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AT&T has started to upgrade its network to handle HSUPA—the U being for Uplink meaning upstream—and now has a card that can handle that, too: The Sierra Wireless AirCard 881 LaptopConnect PC Card will support HSUPA speeds that should average between 500 to 800 Kbps as AT&T upgrades its network this fall. HSDPA (downlink or downstream) already offers rates that AT&T cites as between 600 Kbps and 1.4 Mbps, although that 1.4 Mbps figure is closer to a peak rate (they don’t use the word average here). AT&T is deploying 3.6 Mbps HSDPA, while 7.2 Mbps is already available in Europe. Competing 3G networks from Sprint Nextel and Verizon offer comparable speeds on the portions that use EVDO Rev. A, which is an ever-larger majority percentage of both those firms’ networks, reports say.
The card is free with a two-year contract until Nov. 3, and has the usual $60/mo. with commitment rate, or $80/mo. with less, for unmetered usage. The AirCard 881 works with GPRS and EDGE worldwide, too.
Helio’s Hybrid offering is dead: Hybrid was a single PC Card combining 3G and Wi-Fi access via Boingo’s network, in which Wi-Fi would automatically be selected when available via software installed on the host computer. The offering has been discontinued. Helio has mostly focused on phones, so a PC Card may have wound up too far outside its target audience’s needs.
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.
Novatel ships the S720 for Sprint: The card supports the much faster revision to CDMA-based EVDO service, which both Verizon and Sprint will start lighting up by year’s end. Rev. A offers good upload speeds—several hundred K on average—and has higher peak download speeds (above 2 Mbps) and better average speeds, running up as high as over 800 Kbps. The cards need to be available for corporate folks to test them out, and they’re backward compatible to the current Rev. 0, of course. Getting these out in the marketplace makes a lot of sense for those who want to be ready for the higher speeds as soon as they’re available. The Rev. A network plans won’t cost more than Rev. 0 plans, just as current EVDO includes 1xRTT (low-speed) for areas without EVDO Rev. 0.
Novatel says that Sprint will charge $250 for the card without a plan and $100 with a two-year service agreement. Rates vary from metered use at $40 per month to unmetered (but not unlimited) use at $60 or $80. The $60 rate will now be available for a two-year commitment without a voice plan, which was previously a requirement for Sprint and Verizon.
The New York Times runs down what cellular data networks are, where they work, and how to use them: It’s a good introductions, and it’s part of their Basics series, so nothing new in this item. I’d take issue with three points raised, however.
First, the intro states, “Wi-Fi, the wireless networking technology that can create an invisible field of Internet access over a limited area, has revolutionized the world of mobile computing.” The last clause is true, but cellular base stations also create service over a limited area; putting them in overlapping areas creates seamless coverage, same as with metro-scale Wi-Fi. My caveat, Wi-Fi is designed to cover a limited area where cell and WiMax are not.
Second, no mention of adding EVDO or UMTS service on an existing cell phone instead of purchasing a PC Card. This tethered option often comes with a smaller price tag for unlimited service. Cingular doesn’t offer HSDPA phones yet, so it’s no really worth getting a UMTS phone today for that purpose along.
Third, while the last section notes that Verizon and Cingular told the Times reporter that sharing a connection violates its terms of service, Cingular has authorized use of the Junxion box. And the Junxion box isn’t really designed for SOHO users; Kyocera’s is.
Cingular becomes first US carrier to offer worldwide card, plan: The insanely named Option GlobeTrotter GT Max LaptopConnect card handles 850, 900, 1800, 1900, and 2100 megahertz (MHz) spectrum bands, covering GSM, GPRS, UMTS, and HSDPA worldwide. The card will be $100 with a two-year domestic or one-year GlobalConnect commitment. The card also includes Wi-Fi.
The service is priced by countries included in a particular plan. A North American plan includes the US, Canada, and Mexico for $110 per month; for $140 per month you get two dozen countries including North America and Australia, China, France, Germany, England, Japan, and others. These two plans include unlimited data in the US and 100 MB of data transfer in the selected other countries.
Data above the 100 MB is $5 per MB in GlobalConnect countries and $19.50 per MB in about 80 other countries. These overages may appear quite expensive in some ways, but having a defined and consistent rate has its benefits, and should allow control.
Other carriers with worldwide plans require two separate PC Cards. The antenna on this card retracts, allowing it to remain in the laptop while in storage or travel.
Novatel says that Cingular will use its HSDPA PC Cards: The Merlin U730 3G card works worldwide with GPRS and EDGE, and handles UMTS and HSDPA. The card isn’t yet listed on their Web site.
Novatel is also supplying the Merlin S620 for Sprint Nextel’s EVDO network.
Novatel has two models, one for North America, and one for the rest of the world: The HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) standard is rapidly emerging as the GPRS/EDGE migration path with Cingular choosing to skip the W-CDMA flavor of UMTS that AT&T Wireless had trialed before their purchase. HSDPA leapfrogs W-CDMA speeds, which is why it’s so appealing.
Novatel’s cards can be embedded in laptops which use PCI Express Mini as a way to incorporate standard networking components on the laptop’s bus. The cards are compatible with GSM, GPRS, and EDGE worldwide.
Sony Ericsson plans four-mode PC Card with Wi-Fi and Kyocera offers EVDO router: PC Magazine reports on two upcoming options for aiding laptop connections to the Internet via cellular data networks.
Sony Ericsson’s $80 PC Card will include GSM, GPRS, EDGE, and Wi-Fi, with full security support on the Wi-Fi side. T-Mobile and Cingular will likely offer this card for $50 as part of a service bundle.
Meanwhile, Kyocera showed off its EVDO router, a device that routes EVDO connections from the cellular network to local Ethernet and Wi-Fi. This is an interesting option, but it’s worth pointing out that at least two other companies have offered the same kind of product for some months, most notably the Seattle-based Junxion with their Junxion Box that supports a whole host of PC Cards. They’ve been working with a national firm that resells to system integrators, so their pipeline has been running for many months.