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Kyocera made a very early announcement about a new cell router, the KR2: The new model, no pricing announced, will ship in early 2008, and features 802.11n, and support for EVDO Rev. 0 and Rev. A through a PC Card, ExpressCard, or USB cell modem. No existing cell router offers 802.11n for wireless LAN networking, nor do any competitors yet support ExpressCard, and Kyocera current $150 KR1 is the only one to handle tethered USB connections via supported phones.
The router has the usual four Ethernet ports, supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), and can fail over to cell from broadband wired networks.
I suspect they’re trying to get the leap on the competition by preannouncing something at least three months and perhaps six months before it’s ready to ship.
Nova Media offers a €299 ExpressCard with Mac OS X drivers: Mac users often see worse or lagging drivers for cell data modems. Nova Media has filled that gap in the past. Now they’re offering an ExpressCard that supports the highest worldwide rates for HSDPA: 7.2 Mbps. The card can also handle 3.6 Mbps HSDPA, and slower UMTS, EDGE, and GRPS connections. The package requires a separate service agreement with a carrier, of course, and the €299 reflects the actual cost, rather than the carrier-subsidized version. The card package ships in May.
Sprint brings EVDO Rev A to Mac and Windows laptops through Novatel Wireless ExpressCard modem: The EX720 will run $180 with a two-year commitment. The announcement explicitly states support for Mac OS X and Windows. Sprint’s monthly service is $60 per month for unmetered usage with a two-year commitment, but no voice plan is required. The ExpressCard is found in most new laptops sold to professionals, and Apple’s single MacBook Pro high-end laptop model. (I write unmetered because it’s not unlimited: there are limits to use.) Sprint already offers a Novatel USB modem, and three PC Card modems.
The EVDO Rev. A network operates at substantially higher upload speeds than Rev. 0 and somewhat better download speeds—average speeds tend to be reported as 200 to 350 Kbps up and 450 to 800 Kbps down. Sprint is claiming in a release 350 to 500 Kbps up and 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps down!
The card, like all EVDO Rev. A modems, works with Rev. A and Rev. 0 networks, as well as 1xRTT, a modem-speed standard.
Novatel ships its Merlin XU870 Express Card to support 3.6 Mbps and 7.2 Mbps HSDPA: With millions of laptops shipping with ExpressCard slots, and the cell card makers are catching up. The card is a quad-band GPRS/EDGE modem and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA to support all four standards of GSM-evolved cell data in Europe and North America. The card is designed for today’s 3.6 Mbps HSDPA networks, but the company claims a firmware upgrade will enable 7.2 Mbps when operators move to that higher speed.
Personal tech columnist finds Cingular, Verizon versions of ExpressCard cell modems work well, but Cingular’s network not so much: Walt Mossberg tested both EVDO and HSDPA ExpressCard adapters from Novatel that use the new PCI Express adapter for laptops. He thought both cards worked just fine, and had no complaints about setting them up. However, he did find in his testing in two cities and an Amtrak route that Cingular just couldn’t compete with Verizon. Cingular is still building out their network, but Mossberg’s review shows how far behind they are in performance in two major east coast cities likely to find subscribers.
The company adds Novatel Wireless model: Dell was able to get these cards ahead of Verizon, which seemed a little odd. Verizon is calling the ExpressCard by the moniker V640. It has an external flip-up antenna. No word on Mac compatibility yet; Verizon is unique in offering a connection manager package and full support for two models of PC Cards for Mac PowerBook users.
Dell adds new EVDO in new form factor for its own, other Windows XP laptops: ExpressCard is a substantially faster replacement for PC Card/CardBus technology. Dell is offering a private-branded version of the Novatel Wireless XV620 which provides EVDO service for Verizon’s network. The card runs $179 and includes 30 days of Verizon service, after which normal plan rates apply.
The card should work in laptops from other makers, but Dell isn’t supporting that. Likewise, while Apple’s new MacBook Pro features an ExpressCard slot, drivers aren’t expected from Novatel until later this year; they have released Mac drivers in the past. A Mac with Boot Camp installed, the beta release of a bootable Windows partition for Intel-based Macs, should be able to run an EVDO ExpressCard just fine. One site tested this earlier this year with no problems.
PC Magazine’s testing labs are working with a Novatel prototype: The new ExpressCard adapter will ship later this year with Windows drivers; Mac drivers to follow. While companies were discussing ExpressCard at CTIA a week ago, I’m surprised to see a unit already in testing at a magazine. The photo on the linked article shows a MacBook Pro, Apple’s latest laptop model, running Windows XP using the Boot Camp software Apple released for dual booting.
JiWire reports that cellular data adapters for a new laptop card slot will be coming later this year: The ExpressCard form factor relies on the faster PCI Express bus found in newer laptops and desktops. The slot is shaped differently from CardBus and supports as much as four times the speed. The ExpressCard/34 slot is what you’ll find in laptops (34mm wide along its insertion point), while some servers can take the ExpressCard/54 (34mm at insertion point, 54mm on external portion). While a /54 card fits into the same /34 slot, there are different requirements for support. A laptop that supports /34 cards will probably also support only 1.5 volts of power output, too; a higher-voltage option is 3.3V.
Dell, Apple, and other companies are already pushing many laptops out the door that combine the Intel Core chip series, PCI Express bus, and and an ExpressCard/34 slot. Which means that you’re sunk if you want to use advanced Wi-Fi instead of built-in or use a 3G cellular data card for EVDO or HSDPA.
Fortunately, JiWire determined at last week’s cellular trade industry convention, the ExpressCards are coming. There was no doubt as to “if,” just “when.” Dell says EVDO in May or June for its laptop line, largely transitioned, and HSDPA in August or September. Dell sells laptops with either standard embedded using mini-PCI adapters.
Interestingly, Mac drivers appear to be on the agenda for adapter makers. Because Apple’s ExpressCard-bearing MacBook Pro models use Intel chips, this might make driver development simpler, and thus a more front-of-the-line proposition than for CardBus-based adapters.
JiWire also noted that cards that handle EVDO Rev. A—a 30% faster version of EVDO—are due later in the year. Sprint plans to introduce Rev. A widely by early 2007. They also point to a USB-based EVDO modem (supporting Rev. A) that Novatel hasn’t officially announced but was being flashed at Sprint’s booth; that operator will sell it. A USB form factor with Mac and Windows drivers means almost any computer could handle EVDO.