Using a 3G modem with your laptop

Not long ago I blogged about getting a Sprint Novatel USB EVDO rev A modem for my laptop. I have a Toshiba M4 running Vista (it has 2Gb RAM and it flies).

My first concern was software compatibility with Vista. Before installing anything that came with the modem I went to the Sprint Download site to get the latest drivers. After installing them I popped the USB modem and a few seconds later I was online. This is the bottom line - the EVDO modem has been a godsend. I have saved money on hotel internet access, saved time as I don't have to spend time finding WiFi hotspots and been more productive.

Economics - I attended CTIA in Orlando. The Marriott hotel charged $16 per night for hish-speed internet access in my room, and the WiFi signal was so poor I could only work by using the ethernet cable which meant I had to be sitting in the desk. $16 times 4 nights is $64 bucks - and this for service I would only use for an hor or two and only avaialble when sitting in the desk. With the 3G modem I coud work on the desk, on the terrace overlooking the pool, at the pool, in the bus, at the convention center, at the airtport - you get the idea. If you spend more than two days on the road, a 3G modem is a no-brainer.

Coverage - I had full coverage in Orlando. This week I used it in Portland and it worked great in Tualatin, Oregon. I have yet to find a dead spot. In Phoenix, at a hotel in the middle of the dessert, I did not have EVDO coverage - but I had 1x RTT: not as fast, but it worked. I remember one particular day at Chicago O'hare where I was walking though the terminal trying to find a spot where the WiFi signal was good enough. Looking back it was comical that I was moving my laptop around looking for coverage just like in the old days when people moved the TV bunny-ear antennas. Now at the airport, I fire up my laptop, and in two seconds I am online. I don't care if th airport has free WiFi, T-Mobile HottSpot, AT&T Hot Spot, Wayport, etc. 

Speed - According to Sprint, download speeds should be between 450 and 800kbps and upload speeds in the range of 300-400kbps. Rev A. really makes a difference in upload as it is roughly 10x what "non Rev A" EVDO offered. At the hotel, I opened my laptop, Outlook was syncing, Windows Live Mail was sycing (I use the desktop client and love it), Microsoft Office Communicator signed-in, I opened two or three browser widows to read the latest about the BlackBerry outage and the speed was great. The experience is almost the same as if I were using WiFi. Sometimes you have to wait a second or two for a page to load and if you have a lot of email to sync it could take a minute or two, especially if you are downloading large attachments, but in general the speed was more than enough for me.

Convenience - This is the future. Remember when WiFi cards were optional? Today there are about 45 laptops in themarket from Dell, HP, Lenovo and others with built-in 3G radios that work with Verizon, Sprint or Cingular. USB and PCMCIA cards are available for all three too. This is the future. I opted for the USB model because I need the PCMCIA slot to use my SMartCard for authentication when I need to VPN to corpnet. If you are buying a laptop, think about one with integrated 3G connectivity. The USB modem is a bit big, but it fits in my pocket or my laptop bag and using the included USB cable makes the size irrelevant. Take a look at this pic of the modem next to my T-Mobile Dash and CIngular 8525:

By the way, while I was down in Oregon I took some good shots - Cannon beach is simply amazing. Take a look on my Flick album

Comments (3)
  1. MSDN Archive says:

    Those are wonderful photographs of Oregon – you didn’t take those on a camera phone! 🙂

  2. GerardoDada says:

    1. ReadyBoost – if you upgraded to Vista, you can add a USB flashdrive or an SD Card to speed up your

  3. Paul Bird says:


    I use a 3g modem with great success on my Visat laptop.

    However when trying to use it on my wife’s XP laptop (an EeePC) it provides good internet access and receives wonderfully from blueyonder via windows live mail but WON’T SEND.

    I’ve tried the standard outgoing server requires authentication etc but don’t get anywhere.

    the error message is 0x800CCC0B

    Any ideas please

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