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JiWire gives the Sprint Nextel release of the Novatel Wireless U720 USB modem for EVDO Rev. A high marks: The USB device works on computers that lack PC Card and ExpressCard slots, including desktop machines. In testing, JiWire found that the modem worked well on both Windows PCs and Macs, despite any official support yet for Mac OS X. (A modem script can be downloaded from EVDOInfo Forums.)
On Rev. A networks in San Francisco, the reviewer saw average speeds above 800 Kbps downstream; they topped 1 Mbps consistently with a five-bar signal strength. Upstream speeds were more modest, averaging 150 Kbps with no speeds above 180 Kbps, far below the top end of the range that’s expected with Rev. A. The modem works with the more prevalent Rev. 0 networks, too, which run somewhat slower.
The modem’s downside is a bit of awkwardness in its form factor. JiWire writes that it’s three times thicker than a PC Card with nearly the same width and length. It’s quite large to plug into a USB jack. A supplied Y-cable, with two USB plugs, can draw more power and locate the modem further from the computer. But it doesn’t work with a MacBook Pro, which has one USB port on either side of the computer.
Sprint offers the modem for $50 with a two-year contract, and, as with other EVDO plans, charges $60 per month for unmetered use when coupled with a Sprint voice plan and a two-year commitment, or $80 per month without.
GigaOm reports that Verizon Wireless has started selling the Sierra Wireless AirCard 595 PC Card: This card will be the first on the market to handle EVDO Rev. A, which offers nominal rates of 3.1 Mbps down and 1.8 Mbps up, but more realistic rates of up to 800 Kbps down and 350 Kbps up. Average rates may be lower; peak rates will be higher on the downstream side than the upstream side due to provisioning that doesn’t emphasize the uplink. Sprint also offers the card.
No word on the ExpressCard equivalent.
From Verizon, the card will run $100 after a $50 rebate and with a two-year commitment. Interestingly, Katie Fehrenbacher notes that platform support noted by Sierra Wireless includes popular Windows platforms, including Vista, and will offer Mac OS X support by year’s end. Mac support will be more generally available for cell data adapters into 2007 based on reports that have come in over the last six months.
The HP Compaq nc6400 features worldwide UMTS, HSDPA: Cingular’s card allows the device to work on US 3G frequencies and others worldwide. Some PC Cards are quint-band; this one, tri-band. The laptop will run about $1600 and ship in late December. Cingular’s DataConnect Global plan for $110 or $140 per month includes a certain amount of cell data access and reduced metered pricing in many countries outside the US, while including “unlimited” domestic US access.
Ultra Mobile Broadband will apparently supercede EVDO’s name and standards: The CDMA Development Group, a trade association, is looking to the simpler name to brand faster speeds coming in future standards. While EVDO Rev. A is rolling out now with much higher rates and Rev. B is on the horizon with about 50 Mbps of downstream peak service, Rev. C will be rebranded as UMB—and achieve 280 Mbps downstream in about 2009. UMB will use both MIMO (multiple receive/transmit antennas for beamforming and multiple spatial streams) and SDMA, which allows datastreams to be steered to particular clients, reusing the same frequencies over space.
This BetaNews article also notes that there are 44.4m EVDO subscribers worldwide and 83.6m UMTS users. 1xRTT + EVDO totals 267.2m, however.