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Summary:

Sure it’s not safe to surf the web and drive a vehicle in the first place, but I’ve actually been productive with wireless broadband as a passenger in the car. Terry Retter from InfoWord tested the same situation with WiMAX and… well, let’s just say “under […]

ClearwireSure it’s not safe to surf the web and drive a vehicle in the first place, but I’ve actually been productive with wireless broadband as a passenger in the car. Terry Retter from InfoWord tested the same situation with WiMAX and… well, let’s just say “under construction” might be a sign of the times. Terry tested the service in Reno, Nevada for about a month and it worked reasonably well as a primary home office Internet connection. Downloads were between 1.5- and 2.0-megabits per second, which are pretty comparable to the EV-DO speeds I get in my home. I usually see uploads around 500 kbps, but Terry only averaged around 300. Bear in mind that signal strength and other factors will heavily influence network performance.The service really crashed and burned when moving; Terry tested it in his car and found it unusable. This is interesting since we saw vehicles at CES in January to show off WiMAX on the move. He simply couldn’t maintain a connection in a moving vehicle, even when in coverage areas. I’m still not sold on the service, even though the pricing is better than what I’m paying today. If coverage were available in my area, I’d be hard pressed to change my wireless broadband provider: I need to have confidence that the service is going to work without fail and I can’t be running around only to find out the connection I thought I had isn’t available. Thoughts?

  1. We’ll be at the WiMax event in Baltimore and I’m reserving judgement until I can hear more from the Sprint folks and actually test it out myself.

    http://phandroid.com/2008/09/30/wimaxxohm-in-baltimore-were-there/

    One thing is for sure… it will be hard to do worse than AT&T’s 3G launch.

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  2. I’ll see you there and will likely have the same questions. My hope is that we get to use the service for a bit and if so, I’ll gladly take a Sprint rep in my car so we can test the mobile aspect.

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  3. > I’d be hard pressed to change my wireless
    > broadband provider: I need to have
    > confidence that the service is going to
    > work without fail

    Sheesh. Whatever happened to being an early adopter, Kevin? Did you approach your cloud experiment with the same requirement in mind? ;)

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  4. Oliver, there’s nothing for me to “adopt” just yet. I don’t live or work in Baltimore. :) When the Philadelphia area gets rolled out soon, I’ll check coverage for sure. Not for my home (I’m going with much faster FiOS there) but for mobile use. The key will be how far does the coverage extend as most of my jaunts are 20 miles outside the Philadelphia city limits.

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  5. Yikes. Services where I can’t guarantee access are next to useless — it’s like carrying a cell phone that only works locally (I’m looking at you, MetroPCS).

    My Verizon broadband works almost everywhere. It might be expensive, but knowing I won’t have an “oh sorry I can’t get access now” moment when trying to work is worth every penny.

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  6. Weylund — do you recall how long it took Verizon to build out that broadband network? Or just look at AT&T’s 3G map today — I am in Silicon Valley and often only get Edge. It seems a bit too early to criticize Sprint for lack of network coverage when the whole thing hasn’t even been launched yet.

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  7. There are so many variables about the test that we don’t know. Since the modem will no doubt use system resources, I would be willing to bet that the more robust your system resources, the better it will do.

    Anybody remember software-based modems? They always did worse than hardware-based ones, especially on resource slim PCs.

    Woadan

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  8. Hey Oliver. Nope, I don’t recall, and I don’t particularly care. There’s no way I’m buying hardware / subscriptions for a network that can’t practically guarantee me uptime. I’ll criticize Sprint via not buying it until they can do so.

    Also, the “couldn’t maintain a connection in a moving vehicle, even when in coverage areas” thing points to issues that don’t necessarily have to do with coverage, eh?

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  9. Kevin,

    InfoWorld didn’t perform a WiMAX drive-test. Terry’s article says he used the current Clearwire PC Card service that’s available in all of the Clearwire markets using Motorola’s proprietary Expedience radios. The service is for portable applications; no roaming. I suspect the integrated antenna on the PC Card also has lower gain that the desktop modem equivalent. There are numerous drive tests of the desktop modem in vehicles online demonstrating it does work at vehicle speeds (try THAT with your cable or DSL modem!)

    The first WiMAX (802.16e-2005) markets for Clearwire will be Portland OR, Las Vegas NV, Atlanta GA, and Grand Rapids MI. The company has stated that it plans to have Portland launched as its first commercial market by the end of the year (my bet is a 31 December press release and a couple weeks of ceremonies and getting first products out to customers).

    The Clearwire cities are all using Motorola radios at 2.5 GHz and the USB stick radio that Motorola just announced is likely to be the main PC interface, though any WiMAX Forum Certified product for that band should work.

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