Mobile Carrier Wireless Networking

I put together a list of wide area wireless networking options in semi-rural areas for a friend recently. It’s far from complete and may not be accurate, but it’s a start. The coverage area I was looking for was north of Portland, ME, but we all know coverage maps lie and local conditions vary. I focused on PC-Cards, but most carriers sell phones that can be attached via USB port.

The USB-connected phone may be better than it appears. Some devices have removable antennae, and it appears that extensions are available to place it in a window or other convenient location, but cabling for RF is difficult and very lossy. It’s a tossup about whether the gain from a better antenna position is worth the loss of the extra cable. Alternatively, USB-attached cell phone can be placed anywhere the USB cable will reach (with zero RF loss).

T-Mobile appears to offer the best deal, but also has the worst coverage. Such is the trade-off with these things (where Verizon may have the highest prices, but best coverage). Still, I’m looking forward to what my friend learns.

A big nod to the Gizmodo story about in-car computers for digging up some info and getting me interested again.

AT&T Wireless offers two data cards, including the Sony Ericsson GC83 EDGE PC Modem Card, which offers up to 130kbps connections. The EDGE card requires a plan of about $80/month.

Sprint PCS offers a larger number of data cards, with speeds as high as 144kbps. Compatible data plans cost between $40 and $80/month.

T-Mobile offers two data cards, including the Sony Ericsson GC79 card, which appears to support both T-Mobile Internet and 802.11b (WiFi) local area wireless networking. They also offer them at a compelling price: $30/month for unlimited access.

Verizon Wireless‘ service is called NationalAccess, and offers speeds of 60 – 80kbps, bursting to 144kbps. They are rolling out BroadbandAccess, which promises speeds up to 2Mbps, but is only available in limited areas now. They offer three connection cards: one, two and three. The also offer more (more confusing) plans than the others. Prices range from $50 to $80/month; some bill by minutes, others by megabytes.

4 thoughts on “Mobile Carrier Wireless Networking

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  3. alwaysBEthere sell a USB mobile broadband modem currently and have had a good experince with it in their test lab. I believe that alwaysBEthere currently have the most competitive price on the market at .

    My computer never had a PCMCIA slot, so I was relieved to finally find an alternative way to stay online. I found this modem so useful in my last couple of weeks of travel and laughed at how impressed my clients were with the speed! This is a great alternative to using your phone as a modem and works better in my experience!

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