still whipping wireless in data
Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business
June 6-12, 2006 issue #867
High Tech Office column;
first heard of 3G about five years ago; a third generation of wireless
phone networks, promising data transmission speeds on a par with wired
broadband. Like many any-day-now technology revolutions, it’s taken
longer than the evangelists promised, long enough that the cellphone
companies started to market not-quite-there-yet 2.5G services to fill
the interim, many laptop users have begun to rely on WiFi wireless
networking. But while WiFi offers reasonable Internet connection
speeds, users can only connect when they’re in range of a hot-spot in a
café, office, hotel or meeting room. And while home WiFi access points
are cheap and popular and some hotels and cafés offer the service for
free, airport and hotel service can often be pricey.
years of hype, the first 3G services have been rolled out quietly, with
Rogers and Fido first offering high-speed EDGE
service and Bell
Mobility and Telus now
introducing 1x EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized)
services in large Canadian cities, accompanying similar U.S. offerings
by Verizon and Sprint Nextel. 1x EvDO outpaces
EDGE, promising download
speeds of between 400 and 700 kbps (kilobytes per second), though
bandwidth may vary.
make use of any of these services, you’ll need a contract with a
provider and compatible hardware. EvDO support is showing up in some
phone and Blackberry models, in Palm’s
just-announced Treo 700p PDA and Motorola’s
upcoming Moto Q smartphone. It’s also built into some new
notebook models such as Lenovo’s
For notebooks lacking built-in support add-in
PC Cards are available from several manufacturers.
competing 3G standards, each likely to be upgraded in the future, an
add-in PC Card might prove a better choice than a notebook with
built-in (but limited) hardware. EvDO-equipped cellphones and PDAs can,
in some cases, be used as modems connecting to a notebook either via
Bluetooth or wired with a USB cable. I recently had loan of a Kyocera
Passport EvDO PC Card and use of a Bell Mobility account, letting me
test the service on my Windows notebook. Bell is offering service that
is billed based on the amount of data transmitted rather than the time
connected, allowing users to always remain online.
my Windows XP notebook, installation of Kyocera’s software and hardware
was quick and straightforward; afterwards it connected to Bell’s
network with no fuss.
a test downloading a large file, performance was in the advertised
range, though my web browser reported the speed as the equivalent 40
kbps. That’s about eight to 10 times as fast as I would get with a
standard dial-up connection.
comparison, I downloaded the same file from the same server at the same
time on another computer using my home cable Internet connection. That
download proceeded at about 400 kbps, about 10 times faster than the
Bell and Telus promise EvDO coverage throughout the Lower Mainland and
Fraser Valley. On a ferry and then on the Sunshine Coast, I was able to
get online without a problem, but, connected via the slower 1x network,
performance dropped to about 12 kbps.
on my rough tests, mobile broadband isn’t as fast as wired (or WiFi),
but it offers service that will be fast enough for many uses and can
untie users from tethers to both network cables and wireless hot spots.