Don’t let this happen to you with a 3G WWAN choice

DohOK, I blew it. It doesn’t make me feel better by admitting the mistake, but at least now I can move towards the solution. See, I violated one of the cardinal rules in mobile technology and now I’m going to pay the price. $175 to be exact, because that’s the ETF or Early Termination Fee on my AT&T DataConnect plan. It wasn’t that long ago that I purchased the AirCard 875U HSDPA modem for my devices. Going USB was an excellent choice as I’ve used the modem on five mobile devices and three distinct operating systems: Windows Vista, Mac OS X and Xandros Linux. So what was the rule I broke? I didn’t fully analyze the three biggest factors when making my latest 3G decision: location, location, location.

When I researched my 3G choices, I spent so much time focusing on what form factor the modem card would be that I didn’t invest enough time on where I’d be using the service. I didn’t totally neglect it, but I only gave it a cursory interest. I’m finding out now that I’m out and about much more than I was a few months ago and most of the places I’m working in are not within an AT&T HSDPA coverage area, so my modem falls back to EDGE connectivity. In a best case scenario, I’m seeing around 200 kbps on the downside which is fine for my e-mail and blog content creation, but abysmal for much else. While I can nose around in hundreds of feeds pretty quickly, I often hit the source websites for reader comments and additional info; that’s where it really hurts.In fairness, when I did check coverage maps of various service providers, I thought I’d be in 3G areas more often than not. Three things changed over the past few months: the places I’m going, a key pricing attribute and the coverage maps themselves. In particular, I see that Verizon practically blankets the eastern half of Pennsylvania (shown in blue below); something their maps didn’t reflect when I made my decision to use AT&T.VerizonbroadbandaccesscoverageAdditionally, part of my rationale to move to AT&T for data was because our voice plans are with AT&T; previously they were with Verizon Wireless. Traditionally, a data plan could cost you up to $20 more per month if you didn’t have a corresponding voice plan with the same carrier, so it made sense to keep everything together. I now see that Verizon doesn’t require a voice plan; their Broadband Access plan is $59.99 whether you have a voice plan with them or not.This hits the blogger-on-a-budget pretty hard, but based on my work habits, new coverage maps and no need for a supplemental voice plan, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be canceling my young AT&T DataConnect plan shortly. I hate to pay $175 for a mistake, but it serves as a good example of being careful when making your 3G decisions and I know I’ll be more productive in the long run. Before anyone asks, I’m likely to go with either the USB720 or USB727 modem offered by VZW because both support EV-DO Rev. A and I don’t regret the choice of USB for my modem form factor. At least I got one part right. ;)