Blog Post

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. ;)

10 Responses to “Don’t let this happen to you with a 3G WWAN choice”

  1. EVDOInfo

    I’m tired of this BS!!! You can get the PHS300 ANYWHERE, including Ebay for $20 LESS than is the king of spin in the wireless world….

  2. Thanks orbitalcomp, but I’ve got an iPhone and unlocked T-Mobile Dash so I don’t want a Verizon phone right now. I used to take a similar approach to what you suggested when I had the XV6700 on VZW. That was my EV-DO modem for well over a year! :) The WMWiFiRouter could be a nice alternative to folks that want to share their connection without purchasing additional hardware like a cellular router though. Sweet!

  3. orbitalcomp

    Hey Kevin…here’s another idea, and it actually gives you the most flexibility. If you’re set on Verizon, pick up one of the new XV6800 (HTC Titan) phones and install WMWiFiRouter on it.

    I just installed this the other day on my Sprint Mogul (same phone), and it turns any WM6 device into a mobile router by supplying a wireless ad-hoc network. It’s much easier and faster than tethering thru Bluetooth, and more devices have 802.11 anyways.

    Check out that link and there is a link on that page to a thread at xda-developers that tells all about the process. It literally took me 5 minutes to get up and running!

  4. Since you’re looking into the U720 or U727, you’ll be ok just in case you want to grab a cradlepoint router since those modems are compatible with it.
    I personally love my Novatel U727 (Sprint) & Cradlepoint. It’s so handy since it’s plug & play and tiny.

  5. All good suggestions, but I did my homework this time around. ;) Sprint is a no-go for me as I routinely hit the Poconos up north of my home; Sprint doesn’t over EV-DO coverage there while VZW does. I’m not interested in a 3G hardware router as it’s not worth the expense for my needs. It’s fairly routine to share a web connection through a PC or Mac if I need to and it’s quite rare I’d need to do that (if at all). The EV-DO cards seem to be working fine natively on the Eee PC from what I’ve read on the Eee user forums as well. Looks like VZW will meet my needs the best at this point; thanks!

  6. Or you might try Sprint through And check out a Cradlepoint router while you’re at it (plug in and now battery operated coming very soon).

    I live in Newtown, PA outside of Philly and love my new Sprint EVDO – I had Verizon previously and while that was fine, too, I was always afraid of their “limited unlimited” plan. Great coverage for me, too.

    Check out their EVDOforums for all kinds of info.

    I have Sierra 595u attached to a Cradlepoint 350. I got the 350 before this new battery job, so I have this setup in my car with an adapter but I am basically a mobile wifi unit now!

    Another advantage for you will be easy use between your machines. No need to try to set up via Linux on your Xandros machine (eee I presume?).

  7. Before you go with VZW, try out Millenicom. They resell Sprint service. That means that you don’t get the “limited unlimited” service of VZW’s data plans, and you actually get to pay $10 less per month, and pay no taxes, and NO contracts. I don’t have any pressing need for the service, so I don’t have any mobile broadband, but the reviews I have read online of the service are very positive. This of course assumes that Sprint serves your area, which it probably does.