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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.
Junxion’s cell-to-LAN bridge has been certified by two of four major carriers: While Verizon Wireless continues to posture against any but very limited uses of its 3G cellular networks, its two largest domestic competitors have certified Junxion wireless wide area network (WWAN) to LAN/WAN bridge. The Junxion Box was one of the first of its class—a few devices in limited distribution preceded it—and has faced continued skepticism about carrier adoption even as the company has pushed boxes out the door. They don’t disclose sales figures, but they look awfully happy these days.
At CTIA, both Sprint Nextel and Cingular had Junxion Boxes in their booths and actively talked up the product as a wireline failsafe and a mobile workgroup device, among other purposes.
Unlike most competing devices, including the Linksys box that Sprint will resell primarily for the consumer market, the Junxion equipment can accept most PC Cards using most 2.5G and 3G standards, including EVDO and UMTS. The Junxion has an Ethernet switch and built-in Wi-Fi. It can also create a VPN connection from itself to an end-point elsewhere. Junxion offers a variety of management tools to help larger firms pull together statistics and configure units as a whole rather than one at a time, even when in the field.
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.
The device that Sprint will resell on its network announced by Linksys: The WRT54G3G-NA works much like several other devices on the market, with a CardBus slot, Wi-Fi gateway, and 10/100 Mbps Ethernet switch. Unlike the Junxion box, an early entrant in this category, the Linksys device accepts only EVDO cards, which restricts its usage to Verizon Wireless and Sprint’s networks.
Verizon Wireless has repeatedly stated that they don’t want their network to be used in this fashion, will enforce the contract provisions that don’t allow this use, and are apparently starting to charge higher-bandwidth BroadbandAccess (EVDO) users, although this device doesn’t necessarily promote the use of lots of data.
Linksys has priced their box at $199, and it’s scheduled to ship this summer.
Qualcomm may have adapters ready for EVDO Rev. B in late 2007: The current deployed CDMA2000 1xEVDO Rev. 0 (zero) standard runs at about 400 to 700 Kbps (rated) downstream and 50 to 70 Kbps up. The Rev. A improvement increases downlink speeds by 30 percent and could double uploads. This starts to move EVDO into the DSL range, and ubiquitously. (There are still issues of latency, operator limits on service and bandwidth, and other factors, of course.)
Rev. B, Qualcomm said last week according to News.com, will further increase speeds, offering download rates of 1.3 to 2.4 Mbps and upload rates of 210 to 432 Kbps. Now we’re talking something approaching real broadband. The PC cards and stand-alone modems to use Rev. B may be available in late 2007.
While the article maintains “The increase in speed puts wireless broadband on equal footing with DSL services, which offer similar speeds” that’s only with a moderate to slow version of today’s DSL. Cable modem speeds typically start much higher than Rev. B, with double to triple the upload speed as a starting point, while DSL, cable, fiber to the home, fiber to the node, broadband over powerline, fixed WiMax (16d and 16e), and even new flavors of metro-scale Wi-Fi based on 802.11n and MIMO technologies will deliver speeds 5 to 10 times faster than Rev. B by the end of 2007, passing by at least tens of millions of homes.
Of course, with EVDO, Rev. B transceivers could reach hundreds of millions of potential users, making it an interesting option. The notion that standalone modems will be part of the reference designs released for Rev. B means that the vision of Monet Wireless could finally be fulfilled on a large-scale: rural areas with fewer broadband access methods could turn to licensed 3G cellular as a means of having broadband. This is the same sub-market that 802.16e (fixed/nomadic/mobile) WiMax is after, and that may be where big battles are fought—not in the cities, but in the suburbs, exurbs, and countryside.
News.com speculates that Sprint’s near-term release of a Linksys cell-to-LAN bridge is a play for DSL subscribers: They bury the real answer to their analysis, though, which is that even with the slow DSL speeds possible with EVDO Rev. A, which Sprint expects to roll out in early 2007, the current pricing is $14.95 for similarly fast Verizon DSL and $80 per month for Sprint. The News.com article says “$60” per month for Sprint, but that rate is only available for a two-year commitment to existing voice subscribers. I keep seeing articles cite $60/month as the base rate for EVDO, and that’s just not the case, even though many users may choose to grab the bundle.
Axesstel, Sprint show new cell bridges at CTIA: At the cell industry trade show, it’s not all about the cellular network. Sprint demonstrated a Linksys router that accepts any Sprint EVDO card and bridges it to an 802.11g Wi-Fi network. The device will run less than $200 and will work with existing service plans ($60/month for voice subscribers with two-year commitment; $80/month otherwise). Sprint will also offer a USB EVDO dongle later this year.
Axesstel, an equipment maker, announced a series of EVDO gateways designed for various frequencies and purposes. The gateways accept an EVDO card on the one hand to work with basic 1xRTT and EVDO networks. RJ11 phone jacks allow up to four regular landline phones and one fax machine to connect to place analog-style calls. A Wi-Fi gateway and four-port 10/100 Mbps Ethernet switch is also built in. There’s also GPS and E911 service. Pricing isn’t noted as this a product cell operators would resell to their customers.