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Summary:

The Palm Mobile Hotspot feature can be a boon to the mobile worker if connection speeds are good. While my initial testing showed slow speeds, further testing has determined the cause is not the Palm technology. Read the post and help me with a fix.

CIMG1971

I’ve been testing the upgraded Verizon Pre Plus and Pixi Plus for about a week now, and feel that Palm did a good job with them, even if they were evolutionary refreshes, not revolutionary ones. The new feature I was especially anxious to test was the Mobile Hotspot capability, which allows up to five devices to use a phone’s 3G connection over Wi-Fi. Mobile Hotspot turns the phones into a MiFi in function, and the Verizon monthly fee for the service is $40 as opposed to $60 for the MiFi. The initial testing I conducted of the Mobile Hotspot connection speed was disappointing, but I was able to test the feature on my recent trip to San Francisco and am happy to report it worked well.

I consistently saw good bandwidth in San Francisco using the Mobile Hotspot with my MacBook over Wi-Fi. I had connections with download speeds over 2 Mbps, and good upload speeds as well. This is more in line with the speeds I see with the MiFi, and is the way the technology should work. While I am happy to report that the Mobile Hotspot works as advertised, it is not clear why my initial testing compared so unfavorably with the MiFi speeds.

My analysis of the poor initial results and the good speeds observed on my trip pointed out two factors that differed in the two testing regimes. The initial testing I conducted was using an evaluation ThinkPad x200 to connect to the Palm phones using the Mobile Hotspot, at various locations in Houston. That testing showed consistently poor connection speeds when compared to the MiFi results in the same locations. While location is always a big factor in 3G connection speeds, since the MiFi always produced much faster speeds at the same locations, the conclusion I reached was the Mobile Hotspot as implemented on the Palm phones was not performing well.

Seeing markedly faster results in San Francisco, I wondered if the Verizon network was much faster there than in Houston. But, even if that is the case, it still wouldn’t explain why the MiFi works properly in both cities. That led me to think about the equipment being used for the testing in both cities, which varied. In SF I was using the MacBook with the Palm phones since that’s the computer that I carried on the trip. So this morning I repeated my testing in Houston using the MacBook instead of the ThinkPad, and much to my surprise I got consistently fast connection speeds just like in San Francisco.

That left me with the conclusion that the Mobile Hotspot connection was not working well with the ThinkPad x200, and further testing has confirmed it. The x200 is running Microsoft Windows 7, and all of the WLAN settings are standard. There is no reason I can fathom why the ThinkPad is choking the Mobile Hotspot connections, but that is exactly what is occurring. I would love to hear from experts in Wi-Fi connections how this could possibly happen? All of my other Wi-Fi connections work properly on the x200, it’s just the Mobile Hotspot connections throttle down to a crawl. The x200 sees the Mobile Hotspot as a standard Wi-Fi hotspot, it doesn’t even realize 3G is in the picture so that shouldn’t be a factor. Leave a comment if you have an idea what is happening and how I can fix it.

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  1. Good detective work, boss.

  2. Try setting the x200 wireless on just BG and not on AGN

    1. James Kendrick Bob Monday, February 8, 2010

      Good suggestion but unfortunately makes no difference.

  3. turn.self.off Monday, February 8, 2010

    could it be higher level? could it be the tcp/ip protocol settings?

    i recall back in the modem days that there where suggestions around tweaking some values as the default windows values at the time assumed a 10Mb ethernet connection.

  4. Kevin C. Tofel Monday, February 8, 2010

    Are you using Windows to manage the laptop wireless connection or Lenovo’s custom software? While that shouldn’t matter, it might.

    1. I thought about that and am trying to find a way to disable the Lenovo Connection Manager without deleting it. They ingrain these utilities deeply into the OS and it’s a pretty nice utility on its own merits.

  5. James, can you boot the x200 using something like a Ubunutu Live CD and see how that works? If it works OK that would seem to point to a software issue (either Win7, a driver or a TP utility).

  6. I’m having problems with the Palm Pre dropping internet connection every two minutes or so. It’s maddening.
    I am using a brand-new Thinkpad T410 which has no problem with other wifi connections. Anybody has any further info, please post it. It sounds like a Thinkpad issue, doesn’t it?

  7. I have the same issue. The hotspot works great for other computers, but not for my x200. Interestingly enough, it works fine with my wife’s x200 which is about 6 months older than mine. I don’t know what it is. I hope someone can figure this out.

    It does get great speed if tethering over usb though – it’s just the wifi that’s slow.

  8. I was able to fix mine (T410) almost all the time now. It appears (no real scientific testing involved, just my impression) that the Thinkvantage detects the wifi but the Intel has to make the connection. If I set up a profile on the Thinkvantage, the thing holds a connection. If I set up a profile on Windows, the two conflict and drop the connection. So I have it set up on Thinkvantage and when I get the little window telling me that Intel wants to sych up a profile, I okay that as well. But if I set up the profile on Intel manually, the two programs fight and disconnect me.
    Does any of this make sense? Of course not. But it does seem to work most of the time.

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