May 30, 2006 5:01 PM   Subscribe

EVDOFilter: I'm interested in Sprint or Verizon EVDO phone-as-modem mobile broadband service with my Powerbook, but I've never had a celphone before. Help!

I'm moving from a suburban area to rural Maryland (between Frederick, DC, and Baltimore) where cable and DSL are not easily available. A friend suggested I look into Sprint/Verizon Mobile Broadband, and it looks promising, but I'm not sure about the details.

Issue #1: I use a 12" Powerbook with OS X 10.4.6, which doesn't have any PCMCIA slots, but does have bluetooth and USB. I know Sprint doesn't officially support macs; I haven't looked into Verizon yet. How much trouble is it likely to be to get a connection going?

Issue #2: Does using the wireless phone in phone-as-modem mode make the phone unavailable for receiving/placing calls? I would most likely be using my new phone as my primary phone for job-hunting and other such critical tasks..

Issue #3: I will be living right on the border between "high-speed access" and "Sprint PCS nationwide" access, according to the service map. Is there any way for me to find out if I'm close enough to get high-speed before I lay down the cash and sign a contract? If I'm not in the high-speed zone, what kind of speeds can I realistically expect?

Issue #4: I'm a relatively heavy internet user -- I work in film and photography, so I need to move large files around. I read that the Verizon TOS explicitly forbid using EVDO for "always-on internet" a few months ago; has this changed? Am I likely to be hassled by my carrier if I use a lot of bandwidth, even with the unlimited throughput account?

Also, as a first-time cel user, is there anything else I should be thinking about? Thanks for the help!
posted by Alterscape to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So when I'm out and about I use my Samsung A900 via Bluetooth as my broadband solution (SprintPCS). From an interoperability perspective my Mac does fine with Bluetooth type devices. As far as data, it works reasonably well, but I haven't exercised it enough to determine if simultaneous calls and data are feasible. I don't believe they are.

Check local mefierites, give a general location it's possible one of them have the service you describe and can do ye'olde bar test to see if there's a decent signal.

Your bandwidth is going to be dependent upon your signal and the medium you use to communicate from phone to computer, don't expect broadband speeds here, and expect a good bit of latency.

Hope it works out!
posted by iamabot at 5:51 PM on May 30, 2006

You aren't going to be able to get better than 14.4k connecting to a Verizon phone via bluetooth -- you'll need the cable to get full evdo off your phone. The Verizon rep told me that the phone will still work, but since you're going to be hard-wired into the phone, it might be problematic to make/take calls. Apparently, you can still use a bluetooth headset, though.
posted by ph00dz at 5:54 PM on May 30, 2006

Response by poster: More clarification on typical speed would be appreciated -- what're we talking in terms of kb/sec on average? My dialup speed in this area has historically maxed at around 2kb/sec, so if I can beat it by some margin (even one order of magnitude or less), it may still be a winning proposition. Also, how much latency are we talking?

Can anyone speak to EVDO via the cable on a mac? If bluetooth can't top 14.4k, it'll have to be the cable..
posted by Alterscape at 6:43 PM on May 30, 2006

I use EDGE on a GSM network (T-Mobile) and get 100-144 kps (kilo bits per second). EDGE is usually seen as inferior to EVDO.

As for your location, your speed will depend on the proximity to cell towers, as mentioned above. I am smack dab in the middle of a major metropolitan area, so that might be the reason for the above speed.

From what I have read, you can receive calls while connected to the Internet, but taking the call will break the connection until you finish the call.

I don't know any way to determine which area you are in, but if you are within Sprint PCS, you will be on a plain CDMA2000 network. Which will probably get speeds of 144 kbits/sec.
posted by zabuni at 7:23 PM on May 30, 2006

I've got a verizon xv6700 which (until the laptop's untimely demise at the hands of a powercord and my foot) did Dial Up Networking over bluetooth with my 15" powerbook. I never tried making or receiving calls, but as far as internet goes, this was the general scheme of things:
>My house: non EVDO service area, averaging 3 bars of signal (out of 5)...40K
>My High School: Non EVDO area, averaging 1 bar or 2...40K with very long latencies
>Major metro areas (new york, philadelphia, DC): EVDO areas, getting about 200K, nice peppy little connection

All in all even the non-evdo connection is tolerable
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 7:32 PM on May 30, 2006

zabuni: Were you using a Mac? Was this as a Bluetooth phone/modem setup? What kind of phone?

I was about to ask the same thing as I'm in a similar boat as the original poster.
posted by drstein at 7:36 PM on May 30, 2006

I should add that the whole 14.4 thing isn't a limitation of bluetooth -- it's Verizon, pretty much being dicks.

By the way... a great resource for more info is howardforums.com
posted by ph00dz at 8:42 PM on May 30, 2006

AHh... wait. Hey WeaponsGrade -- it worked ok over bluetooth? What did you do to get that all working?
posted by ph00dz at 8:44 PM on May 30, 2006

Testing out the bluetooth right not, it's certainly not 14.4 on my T-mobile MDA (Wizard HTC, nearly every cell company has a model of it). A bit slower than the usb cable, but still passable.

Cell phones can be set up through the bluetooth setup wizard. This may require a custom modem script for the more esoteric phones out there, like mine.

Here is the site I used to setup my modem. Note both the script and the number dialed are part of the MDA configuration.
posted by zabuni at 9:16 PM on May 30, 2006

I tested about 50-100K, depending on where I was, in and around Bethesda using Cingular's EDGE. Latencies can be high.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:37 PM on May 30, 2006

I have no trouble at all taking advantage of PacBell nee Cingular's EDGE network via Bluetooth from a 12" Powerbook to a Nokia 6230, other than that latencies are atrocious. I was seeing 4000ms latency at midday in downtown San Francisco today. Their non-EDGE GPRS data service -- which uses a different, less sucky APN (isp.cingular as opposed to wap.cingular -- has better latency although not quite the throughput.

I've found throughput (and, somewhat, latency) on the Cingular network vastly improves once you get outside urban cores. I get easily 20-30K/s and occasionally higher in Monterey, but here in the Bay Area, I'm lucky to see 10K/s and packet loss becomes an issue.

Using the Nokia, my phone becomes unavailable to receive calls at times, and is completely unavailable to initiate them. My old SE T616 didn't have the call reception problem, but still couldn't initiate.

I can't address your Sprint-specific questions, I'm afraid.
posted by majick at 11:11 PM on May 30, 2006

We could not get my Sprint PPC6700 to work with my husband's iBook even though we found instructions somewhere that made it sound pretty straightforward.

Now he's got Cingluar's version of the same phone and a Macbook Pro, and I'm not sure if he's even tried getting them to talk to each other, because it was such a frustrating experience. Possibly he will try it and report back here, in case the information is useful to someone. The iBook is now mine and I'd love to get it working with my phone, so I will be watching as well.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:20 AM on May 31, 2006

I have sprint, a treo 650 (non edge/evdo), a 17" powerbook with bluetooth.

I learned how to turn on DUN (dial up networking) with an earlier sprint phone (via a cable), but I can use this phone via bluetooth, and I get between 6-14K (that's 2-3x the speed of dialup).

Little know tidbit - sprint can't really track this sort of use - they say that you need a plan for it, but if you have PCS, realistically, they never worked out the tracking bugs (as far as I can tell - I haven't ever been charged for data - and I've taught a couple of other people this.)

The Treo 700 does the same thing...but it has EVDO/Edge capability.

They certainly will charge for this. And it will work via bluetooth (probably a bit slower than a cable or a card.) But it's one device vs. a phone + a data card.

I don't think you can use the phone + the data on the treo 700 (I know you can't on the 650); as the radio in the phone is busy with that data. If you really wanted - you could use a VOIP solution, but I'm not sure how bad the latency would be.

As far as "can you get access from your remote location." There's no easy way to find out. Go to a store and ask them what they'd suggest - if they say purchase & return, get it in writing that you have

Last, sprint has an unlimited data plan (so does verizon). Ask them specifically about "always on"
posted by filmgeek at 10:28 AM on May 31, 2006

EVDO is way expensive. My alternative has been using a Sprint phone as a USB modem, which I've happily done with my iBook for a few years now. In terms of pricing, I got in while the gettin' was good, but check out their plans now for unlimited data and they may still be a good value.

You do not need a plan specifically for, or any Sprint-manufactured hardware for, using your phone with a laptop. You just need a Sprint phone with PCS Vision plus a third-party phone-to-USB cable (mine was $30). Google for [your phone model] usb cable. You don't need any Mac-specific drivers. Make sure you get a cable that is true USB, not "serial to USB."
This excellent page explains how to set up the connection between your phone and your Mac (it's very easy).

Your phone will be calling to Sprint's data center in California. I live in NYC and my speed averages about 25K during business hours, 35K in the evenings and 60-70K+ late at night. It's pretty high-latency (500-600ms pings), but it's rock-solid for long file transfers.

Anecdotally, a 2nd-level Sprint rep told me that if I were consistently exceeding 20MB a day they would be concerned. I have exceeded that on many single days (100MB+ up in one day) and never heard from them. Obviously you should research that aspect yourself...
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:34 PM on June 10, 2006

Another note: after a lot of experience and comparison (I travel a lot in the northeast U.S.), I've found the Sprint coverage maps are pretty conservative. I can remember lots of times when I've gotten a usable signal in an area that was nowhere near the magic "green area" on the Sprint map. I've even been able to offer my laptop as a mini "free internet cafe" at camping events way out in the middle of nowhere.

That said, the data connection is likely to be erratic if you have only one bar of reception. In my experience, it's only "rock solid" with 3 or more bars.
posted by allterrainbrain at 3:45 PM on June 10, 2006

« Older Help me get out of this closet before the house...   |   iPod-Nike? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.