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Wireless Networking Hardware

In-Home Wireless Vs. Mobile Broadband 199

mklickman writes "I've been hearing more and more about mobile broadband offered by the big wireless phone providers, and for the first time came to ask myself how it compares to using a wireless router. Since my wife and I both have laptops, and we're out a lot, would it be wise and/or worth it to do away with the standard cable-modem-plus-router setup and switch over to mobile broadband with (for example) AT&T or Sprint? I'm not really concerned about the cost of the PC cards themselves; they're not much more expensive than a decent router. Also, the cost of the wireless service per month is only (roughly) ten dollars more than my current ISP is charging me. Is it a good idea?"
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In-Home Wireless Vs. Mobile Broadband

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  • by _merlin ( 160982 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:24AM (#22512910) Homepage Journal
    I have both. I have ADSL2+ at home with 802.11g wireless, and UMTS/HSDPA on the move. The ADSL2+ is faster, no question. UMTS/HSDPA is quite usable (up 2MB/s real-world speeds) and convenient because I can use it when I'm not at home.
    • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:53AM (#22513038) Homepage
      1. You are lucky to see speeds like that. I have the same combination and I see speeds under 128Kbit under realistic conditions in the UK. It is very rare for the speed to go above 256K. In fact the only places I have seen it higher are non-UK networks.

      2. The question of DSL vs 3G has a very simple answer. The answer is a question in itself - do you have a home server and where does your traffic come from?

      If your mail, media, etc is stored on a machine at home, 3G is shooting yourself in the foot. Your traffic ends up going all the way down to the GGSN at the mobile operator and than all the way back up to your kit at home (often through the narrow side of a cable or DSL). If all of your stuff is sitting in a colo somewhere or is on your laptop and you have good 3G coverage, than 3G can compete with DSL for the time being.

      This is a definitely "for the time being" case because as more and more devices in the home become networked a device whose traffic has to travel across half of the country to connect to the rest of the kit becomes a white elephant.
      • by cybereal ( 621599 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:59AM (#22513264) Homepage
        On your point of "luck" about the GP's claim of speeds, you missed that he said HSDPA, which is sometimes called "3.5g" it's much faster than 3G, it's just similar enough tech to not warrant considering it a new generation of connectivity.

        Just wanted to clear that up for anyone following this for bandwidth curiosities.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by arivanov ( 12034 )
          I did not miss it. I have an HSDPA card. On Vodafone, you see the purple light (HSDPA) only once in a while. It is usually red (3G) or green (GPRS). The coverage is definitely way far from what marketing whalesong are trying to brainwash you into.
          • It still isn't that fast. You are much better off with a decent wired broadband and wireless router.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 )
            Are you in a building with double glazing? That can affect the signal a lot.. in fact in some offices you can't get a mobile signal at all due to this.

            I've not seen a non-HSPDA signal in a built up area in the UK for some time (on vodaphone as well), and have even had 3G on a remote hill in Wales. Dropping to GPRS is next to unheard of.
            • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @09:40AM (#22513776) Homepage
              I have tried and tested it all over the UK. East Anglia, Essex, Sussex, Greater London and all the way to Glasgow.

              While Pilkington-K and similar treated doubleglazed windows (not just any doubleglazed) drop the signal a bit, it is not the windows that are a problem. It is the tech in itself and the coverage. You need a non-congested Node-B to get anywhere near HSDPA speeds. As the number of clients on the Node-B grows the speed drops in x2 steps because even idle clients use parts of the code tree.

              So as the tech is becoming more and more popular the network becomes worse and worse. As a result you can probably still get HSDPA speeds out there in residential suburbia. Getting HSDPA speeds in downtown lodnon, at railway stations or any other place where there are loads of clients (even non-active ones) is practically impossible.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              Are you in a building with double glazing?

              Indeed. I work in a metal framed two story building with reinforced concrete walls and floor to ceiling windows with
              low-e [] coatings. Signal quality was zero bars before they installed wireless repeaters.

              The answer to the original question is simple - if you aren't home often, go with the 3G card. But beware that your speeds will be fastest now and drop as more and more people sign up for data services.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Duke ( 23059 )

              Are you in a building with double glazing? That can affect the signal a lot.. in fact in some offices you can't get a mobile signal at all due to this.

              The problem is not double glazing per se, but Low-E (low-emissivity) [] coatings on the glass, intended to reflect infrared radiation. These coatings are usually metallic oxides, which attenuate radio signals. My house has all Low-E windows and the exterior walls are coated with stucco - on a metal (chicken-wire) mes

              • Slightly off-topic,

                But, since you mention the chicken wire mesh/metallic stucco, I'm wondering if cable companies (say, comcast) liked that back around 1999 when I was buying a new home that had poor on-air reception. It might have served as a useful way to persuade people to get cable. I just attached my twin antenna to the cable wire and used the comcast coax cable as an antenna/signal enhancer. I still got to watch Voyager and maybe 5 or 8 stations over the air.

                Second, since many new homes seem to be nea
        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
          I have aT&T 3G and it SUCKS. even in metro detroit I get spotty coverage and speeds it likes to downgrade to 56K speed at whim. and you cant get more than 56K when moving.

          I also have the NExtel data plan and it also sucks. If you use it in one spot unmoving it seems to work, as soon as you get up to move it falls apart and they throttle your butt fast if their systems sense you are downloading a lot or even attempting to use bittorrents.
      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @08:05AM (#22513282) Journal

        You are lucky to see speeds like that. I have the same combination and I see speeds under 128Kbit under realistic conditions in the UK. It is very rare for the speed to go above 256K. In fact the only places I have seen it higher are non-UK networks.
        When I use UMTS in the UK, I typically get around 400Kb/s (50KB/s). From attempting to do file transfers to my phone, this appears to be the fastest it can push data over the bluetooth connection, so the speed to the tower might be faster. The big difference is the caps. Mobile data connections often have a cap of around 3GB/month and you can go through this very easily with a big download or two or some iPlayer usage.

        That said, a friend of mine used UMTS for his home connection for about a year. He used the broadband at work for big transfers and the UMTS cap was high enough to let him browse the web (including videos of kittens on YouTube) and check his mail from home.

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        Vodafone UK consistently gives me around 350kbps, but then my house is line of sight to an HSDPA equipped tower. I have seen peaks getting close to 1Mbps. On the other hand, trying to use my phone to read my email on the train the other day, I got 14k of headers down in half an hour. It seems the 3.5G network is not particularly mobile. My ADSL on the other hand gives a consistent 5.5Mbps down, and 280k up.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by a1choice ( 469390 )
      I am a consultant that also uses both technologies,
      1) Home is DSL that has a consistent 4 - 4.4Mbit, and
      2) Sprint EDO card for mobile that gets from 700kbit to 2 Mbit (average is 1.2Mbit).

      Using the EDO cards in lieu of hotel high cost Internet saves lots of money. In fact I get better speed with the EDO card than the hotel's notoriously slow Internet...that is no doubt. At home I would rather have 4 - 5Mbit really makes a difference and speed is an addiction.

      I also have to comment that it is c
      • "2) Sprint EDO card for mobile that gets from 700kbit to 2 Mbit (average is 1.2Mbit)."

        What is an option for computers without the pcmcia slots as far as mobile broadband. I have an has no slot.

        Are there other ways to get on, for instance, Sprint's mobile broadband?

        • >What is an option for computers without the pcmcia slots as far as mobile broadband. I have an has no slot.

          Maybe you'll pay more attention the next time people tell you to get a proper laptop ;-)

          To answer your question though, you should be able get a 3G/HSDPA connection with most modern smartphones/communicators (which are not iphones, that is), and then connect that to your laptop through USB or Bluetooth. Your laptop has those, right?
        • What is an option for computers without the pcmcia slots as far as mobile broadband. I have an has no slot.

          I believe Sprint offers a Novatel Wireless U720 EVDO Rev. A modem which connects via USB. Visit the Sprint website for more details.

          I use a Sprint S720 PCMCIA card in Portland, Oregon. In close-in NE Portland, my speeds whilst sitting in an apartment are around 800 kbit/sec down, 120 up. The best I've seen is 2 mbit/down while sitting in downtown.

          Even though it's not as fast as Comcast,
    • UMTS/HSDPA is quite usable (up 2MB/s real-world speeds) and convenient because I can use it when I'm not at home.

      I've got the AT&T Tilt (HTC 8950, I think?), an HSDPA (and also 3G, edge, etc) phone, and use it to get online from my laptop when I'm on the go. Depending on where I am, I get drastically different performance, though. It seems that some locations don't support the HSDPA, so I get extremely high-latency connections (several seconds to make the connection; pinging gives me ~800ms)
      • I use Sprint for this stuff, have a minipci card built into my laptop. The Sprint network encrypts your connection using SSL from the card to the point where it exits to the internet, I'd assume the other providers do the same. You really don't have to worry about someone wirelessly packet sniffing you.

        I also get a fully public IP when I connect, and my latency is usually around 100-200 ms. I can play a lot of games online just fine. My average download speed on Sprint is about 2 Mbit, which considering the
        • The reason I chose Sprint is simply because their terms of service don't have that "If you use this for anything but web browsing and email we'll drop you" clause that AT&T and Verizon have, and T-Mobile is still stuck using EDGE, which is just plain hilarious. Also the Sprint service is $20 less per month than AT&T/Verizon

          Where are you located? Sprint service in this area (NYC) sucks. Everyone I know who has sprint has all kinds of issues with dropped calls and poor call quality. No one I know on s
          • I'm in Miami, FL. I had Sprint for voice for a bit but dropped it, I hated it as a voice provider but for data I like them. It costs $60/month for Sprint unlimited as opposed to $80 for AT&T/Verizon.
            • wow, that's pretty different pricing...

              although my $40/mo is the unlimited phonedata plan, which is what I use for when I'm online with my computer.

              if I got their Express card, it would probably be 80$/mo because of the extra line and everything, but I don't use it enough to warrant that.
              • Yea but that's alongside a smartphone I'm assuming? Not all phone let you use them as a modem/connection card, and some of us need to be able to receive calls while using our mobile connections. Not to mention a lot of providers like to charge extra for their 'phone as modem' service, even though there's no difference in service, just what you pay.

                If you use it as much as I do you'd definitely want a dedicated plan for it. I went for the integrated card in my laptop, no USB dongle/Expresscard to deal with.
    • Whether or not HSDPA is usable rather depends on what you're want to do with it. With pings of 200ms - 1000ms gaming is obviously out. Anything which can't handle a bit of packet loss is also out; 10% packet loss is not unusual in my experience. In general, it works well for browsing and even downloads, but sometimes a request packet gets lost so nothing happens, connections pause and sometimes totally stall. At least on my network you don't get a routable IP address; it's all done with NAT. I love my HSDPA
  • by DuncanE ( 35734 ) * on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:26AM (#22512918) Homepage
    My experience... at lease here in Australia... is that Mobile broadband works very well (remember much of our country is unpopulated desert).

    May lower class people use it to get broadband at the place they rent. They dont have to involve the landlord to get an cables installed and can take it with them when they move elsewhere.

    The big killer is that here is Oz mobile broadband typically comes with transfer limits in the order of 1 - 4 GBs per month. After that it gets very pricey.

    So assuming its the same in the US... I would only go mobile broadband if you dont plan on downloading movies/tv shows etc over the connection.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by DuncanE ( 35734 ) *
      Geez my typing on a Friday evening sucks...

      Please insert the missing T's Y's and N's into the above comment.
    • by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:47AM (#22513006) Journal

      My experience... at lease here in Australia... is that Mobile broadband works very well (remember much of our country is unpopulated desert).

      Additionally, there are pretty terrible contracts for mobile broadband (telstra is asking for 24 months last time i checked), so early adopters are once again subsidising later (smarter) takers. Rental properties can easily get ADSL connected without the landlord needing to know about it, because no modifications need to be done on the property.

      Mobile broadband, in my opinion, is something that only makes sense if you need it for your business. When it comes to personal/recreational use, such as on holiday or something to check emails and whatever, it might be easier to plug (or bluetooth) your laptop into your 3G mobile and surf the net that way, or just check into a hotel or cafe with wifi. That's what I have done up until now and, basically, it doesn't cost me $500+ extra per year to do it, in contrast to the mobile broadband.

      I suspect the demand for mobile broadband in Australia has not been as big as was hoped. Actually I am still at a bit of a loss why they are rolling it out when the alternatives are so cheap and so adequate at this point. It doesn't make financial and practical sense to me unless it's a tax deductible thing and you are making money from it in excess of the cost of ownership.

    • by speeDDemon (nw) ( 643987 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:26AM (#22513148) Homepage
      Another killer is latency, typically >100ms. Which for a lot applications has little effect, but when compared to ADSL and Cable their latency is unsurpassed. Which for gaming is critical. I wouldn't trade my 8ms ping to my favorite game servers for any amount of mobility.
      • by totally bogus dude ( 1040246 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @08:09AM (#22513294)

        It's not just gaming either - web surfing is much faster over ADSL than 3G. While you can get pretty good download speeds out of 3G, the latency means it takes a while to build up to the full transfer rate (TCP slow start). Most web pages don't have content large enough that you'll get to full speed, so the browsing experience feels more like "good dialup" than it does "mobile broadband".

        You could also consider getting a phone with internet access that allows "tethering" (at least, I think that's what the kids are calling it these days) so you can access the internet using your laptop via the phone's 3G data service. At home (in .au) I have ADSL2+ in my apartment and 500 mB/month via 3's "X Series" package. It costs me an extra $20/mo but means I do have internet access on the go without the expense of a separate mobile broadband plan. Using your phone for it also means you can have basic internet access even if you don't have your notebook with you, which can be handy.

    • May lower class people use it to get broadband at the place they rent.

      Lower class? I didn't realize I was in the presence of nobility, m'lord.

      Why not just say proletariat? Then I can call you bourgeoisie. But I'm not by any stretch left of center so I'll leave it be.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by srealm ( 157581 )
      In the US, it is very unfashionable to charge by the byte. So most internet connectivity (for residential/personal use) is 'unmetered'. However often there is clauses about 'excessive' use and the right to slow you down or cut you off for excessive use - but this applies to mobile broadband as well as residential customers. However they're often very cagey about what 'excessive' means, and by and large, it equates to hundreds of gigabytes.

      That said, AU is definitely ahead with mobile billing. In the US,
    • by plover ( 150551 ) *
      C'mon, you're on /. You're at least supposed to get the terminology straight.

      Broadband is a transmission technology that employs multiple frequencies simultaneously, not a "speed." That is unless "mobile broadband" is actually blasting your reply on multiple transmitters all at once across a spectrum in order to increase the data rate to your phone.

      Just because some marketroids stole the term from the technical people doesn't mean we should let them get away with it.


      • That is unless "mobile broadband" is actually blasting your reply on multiple transmitters all at once across a spectrum in order to increase the data rate to your phone.

        It is. It's called spread spectrum, and most wireless technologies use it (Cordless phones, Cell phones, Wireless N) The idea is that the frequency is constantly changing, giving security, and reliability. Security comes from it being difficult to hop frequencies with the signal, and reliability because if there is an interferring s
  • by ghostpirate_jay ( 1162881 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:28AM (#22512930)
    I work for a public sector org in the UK, and we have a community team of around 30 users, each with laptops running 3G data cards to give them access to our network (via VPN) when out doing what they do. This also allows them to work from home or wherever they choose - and allowed us to free up space in their offices by removing terminals. However, we quickly encountered problems with the mobile broadband connections having signal problems; various users complained about no signal at home or in certain areas of a city, or worse, in the office. I made the decision to put in wirless access points in each of the three team offices, and set up the laptops to use these instead of the mobile broadband when the connection was found. We also set up a separate VPN that didn't dial out on the mobile broadband, that they could tie into their own wireless conncections at home - this approach was a resounding success. So to summarise...I'd use both! You have to ask yourself if you are going to be using your laptop away from home enough to justify the mobile broadband option - if your staying at home, you can't beat using a wireless set up.
    • I have also problems with signal in certain locations. In the city it's usually besides high buildings. In other areas it's near rivers or forests (because of the altitude difference and the trees/wetness) or besides high mountains. The black spot locations aren't fixed as they change every few months. So, whenever I chat with a person over the Internet, I always tell them I'm on cellular access so that they know why I get offline and online so often. Most times a chat conversation is like:

      • Hi, blah b
  • the USB or mini-PCI device can only be attached to one device at a time. However, they are a standard, of sorts, and new domestic wifi routers that can accept a 3G device plugged into them and share it out do exist: []
  • by Lifyre ( 960576 )
    If your primary use is for web and email then mobile broadband may be more useful assuming you have reliable cell service in all parts of your house. If you like to download much of anything I think you would be better off with the landline service still.
  • Don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by johnjaydk ( 584895 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:33AM (#22512950)
    No. It's not a good idea.

    First of all the announced throughput is a best case figure. You'll never see it in actual use. Inside steel and concrete buildings you're certainly not going to see those figures. It all depends on the radio reception. The speed also depends (at lest with GPRS over UMTS and EDGE/GSM) on the number of active users on a particular cell.

    Second, even if the throughput is ok the latency really sucks. It takes a while from you request a web page and until it actually starts flowing in. I've worked on this tech for a number of years and it's not nearly as good as marketing wants you to believe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by teh kurisu ( 701097 )

      The speed also depends (at lest with GPRS over UMTS and EDGE/GSM) on the number of active users on a particular cell.

      To be fair, this also applies to ADSL connections. Most residential ADSL users (in the UK at least) are subject to a 50:1 contention ratio.

    • Re:Don't (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Plunky ( 929104 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:00AM (#22513054)

      First of all the announced throughput is a best case figure. You'll never see it in actual use.

      Another thing to consider is that I have found that my supplier (T-Mobile in UK, using GPRS) has an intercepting proxy server; they strip out 'unnecessary' parts of HTML pages, and re-compress any JPEG images at the highest most lossy (eg 50k->10k) setting in order to make it seem faster which also loses EXIF data.

      I don't know if this is only for GPRS or if it affects their 'broadband' services also but it seems to be limited to port 80 so its not too difficult to get around with a proxy but it can be annoying..

      • Yeah, I am with T-mobile, and speed varies: my Nokia PC Suite often statess 110 or 430k/Sec but is very bursty (read: VoIP is intentionally trashed) and the average is probably about the same as a 2400baud modem. In short, the service is a shower of sh*t.

        I tried O2, but they charge like a raging bull. I am thinking of moving to 3.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

          I am thinking of moving to 3.
          I thought about this too. Then I phoned their sales team to get them to clarify what they meant by 'Internet' in their adverts. Apparently it means 'port 80, filtered.' The only thing to do seems to be complain to OFCOM.
          • 3 is behind NAT, but everything I've tried (HTTP, HTTPS, SSH, POP3, Bittorrent, Real) worked. I've not noticed them filtering things either, but I don't spend much time on 'dodgy' sites. If it got in the way I'd just set up a VPN back to a box at home, where I have real IPs and an unadulterated connection. If OFCOM agree with the ASA that services with explicitly stated limits can call themselves "unlimited" they won't give a fuck about this.
      • This is however genuinely useful for mobile phone browsers and the like. Especially the image (re)compression - on a wee mobile phone screen you hardly need a high quality JPG.

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        Normally providers offer a "wap" access point, which has all this "optimisation for phone screens" proxying, and an "internet" access point, which is a raw connection. The proxy often becomes the bottleneck when using a high speed connection, so it is worth trying the "internet" access point instead, especially if you're using the phone as a modem. Check the terms of your service though, the cheap data bundles like Web-n-walk might not cover use of the internet access point, and if this is the case and you
      • I have used UK's T-Mobile service (HSDPA, via bluetooth link to my laptop) and have not noticed any such stripping. A significant issue was latency, generally 100ms to 500ms, and the speed on HSDPA was probably 35-45 KB/s, so make it 300-400 kbps.

        I noticed they also specified a cap of, if I recall correctly, 40 MB/day; I went over this supposed cap on more than one occasion (likely every day for the two months I was using it, in fact) and nobody seemed to notice or care.

  • Depends. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ( 1195047 ) <philip DOT paradis AT palegray DOT net> on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:33AM (#22512952) Homepage Journal
    I'd say since you both do a lot of mobile computing, its probably a good idea to go with the wireless broadband option. Here's some questions to think about, however:

    1. How much data transfer do you do? A buddy of mine ran into trouble with Sprint for downloading craploads of ISOs on his connection. Your mileage may vary.

    2. How good is the coverage where you live? Do you personally know someone using the service you're interested in, and if so, how reliable is their connection?

    3. What operating system are you using? If you're running Windows you're probably okay for compatibility, but I had a fair amount of trouble using a couple of different broadband cards under Linux. I got them working, but only after significant hackery.

    Just some things to consider.
    • by StarOwl ( 131464 )
      There's one more consideration I'd throw into the mix: What other wireless devices might you have (or one day have) in the house that might make use of a DSL+WiFi setup?

      I have a similar situation -- I travel a lot, and my company's draconian networking policy gave me an incentive to grab a mobile broadband card of my own from Sprint.

      Performance is fine for most of my regular day-to-day needs (surfing, mail, and ssh). Performance is marginal for gaming, and I wouldn't want to do big downloads via EVDO...but
  • My experience... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by red star hardkore ( 1242136 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:33AM (#22512956)

    It depends on what you will use it for. I have standard 2Mb ADSL, that's the best I can get in the rural Irish area I live. I also have a Vodafone HSDPA USB modem for my laptop for when I'm not at home. The Vodafone modem is rated at 3.6Mb but that's bullshit. When on holidays during the summer, the house I stay at is in a valley, and the Vodafone mast is at the top of one of the hills overlooking the house. I can still only get approx 1Mb connection at best, and that's the fastest connection I've found in my travels around the country. Not only that, but the latency for the Vodafone connection is huge. It's definitely not for gaming, p2p, streaming video or audio. Email and web is basically all it's good for. Also, they tend to have a relatively small monthly cap.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Also, meant to say about the software trouble. I don't know what modem your provider would supply, but here in Ireland (and the UK as far as I know) all the providers use the Huawei modem. The Windows software/drivers is incredibly buggy. After a few weeks it needs to be uninstalled, reinstalled, during the reinstallation it crashes or can't find the drivers on the integrated flash memory and needs to be tried many times before success. I've tried this on a clean XP reinstall also.

      I've heard that with a l

  • by wazepp ( 1244080 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:42AM (#22512990)
    I had a Verizon broadband card for my laptop here in the US (east coast). My experience was the it was OK (800 kbs) for web access and mail but no much more than that. The bigger problem was once you went indoors the signal quality dropped significantly, to the point it was useless. I was mostly using it indoors when traveling, it was so fustrating I cancelled the account.
  • I have a customer in a rural area with two laptops and no available broadband service. They have two Sprint cards, because it's all they can get.
    The biggest problem, other than performance -- I've seen up to 800Kbps sustained downloads, but the latency kills when surfing -- is that two cards cost twice as much as one card, which is twice as much as Comca$t would charge for broadband [6 Mbps down / 350 Kbps up] if it were available.
  • Traffic (Score:2, Informative)

    The announced traffic on a usb mobile connection here in Portugal looks like (UMTS 256kb.) The devices somehow announce UMTS connections 3.6gb) when there is only gprs. Anyhow measurements through bandwidth measuring services usually show up speeds not faster then 256kb. The companies here get away with it by announcing the speed as 'up to'. So when you complain they just say 'bad luck'. I must add to that that the fixed ADSL does more ore less the same. Most people are even connected below there promised p
  • I have ATT but... (Score:3, Informative)

    by deadmongrel ( 621467 ) * <> on Friday February 22, 2008 @06:59AM (#22513052) Homepage
    I have been using ATT (Baton Rouge) and speeds are much lower than they advertise. surprise! surprise! ATT speeds suck when you on highways or cities where they have just edge service. Verizon on the other hand has better throughput rates but verizon is costlier than ATT($20 something) and they have an "Download Limit". VZ would disconnect you if are a heavy user. I am not sure about sprint but I have heard so many horror stories about their billing practices.

    If you go with ATT you probably have to buy an antennae to boost your signal. You are better off having the cheapest plan for your Cable/DSL service in addition to you mobile broadband card.

  • by splutty ( 43475 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:05AM (#22513084)
    A coulpe of points that you should look into (including the fine print):

    - Is there a data limit on the connection you're looking at (X GB/week, month, anything?).
    - Is there an issue with encrypted traffic (some ISPs/Telcos will throttle or cut encrypted traffic to fight P2P, which will also impede your VPN)
    - Will you have the coverage that you need, and will the coverage also extend to all the rooms in your house?
    - How important is connectivity to you? (For me personally, I need to have at least one place where I can be 100% certain to be able to login through my VPN to my job) Does the roaming wireless fail often, or not? (This also relates to point 3)
    - Assuming you're looking into this for work also, are you allowed to use relatively open wireless networks (I know that I'm not, since I work in the financial world)

    I personally would keep the static line, despite the extra cost, just to have a 'base' to go to when things don't work elsewhere. This also gives me the possibility to log onto my home server and retrieve/store important data through my own VPN.

    Lots of things to think about :)

    On a totally unrelated note: Why do I have 10 (and not 5) moderator points??
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kent_eh ( 543303 )

      I personally would keep the static line, despite the extra cost, just to have a 'base' to go to when things don't work elsewhere. This also gives me the possibility to log onto my home server and retrieve/store important data through my own VPN.

      Lots of things to think about :)

      Here in Canada I would agree, keep the fixed system for at home.
      My cable internet costs about $60/month flat rate. Although they (like most it seems) have mysterious limits to their "unlimited" service, I've never hit it.
      The only HSDPA service here is Rogers/Fido (although for some reason they call it HSPA). The least expensive package I can find from them (using a PCMCIA modem) is $65/month max 1Gig/month (2gig $75, 3gig $85, 5Gig $100, $.03/Mb above that).
      I have tried it out, and it feels speedy enou

  • Your home wireless is a LAN. Your wireless broadband means you're out on the WAN. You'll still want to keep your LAN, so make sure your wireless router still works when not connected to the ISP. (I had a Netgear router that didn't do so well as an access point without WAN connected).

    Next I suspect that your wireless has less bandwidth? If so you could be giving up large file downloads.

    Finally, wireless is always the better technology for portability and convenience, but physical cables are much more reliabl
  • Bandwidth caps... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Mobile broadband in the US and UK are plagued by invisible bandwidth caps on the "unlimited" accounts. This makes mobile broadband difficult to justify especially in this day and age where multimedia-over-internet seems to be the norm. Until the wireless companies employ a more affordable model, it makes no sense for a non-business funded user to subscribe.
  • Depends... (Score:5, Informative)

    by retro128 ( 318602 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:28AM (#22513150)
    It depends on your Internet habits. Do you do peer to peer? Then forget it. Verizon says they have an "unlimited" plan, but they've been known to whack high usage individuals. Sprint is better about that, but large usage does attract their attention. If you are interested in mobile broadband in the US, those are really your only two choices. The GSM providers (AT&T & T-Mobile) just don't have the bandwidth. So if you want speed, you gotta use a CDMA carrier. I can tell you from personal experience that my Sprint card pulls 1.5mbs in a lot of places. However, it should be noted that speed is completely dependent on how far away you are from the tower (taking into account obstructions) and how many people are on. So, if you're far away from the tower and there's a ton of people in the area using it regularly, that's also a good reason not to get mobile broadband.

    The relative price you mentioned of mobile broadband vs cable confuses me. You are either getting colossally ripped off for cable broadband or you are not pricing unlimited plans for your mobile broadband cards. Normally, unlimited plans are around $50/mo. Get it. Trust me. I've got a friend at Sprint who's got stories of peoples' laptops getting trojaned and winding up with a $2000 bill in the mail for bandwidth overage. And I'm assuming that you and your wife are each getting a separate plan.

    Or let's say you've got an excellent signal and ridiculous speeds at your house, are not a warez monkey, and you want to share a single card between you and your wife. Well, you can get a broadband router which takes PCMCIA mobile broadband cards. I picked this Airlink 101 [] at Fry's for $80. It's got an Ethernet switch and is an 802.11b/g access point. Only problem is if one of you goes on a trip and takes the card the other will have to steal the neighbors' WiFi.
    • Cable broadband costs $40/month or so in most places, higher if you get more than their base speed packages. I'm not sure why you'd think that's him getting ripped off when for $10 more (as the poster states) he can get an unlimited plan.

      Other than that you're correct. It's not a good idea for a home based connection unless one has no other choice.
      • I'm saying that because if he gets an unlimited plan for both him and his wife, he's up to $100/mo, assuming $50 for each line. Two cards, two lines, two charges.
        • Ah, good point. I think he was speaking of a single account but they would indeed need two. The other HUGE drawback is not being able to use a LAN at home for printing, etc.

          All in all I can't see why anyone would switch from broadband to mobile wireless.
  • Nope. (Score:3, Informative)

    by darthflo ( 1095225 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:32AM (#22513170)
    To make it quick: I wouldn't recommend the switch.

    I have been using a swiss provider's HSPA network for several months now and am not quite satisfied. The latency is bad (500~2000 ms ping rtt compared to 10-30 ms via ADSL1), availability isn't that great (often I can only get mediocre GPRS/EDGE speeds around 80-150 kbps) and the price's definately higher than a landline.
    On the other hand, when HSPA works, it's great. An RTT of somewhere around 300 ms is possible and a sustained transfer rate of around 1 mbps is realistic (most of the network's 1.8 mbps HSDPA, being upgraded to 3.6; so I expect 2 mbps real bandwidth in the near future). Also, I've got this nice subscription where you pay a monthly flat fee (some 20% of an average 3 mbps landline or 2 GB WWan plan) plus a small fee per day of usage (some 7% of said landline or 2 GB WWan plan). Whenever possible I'll use public WLans and my private VPN server, limiting my WWan use to some 5-10 days per month.
  • Verizon's EVDO (Score:3, Informative)

    by goatbar ( 661399 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:34AM (#22513180) Homepage
    I use Verizon's EVDO and am not very satisfied. I uses two mac laptops (ppc and x86) and suddenly started seeing a ton of kernel panics, where I had got years without trouble. The connection client is really lame. Also lame is the 5GB limit for the "unlimited plan". At least now they will not disconnect you if you hit 5GB in one month. They will "just" limit your througput. I'm out in NH and the service is come and go as with the verizon voice coverage. In San Fran, the coverage and usage was excellent. I used it on trains going through tunnels without trouble. It's annoying to have this adapter hanging off the side of the laptop all the time. Also, once in a while the network flays on "re-registering" and it locks me out of the system for 3-6 hours while the network thinks that I am trying to connect from two machines at the same time. They say that it is only for standard web browsing only. I haven't tried skype, but ssh, irc, and all http(s) all work fine. This sumer, I will also be getting a DSL or Cable link, cause I can't take this much longer as my only connection. Sometimes at my house, I get 3 "bars" and other times I go hours with none. I wish this client would log signal strength so I could see if there is some pattern to the outages. Tech support has been responsive, nice, and more friendly than most. Still, it is easy to run past their knowledge of how the network works. Over all rating: so-so
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2008 @07:37AM (#22513192)
    Disclaimer - I work for a company manufacturing 2G,3G,etc + datacards.

    The most important thing you need to ask yourself is what is the intended use for these cards.
    If you are surfing the net, skyping, watching UTube etc, then the wireless datacards (current generation) offer enough bandwidth to give a very comfortable feeling (comparable with cable).

    If you are a very heavy net user, looking to have max speeds, then maybe you should be thinking about a more dedicated solution.

    As to the actual speeds you will get, this all depends on the carrier and your location. ie 7,2MBps is the current "rated" download speed for the current generation of technology, but that is reduced if you are uploading at the same time. (ie it is approx 7,2Mbps shared for upload/download - NOT really, but it is close enough to make this comparision). Also, the datarate will depend on if the carrier has deployed a network in your area. If not, you will be dialed down to highest rated speed in the area (typically EDGE). Edge is ok for surfing normal pages, but you will get some lag if you are doing large downloads, etc.

    The really nice thing about 2G/3G datacards is the flexibility. No matter where you go, where you are in the world you, once you can get a standard mobile phone connection, you have access to your internet/emails etc. Personally, this is fantastic for people "on the go".

    Other thing to be cautious of - check to see if your service is "per Mbit" or flat fee per month. If you are paying "per Mbit", then you can be big bills if you are not carefull. The "flat fee per month" version is excellent if you can get it.

    Overall, I love these cards, but be carefull of what you sign up for.

  • Hub Magazine [] in Canada has a decent article in this month's edition - The format is kinda nasty (Bitmap for Web viewing - eww) - but the content gives a breakdown of canadian providers. Basically, you are looking at high latency with less than advertised speeds across the board, but you can connect anywhere your cellphone can.
  • Keep the landline (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @08:21AM (#22513350) Journal

    I have a landline ADSL with 1 ISP plus HSDPA cellular broadband with all (3) cellular ISPs that operate here. Cellular broadband is not supposed to replace landline broadband, it is simply for when you are out or whenever the landline isn't working. The latency of cellular access is too high compared to landline, the signal indoors is often poor (but you can use signal boosters), and many times even if one day you have signal after a few days you may find that the signal is gone because tower locations change often and not only that but the connection quality is also dependent on how many people connect near your tower. Not only that, but some cellular ISPs do not give you a real IP, or force you to use their proxy server (easily bypassed though) or even force you to use only their own software (also easily bypassed if you flash the firmware of your router or if you use a free OS such as Debian).

    Thus the perfect solution is to have both. If you can't pay for both, then the answer depends on how many hours of the day you are out. If you stay indoors only when you sleep, then certainly cellular boradband is the answer. But if you do stay indoors more than 3-4 hours of your awake life, then you shouldn't easily cancel the landline.

    • Regarding indoor signal quality, I would like to point out though that except for signal boosters there are also external antennas that you can place out of your home, but in some countries you need a special permit from the government to do that (this also applies to WiFi antennas).
  • what's the security like?

    like say on evdo

    if i open an ftp clear text password, it is natively encrypted by the protocol? or did i just hand everyone my ftp password?
    • by mbone ( 558574 )
      if i open an ftp clear text password, it is natively encrypted by the protocol? or did i just hand everyone my ftp password?

      If you use ftp or telnet, you should assume that everyone has your password, period (unless you do it over a VPN tunnel). Don't trust others to magically do your security for you.

      I use Sprint EVD0, and I assume that it is just as open as the WiFi at Starbucks. But then, I also assume the same about my Cable Modem.
      • i found this:

        How secure is EV-DO?
        Over the years, wireless security has garnered an extremely bad rap--and rightfully so. As the technology developed, a good amount of vulnerabilities and security flaws surfaced.

        802.11b, one of the first Wi-Fi standards to become popular almost six years ago, used the wired equivalent privacy (WEP) protocol. But war drivers and other intruders have been able to hack into wireless LANs--not only because of the flaws in WEP, but also because of the poor implementation of authe

  • by mbone ( 558574 )
    I have Sprint EVD0, and I really like it. (I signed up for the all you can eat service, so I don't have to worry about being nickeled and dimed to death.) It is not as fast as my home (Cable modem) service, but I can routinely get 250 Kbps streaming video, generally get 500 Kbps video, and occasionally get 1 Mbps video. I generally use it in hotels, for example, instead of the typical $ 10 / day hotel Internet charge, and I also use it around the house in places where the WIFI is sketchy.

    Would I give up my
    • by mswope ( 242988 )
      I concur. I have Sprint EVD0 RevA and it works well. I got the all you can eat plan because their breakdown is something like 40Mb per *month* or unlimited. I go over 40Mb everytime I get on line.

      Anyhow, one interesting thing that I've seen is a wired/wireless LAN router that has a card slot for EVD0 PCMCIA broadband cards. It apparently works pretty well, but it's pricey ($~260). []

  • A friend has 3g data, it's useless, he bitched about it constantly
  • Although wireless internet be it WCDMA, GSM, whatever is functional for email, browsing etc for games/VoIP it's total rubbish because ping times are often around 600ms.
  • If all you want is internet access, the mobile broadband sounds nice. But you'll still need in-home connectivity (e.g., wires, lan, etc.) to do some pretty common tasks.
  • My next door neighbor gave up on configuring VISTA on his brand new laptop so he brought it over and asked me to do it. He also had a device about the size of a small cellphone with TWO usb connectors. His laptop has only three USB connectors and he had an optical mouse in the third. The installation of the wireless was straight forward and simple. Insert the CD and run setup.exe. When the installation app tells you to do so, insert the wireless USB connectors. A monitor panel appears. Click the big
  • First off, if you have access to any of the higher speed broadbands (FIOS or even 6/10mbps cable) then performance will clearly be better with the landline broadband.

    That said, I had EvDO via Verizon on my 6700 which I tethered to my laptops. Now performance varied considerably depending on location and quality of service. But at my home was near a highway we had excellent signal quality.

    EvDO Broadband Wireless actually outperformed my DSL connections at times. However, it was not as consistent. I found the
  • Well, I have AT&T. I have an HTC TyTN which is a 3G phone which allows me to "tether" via bluetooth to my Macbook Pro. I must admit that the convenience factor is wonderful. For example, I sat recently on a 4 hour layover at Newark airport. Of course, they have "for charge" wireless which sucks, but I just turned on my Internet sharing, attached to the network from my Mac and I was able to sit there sending and receiving email, chatting with family and friends on IM... all that sort of stuff. However, i
  • probably too late to get a response but I dont understand. Right now I pay $80 for wildblue satellite at 1.5mb speed. Would using my cellphone's wireless be less expensive or better latency wise? i ping at over 1000ms most of the time. Id certainly rather have a wireless i can use anywhere if the speeds are roughly the same im going to have bad latency either way cause cable/dsl dont run out here.
  • I prefer a broadband connection at home and a combination of T-Mobile's hotspot service and free wifi for when I'm out. If you're a T-Mo customer and don't need everywhere connectivity, it's a nice solution. T-Mobile's Hotspot service is available at Starbucks, Borders Books, Kinkos and a lot of Airports for an extra $20/month in the US. They also have roaming agreements in Europe with companies like Vodafone Orange.

    There are also a number of places, like Panera and many public libraries, that have free

  • I didn't get on this article early, so no one will likely see my post, but:

    Family members recently started getting the SprintPCS broadband cards with the external antenna. Their question was "Can we buy just one and have the rest of the computers networked through it?".

    What a headache! The speeds are good, but networking them is a mess. At first, I tried standard procedure. I purchased a Kyocera wirless router that has a EVDO USB / port on it specifically for this purpose. It worked fine - except that
  • by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:52AM (#22515246)
    At some point it and the refridgerator are going to want to be connected to the internet. In all seriousness, between computers and game consoles and directv receivers I have 6+ things that can utilize the internet. And that number is only going to go up.
  • I have a Sprint broadband account. Used it on the train a bunch until I got a car and started driving a lot (when it's rainy, basically) It's pretty fast and zippy. Low latency. Tolerable speed.

    Beware the terms of service. I have an 'unlimited' account. By Unlimited, they mean Unlimited Web Browsing and Email. Anything else is theoretically Not Allowed. Streaming music, fancy downloads, things like that: no. How do they detect not-web-browsing activity? Well, they figure that if you use more than 5GB of da

  • Is it possible to use a mobile phone to dial in to a dialup number I can use with a regular modem? My university has free dialup access and my mobile phone operator gives me unlimited minutes on evenings and weekends. I don't want to spend the extra money on a data plan, but I would like to have internet access on the go. I've tried to set this up with the phone I currently have, but it doesn't work.

    I suspect that it could be some sort of locked feature. I would purchase a new phone if it meant this would w
  • As far as I can tell, your cost analysis is flawed. You said "you and your wife" - so you will need two cards, two subscriptions. This will cost you more than $10 over the DSL connection which is shared by BOTH of you. This will cost you double (plus an extra $20).

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.