Working With the Sprint Overdrive 4G

41 Comments

I am working away in the local coffee shop but not partaking of the Wi-Fi, at least not the store’s. I brought my own Wi-Fi in the shape of the little Sprint (s s) Overdrive 3G/4G modem. I have been evaluating the Overdrive for a few days and this morning I did something crazy — I went to a Sprint store and bought one. I never could get the evaluation unit to connect to the Sprint 4G network near me, and reached the point I was confident the unit was defective. So I got my own to replace my Verizon (s vz) MiFi and its measly 3G connectivity.

I have been on the Sprint 4G network for all of two hours and it is as good as I thought it would be. The speed with my MacBook is outstanding, I am seeing around 3 Mbps downloads and almost 1 Mbps uploads. This speed is being served to both my MacBook and my iPad (s aapl) over the Overdrive’s Wi-Fi routing capability, and with one exception it is working great.

I can tell that working on a laptop over 4G is almost as good as my high-speed connection at home. Once connected things pop, and it doesn’t feel like a mobile solution at all. It is game changing, frankly.

The Overdrive is configurable using any web browser over the internal Wi-Fi connection. I am going to experiment with this configuration as I am seeing a problem with the iPad maintaining a connection to the modem for very long. I have seen others reporting this problem online, and my gut feeling is it is due to the Overdrive handling multiple Wi-Fi protocols. By default it auto-switches between 802.11 b and g (no draft-n, unfortunately), and my gut tells me this switching is what is giving the iPad problems staying connected. I am going to force the Overdrive to work in 802.11g only and see how that works.

The Overdrive automatically connects to the Sprint 4G network when it is detected, and drops down to the 3G (EVDO) network when 4G is not available. This makes it a total replacement for the MiFi, with the additional benefit of 4G. Throw in the unlimited data on 4G and it is a no-brainer.

Right this moment I have my MacBook, iPad and iPhone 3G all connected to Sprint 4G using the Overdrive, and life is good. I love mobile tech.

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41 Comments

Phil

I have had lots of issues with the Overdrive. Random disconnects / lockups during casual use. Constant lockups during heavier loads. I couldn’t download a 500 MB software package because of the disconnects.

I have had it to sprint 3 times, and every time they say “We have never heard of this before.” Come on, Sprint’s own website has hundreds of people with the same issues. Some are on their 5th or 6th Overdrive. Sprint replaced my unit. Same issues with the new one. I get two to 4 bars signal on 4 G.

I have never seen the unit shift up to 4G. It appears to be a one way trip when it goes to 3-G. If 3G is 4 bars and 4G is 3 bars, it seems to shift to 3G and stay even though the 4G would work fine (unless you lock it on 4G only).

BN

Scott,

I have an unlimited 3G card w/ Sprint, and live in Chicago, I heard alot of people when they switch to 4G, lose the unlimited 3G and get a 5G cap. Do you know of anyway to be “grandfathered in” or pay extra for unlimited on both?” I heard for $10 more you can get unlimited 3/4G, I called Sprint, they heard of it too, but didnt have it as an option on their system. The Sprint rep said, he didnt think they would offer it as then 5 people could share 3G, I asked him, how that was any different than 5 people sharing unlimited 4G, and he said, hmmm good question.

Any ideas as unlimited 3G/4G would be great.

Mike Cane

The Overdrive automatically connects to the Sprint 4G network when it is detected, and drops down to the 3G (EVDO) network when 4G is not available. This makes it a total replacement for the MiFi, with the additional benefit of 4G. Throw in the unlimited data on 4G and it is a no-brainer.

Yeah, but the unlimited is only the the 4G. So what happens if you wind up hitting the 3G GB/mo cap and are in a place where you can’t get 4G? Wind up with additional charges?

And will most people even pay attention to whether they’re online with 3 or 4 G?

Chris Fourie

I’ve been using the MiFi (Vodafone unfortunately since this is the cheapest and fastest way I could get one) with a 2GB Vodacom contract (South African service provider under Vodafone). The speed on the Vodacom network is acclaimed to be 7.2Mbps dl and 3.6Mbps ul. I actually got a blazing 5.05 on dl the other day in Stellenbosch. This service rubbishes my home ADSL (which btw is the fastest available line commercially) at 4Mbps (theoretically, more like 3.6Mbps). The only downside to this 7.2Mbps networks seems to be the fact that the network comes in two flavours HSDPA and HSUPA – so you either have super fast download and average upload (5.05Mbps/0.5Mbps) or fast upload and average download (1Mbps/1Mbps) The speeds seem faster than the 4G network you are describing.

Tim

Congratulations to the new speeds.

I live in Germany and I don’t get why Sprint is rolling out a completely new network to achieve speeds of 3-6 Mbps.

I’ve done speedtests with my Palm Pre on O2 3G at one of the busiest places around (Hamburg central station) and I got 5.5 Mbps at 7 pm.

There are tests in Munich with speeds of up to 28 Mbps and T-Mobile Germany will bump them up to 42 Mbps in big cities this year.

This is all achieved with HSPA without any kind of new infrastructure.

The US carriers complain all the time about their limited spectrum, but why doesn’t AT&T for example just upgrade their HSPA network to 42Mbps, no new spectrum needed.

All-in-all I think it’s way too early for LTE or Wimax, it will cost billions to roll out and a lot of new spectrum is needed, although theoretical speeds of up to 50 Mbps work just fine with HSPA. And as far as I know T-Mobile and AT&T are at 1.5 Mbps at the moment. 48.5 to go…

Christopher

I believe the reason for switching from 3G to 4G is capacity. They can see that as more people make the switch to smartphone and mobile hotspot devices, they need to be able to accommodate more users at a lower cost. Speed, while definitely an important part of the equation doesn’t mean anything if ALL your customers can’t get service due to capacity overload.

Another thing is that in the States, home internet speeds served by some of fastest ISP’s using fiber optics are hovering around 35 Mbps at the moment with most cable modem speeds around 10-15 Mbps and DSL in the 1-5 Mbps range so having 3-6 Mbps while outside of the home is fast enough for most people.

Tim

OK, but why do European and Japanese carriers use HSPA and are able to provide fast and reliable data? Why is this such a big problem for AT&T and T-Mobile USA (I don’t know details about maximum speeds on EVDO, so in these posts I just concentrate on the GSM carriers)?

Obviously the USA are a much bigger country, but most of the problems occur in big cities, in which service overseas works just fine (with very little exceptions like O2 in London).

At the moment the limiting factor in Europe are the handsets, which only support 7.2 HSPA, although the networks are capable of handling higher speeds.

And if Sprint’s EVDO isn’t further upgradeble, why do they spend billions building a “4G” network, which currently only handles decent 3G speeds?

If you couldn’t tell by now, I just don’t get it.

Doug

Spectrum, it is all about Spectrum. Sprint owns 57% of Clear and Clear is a spin off of Sprint. The reason is the Spectrum. The who merger between Sprint and Nextel had to do with this Spectrum. The Spectrum that 4G runs on is 96% owned by Sprint. So therefore we can handle all the traffic we want with no cap. That is where AT&T and Verizon are missing the mark. Verizon is launching LTE but the Spectrum in comparision to Sprint would be like a 2 land Gravel Road vs. a 40 Super Highway. They won’t be able to compete.

HG

Now that you have the Sprint overdrive you can really access your computers at home with LogMeIn much better I bet. I am in my 8th day with Verizon MiFi. To bad Sprint doesn’t have 4G in California. James keep us posted on your 4G/3G adventures. I was using the CradlePoint router with my Storm, but decided to get the MiFi solution. :)

Matt

I had the connection problems on my overdrive to my iPad and found a fix on another site that seems to have worked. Try setting the overdrive to G only rather than the default B and G and also set the security to WPA from the default of wep 64 bit. The 2 changes combined really seemed to stabilize things for me.

Dave

Thanks for the great article. I’m seriously considering canceling my Verizon line when Sprint’s 4g finally hits Southern California. 60 bucks for unlimited 4g and 5gb 3g is a really sweet deal.

SU

I am surprised your speeds are that slow.. I typically average almost double sometimes triple those speeds in Maryland

Joey

Where have you tested in MD? I’ve only seen 1Mbps at best on their 4G network, that’s on a good day. :(. I’ve done 4G speed tests in Rockville, MD and Arlington, VA. Curious to know what your signal strength averages at too, I haven’t seen anything above 40% with 4G.

Ivan Samuels

Can you comment on the length of time it takes to boot the Overdrive as compared to your Mifi?

mobile.fernandez

When the Overdrive up or downshifts between 3G and 4G, does it indicate it?

Do you lose your IP address when this happens? In other words, when you’re streaming data, does it stop and have to re-establish an IP or is it seamless?

James Kendrick

Yes it clearly indicates what network it is connected to. I don’t think switching is seamless. I can’t see why it would switch between 4G and 3G in the same spot, and I haven’t used it moving.

Double_K

3Mbps down doesn’t seem that good to me for 4g. I currently have the Verizon MiFi and consistently get about 2.5Mb down and 700-1Mb up. I’ve heard that if you are not right on top of a 4g tower the Overdrive speeds drop drastically. If it’s an improvement for you that great, but for the extra fees I don’t think I’d be too happy. Thanks for the write-up.

James Kendrick

The Sprint 4G fee is the same as the Verizon 3G fee ($60/month). The 4G is truly unlimited, the 3G is the same 5 GB cap as Verizon, and Sprint even throws in 250 MB/ month of roaming on the Verizon 3G network when needed. Not anything extra at all.

Your Verizon MiFi speeds are excellent. I’ve never gotten that good consistently.

david maki

I am running a 3g att air card and over max my 5000 gb every month this past month an extra 174.00 has been added to my bill. I checked with clear 4g and they dont service my area. Is that the same with sprint 4g only serving certain areas? Iam 20 minutes from down town dallas tx. and verision land line is our only option for landlines.
my att 3g is sooo slow most of the time, it frequently shuts off, geek squad checked my puter, att store never would fix the problem.Is there a solution

Double_K

Oh, I thought the 4G was more expensive and also had the same 5 GB cap…good to know!

Luscious

Perhaps I’m missing something, but 3 down 1 up does not seem indicative of 4G speeds at all. Doesn’t HSDPA offer faster 7 down 2 up speeds? What kind of speeds are you getting on 3G James?

Curoius, since I’m looking to tether a HSDPA device for mobile use.

James Kendrick

My 3G connectivity has always been about 1 down and .5 up. That’s with both Verizon and Sprint. HSDPA does spec faster, but real world is always around half any quoted speeds in my experience. My quoted speeds are always real world speeds that I have gotten consistently.

Dennisvjames

James Kudos to you…you continue to be one of my mobile heroes. While a lot of other blogs merely rephrase the press release, you actually use this darn stuff. And usually while everyone else is still trying to open up the box!!!

:-)

Keep up the good work.

Scott

I’ve been having a similar problem getting my iPad to stay connected to my MiFi (which provides all of my home Internet access). Please keep us posted on whether your forced-g tactic works!

James Kendrick

Interestingly, I’ve been using my iPad with my MiFi without trouble since getting the iPad. It’s only with the Overdrive that I started seeing this problem.

Wayne

Check to see if you the latest firmware rev. I had a similar problem. Once I upgraded the firmware, the problem disappeared. I believe the most current Wi-Fi Firmware rev is 01.07.00.

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