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EVDO Modems - Advice?

I'm looking for some reader input here: we're planning a little cross country trip later this year (we figure on going once gasoline gets REALLY expensive) and I'm going to need Internet access if I hope to make any money while we're breathing diesel fumes.

So: at this moment I'm thinking Verizon ($60 a month for a two year contract.. oh well..) and either the Novatel Wireless USB727 or the Aircard 595U. Any experience y'all have with Nationwide access with these, Verizon or anything else would be deeply appreciated.

USB is best for me because we'll be packing both my MacBook and my wife's sorry Acer PC and I'm not buying a card for each of them.. this vacation is going to cost enough already and while I at least have occasional use for wireless access, my wife's computer ordinarily never leaves the house.

So: comments and suggestions appreciate, thanks in advance.

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© Anthony Lawrence

Sun Mar 23 02:19:55 2008: 3875   drag

I donno.

The guys at work use GSM phones as modems. They are happy with them. They just connect their phone to their laptop using USB and dial-out like any other regular modem. Even works with Linux and it does not block calls. (at least I don't think so)

I don't know much about Cell phone technology stuff, but I suppose that is different then EVDO stuff your talking about. But if you can do that with your service then that seems the way to go.

Sun Mar 23 11:26:51 2008: 3876   TonyLawrence

I've tried that with my phone before - less than satisfactory..

Sun Mar 23 12:47:47 2008: 3877   FWB

Verizon and AT&T both have a bandwidth cap of 5Gb per month. Depending on your usage, that could be an issue. The other morning I was using my 595U and went through 70Mb in about 3 hours. And that was just average surfing and emailing...no big software downloads were involved. I'd be over the cap in a couple of weeks. So Vz wasn't an option for me.

Sprint (also $60/mth) has no bandwidth cap. Most agree they have better US coverage. In more remote areas you'll have a better chance of connecting (though at slower speeds) since Sprint has done a great job of covering interstates with CDMA towers.

If you don't think the bandwidth cap will be a problem, then coverage will be your big issue. We have links and tips for coverage maps for the three major carriers on our site - (link dead, sorry) . Use your itinerary to see whose coverage matches your trip plans.

The 595U has an internal battery, which is very useful if you're often "out in the field" and not plugged into a power source. Other cards/modems can drain your laptop's battery quickly, where the 595U will use its own battery for about 90 minutes before it starts tapping into your laptop's powersource. The U727 is much smaller and has a Memory card slot as its additional feature instead of a battery.

Sierra will provide you with free Mac OS-native software to manage your connection, where Novatel doesn't, making it harder to install and activate the card, and troubleshoot problems.

If you're RV'ing, consider an external antenna to boost your signal. Your signal is the most important factor for getting the best performance, whichever carrier you choose. Speeds on both carriers and modems will be comparable, with signal quality being the most important factor in performance.

Hope that helps.

Sun Mar 23 15:56:41 2008: 3878   TonyLawrence

Very helpful, thanks!

Sun Mar 23 17:26:15 2008: 3879   TonyLawrence

Verizon sells the 595U for $129.00 - supposedly discounted from $179.00. You (the site who commented above) sell it for $49.00 - big difference. Does Verizon require the card be purchased through them?

Mon Mar 24 13:40:44 2008: 3883   FWB

I think it has to do with corporate strategy and technological capability.

Verizon is not nearly as aggressive than Sprint with mobile broadband services. Vz's mobile broadband users connect through the same infrastructure that Vz's voice users do. So there's a distinct possiblity that wireless broadband users could flood the system meant for voice users (their core wireless business), causing more dropped calls and poorer service in general.

Vz's deal is not nearly as good as Sprint's since there could be that "penalty for success" if Vz sells too many data packages. So their take is, "We've got mobile broadband, but it's expensive and offers limited usage. If you want it, come get it." And that's good for a lot of existing Vz users. They can stick with their voice carrier for data usage too, and get everything on one bill.

Sprint has just about nothing to lose by aggressively pricing its mobile broadband service. It runs on a separate infrastructure than Sprint's voice users, giving Sprint a huge competitive advantage. Only mobile broadband connection cards and modems, and so far just one Sprint phone (HTC Mogul) uses Sprints EVDO "Rev A" network. With a lot available and dedicated infrastructure, Sprint can be more competitive in their pricing to the consumers' benefit.

There may also be a frequency issue in that Vz's EVDO is accessed in the 850mhz frequency, while Sprint runs at 1900mhz. For that reason the cards may be hardwired by Sierra for the specific frequencies, requiring a different card for different carriers. I don't know that the different frequencies could cause the price differences, but it could make one card incompatible with the other's network.

Mon Mar 24 22:34:05 2008: 3887   tim

I bought Sprint's Aircard 595U (USB). It works very fast where Sprint has it's EVDO network. I took it along I-5 from Washington to Southern California, then along I-8 to Phonix, AZ. In most areas along I-5 I got EVDO speeds (nice and fast), but along I-8 there was only the older slow network available. Phoenix itself has a very large Sprint EVDO coverage area, and it is fast. The card works well with Windows, Mac OS X & even Ubuntu Linux (with KPPP). I am very satisfied with it.

Tue Mar 25 11:24:12 2008: 3892   TonyLawrence

Hmmm.. I'm not concerned about overuse charges because I intend to cancel (and pay the cancellation fee) when we get back. My main concern is best coverage throughout the trip. But maybe Sprint would be OK - I'll need to study that map more.

Looks like Google wants to make that easier in a few years with free WiFi everywhere.. a lot of strong opinion on both sides of that!

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