Earlier this week I kicked off my quest to find Verizon’s upgraded EV-DO Rev A service in Houston. In order to do that I first had to get my hands on the Sierra Wireless AirCard 595 (AC595) modem that Verizon began offering last month that is EV-DO Rev A enabled. As I detailed a few days ago I visited a Verizon store and ordered the AC595 and it finally arrived late yesterday via FedEx. Actually, there was no one at home in the afternoon when FedEx tried to deliver it and since Verizon shipped it with a signature required (I hate that) I had to make a late run to the FedEx depot to pick it up. Because of the late reception I didn’t get a chance to install the card and try it out until very late last night.
The AC595 hardware comes with a nice durable plastic case to protect the modem while carrying it around, something I am happy to see. I have always worried about damaging my old modem and I intend to use this case all the time. The modem slides in and out of the clear plastic case easily:
The installation process is a two part process, first you have to call Verizon and get the service activated (even though I already had service with my old modem) and then install the software. The VZ Access program installation is very straightforward and the modem drivers are installed during the process. Once everything is installed and the AC595 is inserted into the PC Card slot the software goes online and activates the hardware, which only takes about 5 seconds. The installation of the software immediately upgraded the modem’s firmware and when done informed me that Rev A had been enabled:
The AC595 card is much like the old Verizon PC Card modems with some notable exceptions. The antenna module is bigger and sticks out of the PC a good inch, probably to get better reception for the higher speeds of EV-DO Rev A. There are two LEDs that run the entire width of the antenna that serve as indicators, they are blue when connected to the network for example. They also flash during data transfer, which might make it more difficult to connect clandestinely during meetings, I’ll have to see how distracting they are next week.
The new VZ Access software is familiar to anyone who has been using the last version except it now proudly indicates when you are connected to the BroadBandAccess (EV-DO) network:
I figured it probably indicates Rev A even if it’s operating under the older Rev 0 network so I promptly went online to see for myself if Rev A is in fact turned on in Houston. Bear in mind that the Verizon rep told me emphatically that Rev A has not been switched on in Houston so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am happy to report I am certain it is in fact online in Houston based on what I have experienced in the short time I’ve been using it.
My house has an apparent Verizon “cone of silence” covering it as both cell phone and EV-DO signal strength has always been abysmal. I have never gotten more than one bar of signal on my old EV-DO modem and I was not surprised to see no bars when I first fired up the AC595 last night. To put things in perspective, on my old modem if I had no bars of signal strength I would either not be able to connect to the BroadbandAccess network at all (dropping down to the NationalAccess instead) or get a very slow EV-DO connection. I have never experienced higher speeds than 115 kbps in this house on my old modem. Imagine my delight when I found these speeds with 0 BARS of signal:
Yowza! I rocked at equivalent speeds all night long until I called it a night. This morning when I fired it up again I found the rare situation of have ONE WHOLE BAR of signal strength and this is what I am getting:
This is roughly the equivalent of the fastest speeds I’ve ever gotten with my old modem under EV-DO Rev 0 with 4 full bars of signal strength, so I am certain that Rev A is indeed active in Houston, at least where I am. To experience broadband speed with just a single bar of signal strength portends of great things to come! As anyone using cellular data plans can attest, signal strength is directly proportional to bandwidth so you can understand if I am little excited by this. I’m going to try testing the system in various places later today, if the rains let up and I can take the show on the road. While it might not be totally proportional, I can’t wait to see how fast this baby is with full signal strength.