Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WiMAX Tomorrow, EV-DO Today

WiMAX is being eagerly awaited as the universal wireless broadband solution that will free us from the tyranny of WiFi hotspots and their miniscule coverage area.

Indeed, the WiMAX 802.16 Metropolitan Area Network promises to provide broadband connection speeds similar to DSL, Cable Internet and T1 dedicated lines, but without the lines. The up to 70 Mbps shared bandwidth means that dozens or even hundreds of users will be able to roam up to 31 miles from the WiMAX base station and still get a signal. WiFi can provide similar or faster Internet access to a handful of users sitting in a coffee shop or at home. But venture a few hundred feet away and bye, bye WiFi.

The WiMAX equipment testing and pilot programs under way whet the appetite for the day when you'll be able to pop a WiMAX access card into your notebook computer and log-in anywhere in town. You'll be able to get your email at a park bench or parked car. Get schedule updates or download product data right before you walk into that big sales presentation. You'll be able to enter orders in real time right from the client's desk, without the awkward situation of having to request access to their network. It's a great dream and it's coming... next year, or perhaps the next.

Did you know that roaming wireless Internet access can be yours now? I'm talking about DSL or Cable Modem level service or even what you might expect from your shared corporate T1 Internet service. Better yet, you are not limited to one base station in one city. You'll have broadband access in many major cities and reduced rate access almost everywhere else. No, it's not WiMAX. It's EV-DO.

EV-DO is short for EVolution Data Only. What is that? It's a broadband data standard for CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) cellular networks, most notably Verizon Wireless. EV-DO uses a 1.25 MHz cellular radio channel to provide download speeds up to 2.4 Mbps, or more typically 400 to 700 Kbps. EV-DO service is available in 47 high population areas at present. If you venture outside of the EV-DO coverage area, the system switches to NationalAccess Service using the 1xRTT standard. That gives you 60 to 80 Kbps with bursts up to 144 Kbps on downloads. You have the access you need to conduct business without the wires and without the wait for WiMAX.

To gain access to the EV-DO network, you'll need an EV-DO adaptor card like the Audiovox PC5740 PC card. You plug this into an open Type II card slot on your notebook computer, just like plugging in a WiFi adaptor card. You'll also need a Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess (EV-DO) Unlimited-2YR plan. This gives you unlimited use of the EV-DO and 1XRTT data service for $79.99 a month. Right now you can get the Audiovox PC5740 card free when you order it with Verizon Wireless Broadband Access.

You may also be interested in the Samsung i730 Pocket PC, cell phone combined with a PDA that operates on the Verizon EV-DO cellular data network. Read my review of the Samsung i730 here.

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