From the Kenosha News on 3-11-07

Consider nationwide wireless broadband for internet connection

      My December 4, 2005 column discussed the two most popular options for broadband internet:  DSL (usually from AT&T) and cable from Time Warner.  In addition to these two, there is now a third option that is worth considering.  This third option is called “mobile broadband,” and it uses a technology called EVDO (Evolution Data Only – a meaningless acronym) to provide you with a wireless connection from hundreds of cities and airports nationwide.

      I spoke with Dan McTernan of McTernan wireless here in Kenosha, who gave me information about plans and options.  Plans begin at $60 per month from Sprint or Verizon and require a contract of at least one year.  This includes unlimited time on the internet.  A special card is required; this is not the same technology as the Wifi capability that may be built in to your laptop.  The mobile broadband card is either a PCMCIA (about credit card size but thicker and with a knobby antenna on the end), or an Express card (smaller than the PCMCIA version), or the newer USB adapter.  Most plans offer the card free after rebate.  Your wireless provider or reseller can help you choose which card and plan is right for you.

      The cost of mobile broadband  is higher than cable modem service or DSL, and the speeds are usually slower, running from 400Kbps to 3.1Mbps.  For comparison, dial-up access is never faster than 56Kbps, DSL runs around 1.5Mbps, and cable usually runs around 3Mbps.  So, when would it make sense to use this option?  It would mostly make sense if you can use it in multiple locations, including home and on the road for business or vacation.  It also makes more sense for laptop users, although the USB adapter can be used on a desktop as well.  One mobile broadband card device can be used on several computers, but not at the same time.  Mac users should check for software compatibility when choosing a device and vendor.

      Before you sign up for mobile broadband, find out if the locations you frequent are in the coverage area.  Sprint and Verizon have different coverage maps, so one may work better for you than another.  Since most vendors emphasize coverage in airports and metropolitan areas, your “cabin up north” is probably not covered.  Being in the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, Kenosha has very good reception.  One of my work colleagues has the USB card from Sprint and reports that it’s much faster than her previous dial-up connection and doesn’t tie up her phone line. The Sprint web site provides a box to enter a zip code to find out if that location is covered. 

      If you have one or more computers already equipped with Wifi (standard 802.11 wireless, built-in to many laptops,) you can put the PCMCIA mobile broadband card into a special Linksys Wifi router which costs about $200 after rebate.

      An additional mobile broadband option is available for people who already use Blackberry devices.  For $15 per month in addition to your Blackberry service, you can connect your computer with a special cable, using the Blackberry as an uplink device to the internet.

by Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 3-11-07