travelling Australia in a campervan since 2009 with our four children aged 4, 7, 10, and 11. We are a family living on the road. Stopping to work in rural and remote towns as we need more money, we love this lifestyle. The four kids are homeschooled as we work our way slowly around Australia.

Latest posts by Amy and Jarrad (see all)

Like what you’ve seen? Connect with us.

About Amy and Jarrad

Travelling Australia in a campervan since 2009 with our four children aged 4, 7, 10, and 11. We are a family living on the road.
Stopping to work in rural and remote towns as we need more money, we love this lifestyle. The four kids are homeschooled as we work our way slowly around Australia.


  1. That map really does paint the problem clearly doesn’t it! We had Optus and were really amazed at the differences in coverage between states. As soon as we left the coastline of NSW there was no coverage but hit Victoria and even remote remote areas had signal.

    The challenges and cost of internet is probably the biggest reason we aren’t travelling and working our way around Australia. Honestly we’ve found it easier to get reliable, fast internet in rural Laos! I think that really says something. Even if there is a McDonalds nearby in Australia most of the time they don’t have powerpoints anyway so it’s not a good long term solution.

    Love the idea of answering common questions this way. Looking forward to next week.

    • admin
      Twitter: livinontheroad

      I don’t think there’s any better way to show just how BAD internet access in Australia is than that map. We’ve had very unreliable internet in South Australia, but even Victoria was average. Was Optus any better? We’ve just gone with Telstra for the reason that they are reputed to have the best coverage … but it’s not great.

      That’s terrible that Australia’s so bad that rural Laos has more coverage! Interesting you mention the powerpoints at McDonalds … I tried to use it once but I was still using it when my battery went flat, so I had to give up.

      I’m hoping they’ll be helpful – we do seem to get the same sorts of questions a lot. I’m sure you do, too.

    • admin
      Twitter: livinontheroad

      Hi Roger, I presume that’s your business. I’ve seen similar things before, but the dishes are so small that they can only take data in one direction, or the plan limits you to that.

      Is that the case with this one, and a traveller is not actually eligible under the NBN (National Broadband Network). To apply for the NBN on their website you have to have an address. That means that the subsidies are not available so it is frightfully expensive.

      How much is the dish upfront?

  2. Nancy
    Twitter: familyonbikes

    ARRGGGHHHH!!! Trying to find internet is a major pain! We also had trouble with that and just resigned ourselves to only getting online when we reached a city – it could be a week or more between finding it. In the end, it’s all good though.

    • admin
      Twitter: livinontheroad

      That’s what ends up happening here, too. Sometimes we’ll have good patches, and others bad patches.

      There’s a section of South Australia that is at least 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) that has NO mobile phone reception at all. The road houses (think general store, accomodation and petrol station rolled into one with a payphone but no internet access) are a couple of hundred kilometers apart, and there’s nothing else.

  3. Lisa Wood
    Twitter: newlifeonroad

    Hi Amy,

    So hear what you are saying! We have been down this track with telstra…wait to you hear what huge bill we had last month :)

    • admin
      Twitter: livinontheroad

      It is a joke really how poor internet is in rural and remote Australia, particularly with the cost and limited reception.

  4. viadestra says:

    1. June 2012: I just started looking for same thing and found a convincing Satellite System with upload and download covering Aussi and NZ
    have a look at:

    • Amy
      Twitter: livinontheroad

      Hi, we’ve had a look at them. The equipment costs up front run into thousands of dollars, and despite asking in several forums I can’t find anyone who has used them to review the usefulness and reliability of the system. Have you?

      • viadestra says:

        Hi Amy,
        To be honest, we dropped the idea because of putting $ 3000.00 into this equipment without local support is a bit too risky. They lost us as customers when we were on the Brisbane Camping Show and they could not be found. What could be found was a “TV satellite equipment shop” who once had shared a stand with the Ants and he told that it took them half a day to set up the dish and make it work. We also think that the price for the monthly download is far over the top.
        All we found out is, to live with Telstra and its best Aussi coverage and in-between without Internet which shouldn’t to bad too, but we never twittert or faced the book.

        • Amy and Jarrad
          Twitter: livinontheroad

          We aren’t happy with telstra, but we are not happy with spending thousands of dollars on a satellite system, either. I’m surprized that they couldn’t even be bothered being found there – you would have thought that it was their prime audience!

          • viadestra says:

            Hi Amy and Jarrad,
            No, the Ants were not there and this makes me very suspicious, but I think it is just a matter of being patient. All these technical improvements are horribly expensive when they come up, Govt is subsidizing the development anyway and in a few years most of those 350000 who live on the road will have Satellite Broadband and it will be affordable and easier to use, just mark my words. We will also perhaps be streaming TV over broadband and all will be bonzer.
            We will start the journey on August 1st from Brisbane and are setting up our rig now. We will not have any TV on board, just an iMac with an USB tuner. So we can use it when we have TV reception, broadband reception and if none of those we play video games or watch DVD’s, listen to CD’s. And anyway I hope on the journey the use of electronic media will become even less important…

  5. You are twarting my plan for hitting the road and working online. I was hoping that moving away from the city (and not needing as much data) would actually LOWER the cost of the internet. Not jack it up to $100/month! How on earth do you manage your blog with such poor reception?
    I think my wife would have major facebook withdrawals.

    If we are sharing questions then I have been asking myself the question “How much does it cost to travel australia for a year”. The result was this post:
    Feel free to scrutinize and give advice. I am only 2 weeks into planning so I know I have a lot to learn.

    • Amy
      Twitter: livinontheroad

      Sorry, internet is definitely one of the hardest things about travelling around Australia. The map I’ve given here from telstra is definitely telling … the coverage is just so limited. Relying on internet for work has definitely changed our travels.

      Good luck with the planning for travel – it is fun but the hardest part is actually leaving!

  6. viadestra says:

    We are 10 weeks on the road now – I know greenhorns, greenhorns, greenhorns.
    But never the less I want to communicate our Internet solution.
    Everybody writes big pond to have the best coverage, so we went into that expensive trap:
    $ 220.00 for the 4G Modem for the Family on the move, HIFi hotspot for 5 PC’s, phones, pads….
    $ 120.00 for two antennas, upload and download. They were what Telstra told us to be their best option, but they did not fit into the ports at the modem. So we needed two pieces of wire, which in one shop where $ 30,00 (they had only one) and $ 20.00 in the next shop for the same item.
    We always got along well at home with 4 GB download, so that is what we signed up for: being slowed down to 64kb when 4GB is used which is fine with me, I am retired and in no hurry. Very surprised when after two weeks we got a threatening letter, that we already had used 3.5 GB and should opt for a higher download. Something was not right, we were surfing less, not more – but we do (always) a lot of skype with the family which is a lot of download AND upload.
    After a lot of ugly mails, it was revealed that BIGPOND charges FOR UPLOAD AND DOWNLOAD, which means that a big pond GB is about only half the value than the GBs of most other suppliers. Short, they conn you and rip you off!

    The way out was to use our existing “Huawai ideos X3″ ($100) and a sim card from Amaysim which gives us 4GB/month no contract!,- but they charge download only – and free phone calls all over Australia for $ 40 a month. The Huawai is tethering capable, e.g. we use it as modem that creates a Wi Fi hotspot which seems to have no limits.We only found out about that lately, otherwise we would have avoided big pond.
    With Amaysin and the smart phone cost $ 100,00 and $ 40 a month for 4GB download free phone calls (very handy to book campsites)
    while with Telstra you only get a modem for $ 390,00 and pay $ 40 for 2 GB download (and 2GB upload) and you are in a two year contract.
    For paved road greenhorns like me, the Telstra solution is an annoying waste of money, I am not able to evaluate the difference for off roader travelling of course. Of course we still use the big pond too, but we can see no advantages at all.

  7. I’ve been browsing online more than 3 hours these days, but I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is pretty value enough for me. In my opinion, if all site owners and bloggers made just right content as you did, the net might be much more helpful than ever before.

  8. Many thanks for posting “Wednesday Wonderings – Internet?
    - Living On The Road” garson . Imay absolutely end up being returning for more reading
    and commenting shortly. Many thanks, Mattie recently posted..http://tinyurl.comMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge
This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 3 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 3)