I remember the “old” days when WiFi was something you paid for in public places. It was a pretty good thing when Starbucks started offering Hot Spot access in partnership with T-Mobile. The bad thing was I had to pay a monthly fee to T-Mobile for that access. Luckily, I did have a Windows Mobile phone (first one on the market) and I had awesome GPRS data connection speeds. :-) I would dongle my phone to my laptop and have Internet access from just about anywhere. Admittedly, this wasn’t the fastest connection, but it did allow me to access websites and sync email.
Then the wireless carriers started to offer data connection cards that you could insert into your PCCard slot or USB slot and get Internet access from just about anywhere. The challenge with these devices was that I had to install drivers and connection software on every device that I would use this device on. Plus, I could only use the device on one computer at a time. Not long ago, the networking companies (Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, etc.) came out with a simple WiFi router device that usually had 4 wired ports as well. This device had a special connection port that allowed you to connect your USB data connection device and then share that connection with anyone who you allowed to connect to this device. This was a great device, but now I had to carry an extra device that required power to function. Although the device was humungous, it was still large enough to be troublesome for a road warrior.
I can’t remember the date, but I do know that sometime last year, Verizon came out with a small device about the size of a PCCard that connected to the Verizon data network and acted like a wireless access point so up to 5 machines could easily connect via WiFi. No special drivers and the device was nice and portable.
About 3 weeks ago, I got a similar demo device from Sprint to test. The device is called the Overdrive and supports up to 4G connection speeds. I opened the packaging in LAX, plugged it in and immediately connected and configured the device for use. I of course set it up to use WPA2 for encryption and was off and running with 3G speeds. Since I was still busy downloading email when it came time to board, I just slipped the Overdrive device in my pocket and got on the plane. (Luckily, my download completed before I had to shut down for take off) I have to say, setup was pretty darn easy and straight forward. It only took about 5 minutes for me to get it setup for first use (about 2 1/2 minutes of that time was me trying to figure out a good security code for WPA2).
When I got home and showed the kids the device, they were very excited (I don’t have WiFi at home). Both kids immediately connected their Zune HDs and Nintendo DSs to the Overdrive and started playing around. The device is also a kid favorite when we are in the car driving from place to place because they are able to have Internet access very easily.
Two weeks ago, my team mates (Chris Avis and Chris Henley) and I were at John Wayne Airport in Irvine waiting for our flight to Sacramento when we needed Internet access. Once again, the Overdrive came to the rescue! After our event was over in Sacramento, we drove into San Francisco. On the drive, we were able to get some work done. Why? Because of the Overdrive. Since the San Francisco Airport doesn’t offer free WiFi, I once again was able to take advantage of the Overdrive device and have both my laptops connected to the Internet simultaneously!
Last week, I finally got to experience 4G speeds in Portland and Seattle. I have to say my experience was very good and I was definitely happy with the throughput on the 4G network.
While I absolutely love this device, there are a few things that I don’t like about it.
1. The device gets pretty warm.
2. In my testing, I was only able to get about 90 minutes of constant use before the battery died.
3. 4G isn’t available everywhere yet – including Phoenix (home) and my primary territory (CA and NM). Luckily, it is available in Las Vegas and Hawaii.
Are the above three items a deal breaker for me? HECK NO!
My challenge is trying to figure out how to get my hands on one of these devices that I can keep and have the monthly plan fit within my budget. Maybe I can use the Jedi Knight “trick” on the folks at Sprint so they forget that I have this demo unit and I can keep using it indefinitely!!!! I’ll let you know how that works out. 🙂