WiFi on the Road: Karma-Go

I’m all for unplugging. I think cutting yourself off from the grid occasionally is a great thing. There’s no better way to quiet the buzz and recharge your batteries than to become completely immersed in the natural world.

The key word in that statement is “occasionally.” Too much of a good thing can lead to monotony. There’s something to be said for the wonders of the gird, too.

Am I inside? Am I outside? It doesn't matter - I'm still on the Internet.

Am I inside? Am I outside? It doesn't matter - I'm still on the Internet.

I think the Internet gets a bit of a bad rap for distracting us from the important things in life. To an extent, this is true. No one can argue that endless hours spent playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush will add more meaning to your life. Then again, the Internet can also connect us, guide us, inspire us, and teach us a thing or two. Personally, my graphic design career would be virtually non-existent without it.

So, as I prepared to enter full time life on the road, the bottom line was that I would need to find some way to bring the grid with me on the road.

I've tried several different WiFi devices including range extenders or antennas and kept coming up short. Either they just didn’t work well, or the user interface was so poorly designed that they were almost impossible for an average person to figure out how to use. Not to mention the fact that I had to be somewhere in the range of an unprotected network.

A few weeks ago, I was finally able to test out Karma WiFi. The concept with Karma is a bit simpler. The Karma Go snags a LTE cellular signal and turns it into your own personal hotspot. You can wirelessly connect any device within 100 feet. I have a pet peeve about wires – especially in the van – so this is great.

Small, sleek, and wireless. So much satisfaction.

Small, sleek, and wireless. So much satisfaction.

Ok, so here’s the no nonsense breakdown of how it works:

Step One: Purchase the Karma Go (save $10 when you go through this link).

This is what it will let you do:

           Connect to a 4G LTE network (with a 3G fallback option in weak areas)

Download Speed: 6-8Mbps with peaks up to 25Mbps

Upload Speed: 2-3Mbps

            802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz wireless networking

Step Two: Choose a data plan

For frequent use:

The “Pulse” option gives you a steady stream of monthly data with no commitments… here are the plan options:

5GB/mo - $40

10GB/mo - $75

20GB/mo - $140

For occasional use:

The “Refuel” option gives you pay-as-you-go data that never expires

1GB - $14

5GB - $59

10GB - $99

Right now, I’m on the 5GB “Pulse” plan. Theoretically, this should give me enough data to upload/download photos from Drop Box, listen to Spotify, send emails, read blogs, etc. At this data rate, I’ll have to minimize any kind of video streaming such as Netflix, YouTube, or lectures from Lynda.com. That being said, if I use Karma for my standard, day-day internet use and seek out a coffee shop for the more major stuff, I shouldn’t have to worry much about running over my data limit. In the event that I run over, I can add data from the “refuel” option.

My "office" in its standard state.

My "office" in its standard state.

So how do you know how much data you’ve used? The Karma mobile app (for ios and android) allows you to track you data usage down to the hour. It also allows you purchase more data in the event that you run over your limit.

The interesting thing about Karma is that you can earn credits by allowing other people connect to it. Don’t worry – each new person who joins creates an individual account so they don’t have access to your data or browsing information. So, if you turn on your Karma Go in airport lobby and someone else connects to it – even if you’re not on it at the time – both of your accounts are given 100MB of free data. Up to 8 devices can be connected to the network at the same time. Sharing is nice, isn’t it? Check out the video below or read their blog post for more information about earning credit for sharing your Karma WiFi.

So does it work everywhere? Sorry, this is a US only thing. Because Karma relies on a cell signal, it only works in locations where you would actually GET a cell signal. Meaning go enjoy your time in nature while you’re in a National Park because your WiFi isn’t going to work there. In the majority of cities and towns, connectivity shouldn’t be a problem, though. Check out their COVERAGE MAP to see if your area is covered.

The bottom line: Karma won’t be the fastest WiFi you’ve ever had, but it will get you through workdays on the road. For more information, visit www.karmawifi.com.

Plant for scale. 

Plant for scale.