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.
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.