This afternoon purchased an EVDO modem so I could work out any bugs and have it in action before heading out to TR5. I have been researching these devices for months now and thinking about whether it would be a worthwhile investment.  My upcoming trip will be a good opportunity to test the connection and hopefully save on hotel/airport wireless plus any time a convention hall is flooded by 2-3,000 Microsoft techies the wireless seems to go haywire. Not surprising really, these are the most active users of bandwidth found anywhere.

I decided on the Verizon USB720.

In terms of relative size, it is the same length and width as the remote control for the Zune dock, but about twice as thick.  That's pretty large in my opinion but considering this will go in my backpack not my pocket I am not too concerned...

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This is a device that plugs in via USB rather than PCMCIA or PC Express. I chose this after doing a lot of reading on evdo forums and blogs to see what others have found. The upsides to going USB are –

  • Does not contribute to your laptop’s heat
  • PC cards are not really a universally adopted device (even among my work laptops I have a mix of PC and PC Express) while everything has USB
  • You can tether the USB modem to move it away from your laptop if you are getting radio interference or if you need to position the modem closer to a window without maneuvering your whole workspace
  • Note - for today's EVDO speeds, comparisons of interface performance are moot

Next logical question – if you are going to tether a modem, why not just use your handset?

  • You can’t talk on the phone while your phone is acting as a modem, this has already caused issues for me a few times
  • There are no phones on the market that support EVDO Rev A which is considerably faster than EVDO Rev 0; Rev A is capable of 3.1 Mbps

Several others on my team have tried EVDO modems.  I have had the same experience as they have all reported - I couldn’t be happier with the results. The connection is fast and seems to be holding a connection.  I spent about an hour figuring out a few caveats.

  • The connection tends to drop frequently if it is attempting to connect while my wifi is already connected
    • To combat this the Verizon Wireless Manager has an option to only connect when wifi is not able to
  • Performance is much better tethered than connected directly to my USB port
    • May be due to interference with my speakers which are near the USB ports, or it could be an effect of the tether itself which uses two USB ports instead of one so there is more power to the device
  • The connection does seem to be better with the antennae up

 
Some things I was worried about that ended up not being an issue at all.
  • The Verizon Wireless Manager software so far has not caused performance issues on my machine or disrupted other network connections
  • There are drivers from Verizon on the CD that support Vista Enterprise x64
  • I did not have to finagle a lot of connection strings or account settings to get the service going
  • No buzzing in my laptop speakers

So to summarize, this device is providing a lightening fast connection and is working perfectly.

Last and least, now I am tempted to purchase an EVDO router such as the device from DLink or Kyocera.  It would be insanely handy to have one of these during a spur of the moment meeting!

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