March 23, 2006
Verizon EV-DO: I'm Lovin It

I'm speaking at The Server Side conference at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas this week where they want $15/day for WiFi, but I'm not paying! I've got Verizon EV-DO.

Out of the left side of my laptop sticks a little PCMCIA card with a cute antenna nubbin and a flashing bright blue light. (The light's kind of annoying, but I've learned to associate it with my having net where I wouldn't have had net two weeks ago, so now it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Thanks, Pavlov.)

If you haven't heard of EVDO, it's a cellular-based broadband option that works nationwide and advertises speeds of 400-700 kbps downstream and about a quarter of that upstream. In testing I've seen numbers even better than that: 840k down, 215k up -- and that's while driving on the 280 interstate. (Don't worry, my wife was doing the real driving.) Pings show about a 150ms latency. Connection negotiation happens in about 3 seconds too, faster than I can connect to a WiFi base.

The coverage is pretty good. Most major metro areas are hot with what they call BroadbandAccess; the less populated areas fallback to the 80k NationalAccess technology, a speed that's not great for work but fine for email.

It's priced at $80/month for unlimited usage, clearly targetted at business users. It's $60/month if you have a Verizon cell phone. Of course, with hotels wanting $10 or $15 (or $17 in NYC) per night, it doesn't take long to make this attractive for those on the road a lot. Plus it's just so cool to do an email sync from a plane right before takeoff. And for a frequent speaker like me, it's great to have guaranteed net when talking about Greasemonkey or giving a real world XQuery demo.

You also need to buy the PCMCIA access card (or buy a new laptop like the ThinkPad T60 with built-in antenna). I got the Kyocera KPC650 since it had the best reviews, and ordered from because they had the best price. I coughed up the extra $80 for a booster antenna too. So far I've only found the antenna useful in testing when I intentionally went to a spot in the middle of a building with thin reception where the antenna helped boost my speeds.

Last tip: The VZ Access software that comes with the service is pretty cool, but I disabled the Venturi Client service that tries to do line compression to boost speeds. It listened on port 8001 and several other ports that I needed for other services.

Based on my last few weeks enjoying the service, I can predict that it won't be long before looking around for a WiFi access point and paying exorbitant prices for a single day's service will seem quaint.

Posted by Jason Hunter at March 23, 2006 05:00 PM
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