Rogers Rocket Stick

October 6th, 2009 by Potato

For years my dad has dealt with using the internet via dial-up while at the cottage, or when the Rogers internet goes down at home. Perhaps due to increasing usage in cottage country, perhaps due to old copper, the quality of dial-up has really taken a nosedive in the last few years at the cottage. What was once slow but tolerable has become unacceptably slow — not only has grabbing a handful of emails via POP (i.e.: old-school stuff) gotten so slow it’s painful, but he’s actually had trades timeout on him when trying to use the online brokerage. That’s costing him money.

I’ve been trying to get him to try something different for a while, but he hasn’t been too interested in increasing his monthly bills, plus since the cell phone service is so spotty up there he figured that the wireless options, such as the Rogers Rocket Stick, just wouldn’t be worthwhile. Finally I just decided to pick one up while I was up there and test it out, because every time I was talking to him, he was complaining about the dial-up. It had a 15-day return policy, which was enough for us to see how well it would work in our location.

Fortunately, it’s been pretty good, and simple to use, too: plug it into a USB slot, hit connect, and you’re off. We typically see speeds of about 300 kbps — about 10 times slower than the cable service at home, but a significant improvement over dial-up. He’s been pretty pleased with how the service functions. At first we thought it’d even save money: the basic plan is about $30/mo (plus fees A[bsurd], B[ogus], and C[razy]), which is less than the cost of dial-up (~$20) and a second phone line (~$20).

Unfortunately the one downside to the Rogers mobile internet is the crazy low usage available. My dad is about as light a user as you can get: he wakes up, checks his email, reads the news, reads the brokerage research reports for the day, gets some stock quotes, makes a trade, and takes a nap. No streaming video, no gaming, no facebook photo albums, and he’s only online for a few hours a day, and only on weekdays at that. Yet that still adds up to over 1 GB/mo, which puts him somewhere into the 2nd or 3rd usage tier. For comparison, when Rogers set the download cap for the cable internet to 60 GB/mo, they said the typical user used 5 GB/mo, and that was what, 4 years ago? There’s been a lot more streaming video use in that time! So the actual cost turned out to be a fair bit higher than the advertised cost, but I suppose that shouldn’t be anything new from Rogers.

As iPhones, Blackberries, and other smartphones become more popular I’m sure (or at least, hope) that Rogers will revamp those plans to make data available wirelessly at more reasonable rates. $35/GB is kinda silly, and doesn’t allow for a lot of usage on these things.

The most ludicrous thing though was that the rocket stick is, according to Rogers, “technically a cell phone”. From a hardware point of view, I can kinda see that — it has a SIM card, it’s a transmitter working on the cell network. Whatever. What was not cool was we got charged for “receiving text messages”. WTF? 15 cents each for what was probably spam sent to what was not actually a cell phone. Why isn’t this blocked on what is obviously not a text-message enabled device? Why is there even a charge for receiving text messages, even if it was a phone? I managed to get that bogus fee refunded by calling in to complain, but if the spam keeps coming, I’m not looking forward to having to do that every month to get my 75 cents back.

Anyway, the rocket stick has surprisingly good reception, or perhaps to put it more exactly, the Rogers network in cottage country is different than the Bell one, so just because we have zero bars with our Bell phones, doesn’t mean that the Rogers stick won’t work — if you’re in a rural area it’s probably worth checking out what their coverage map actually looks like. The service is not like cable or DSL, but it’s a damned sight more usable than dial-up, and can be used in areas not serviced by copper, which is the point. However, it’s not cheap, and keep in mind the exceptionally low usage included in the plans when pricing it out.


5 Responses to “Rogers Rocket Stick”

  1. Four Pillars Says:

    Thanks for writing about this. I’ve been considering this but since I don’t really need it I’ll probably hold off.

  2. Ben Says:

    When a friend of mine moved down to St. Catharines last year, Bell talked her into getting their version of this “wireless internet”. She has had nothing but problems with it. It’s slow, sometimes excruciatingly so, and other times it doesn’t work at all. Once, when it was so slow, she finally got fed up and called tech support. They said that there were several other users also using the signal from the tower she was receiving the connection from. He told her there were 8 other people also connected! It’s so bad it’s almost a joke. The tech guy on the phone actually told her she’d be better off using their DSL instead…

  3. Potato Says:

    I haven’t looked into it in any detail, but my understanding is that the Bell wireless internet is at least a generation behind the Rogers one in terms of speed. But yeah, if she can get DSL at her place (which isn’t an option at the cottage), and she doesn’t need “internet on the go”, a fixed connection is definitely the way to go (though I’d recommend Teksavvy’s DSL).

  4. Ben Says:

    When I lived there we had cable through Cogeco and it was great, from what I remember.

  5. Netbug Says:

    There’s a difference between the rocket stick and portable internet.

    PI runs through a mdm that requires a pwr supply and picks up the signal from cell towers via the joint-venture Inukshuk network.

    RocketStick runs on the 3G network, so as stated, it’s technically a data cell device and stupidly over-priced.

    I use PI at my cottage and love it there’s no enforced cap and I average about 1mbps. Plus, it’s got an ethernet port, so, public IP and router means hi-speed for the cottage. Put a few wireless access points around the cottages and the whole waterfront is accessible.