[SATLUG] OT: Broadband cards

John Pappas j at jvpappas.net
Thu Jun 12 14:12:50 CDT 2008

On Thu, Jun 12, 2008 at 2:44 AM, Brad Knowles <brad at shub-internet.org>

> On 6/12/08, Jonathan Hull wrote:
>   Any suggestions? Might not be able to match them all, but the more the
>>  better. I've looked at Sprint, and it seems to be okay, but I wonder
>>  if you guys know of any other good options to compare.
> To be honest, I'd say that you should start with your software and what
> drivers will work with what hardware.  Then look to see if any of those
> carriers have coverage in your area.  None of the carriers have true
> universal coverage, and they're all going to have weak spots where some of
> their competitors provide better coverage than they do.

I have been using Sprint extensively, predominantly with Novatel cards.  The
service is solid and I have not run into any of the mentioned hidden limits,
but it is not my primary connectivity either.  It is plenty fast for most
things and if you have good signal, I have done point-to-multipoint VTC (4
sites, all VGA+ video streams) over RevA with no noticeable issues.  Upload
and latency are the biggest issues vs "Broadband" service.

Sprint does not have any agreements with "roaming" into WiFi hot spots like
TMobile or potentially ATT has.

AT&T still has weak 3G coverage.  If you're in one of their designated
> cities, you might be able to get 3G coverage in some parts of those cities,
> but that's about the best you can hope for.  You'll be in 2.5G EDGE/GPRS
> territory otherwise, and if you're really unlucky you won't even be able to
> get GPRS.

With an add on antenna, I have gotten at least 2.5G in many locations that I
would not have thought possible (ie Northern NM/TX between Clayton and
Texline), and Puerto Rico included (San Juan is 3G).

> But outside of 3G, both AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM carriers, so as long as
> the equipment you're using is quad-band, or even just tri-band, you should
> get at least decent EDGE/GPRS access, if not 3G access.  This has the
> advantage that it will also work overseas, and I think you might find more
> driver support for GSM hardware than CDMA.

I cannot speak personally for GSM gear, but much of my research indicates
that the AirPrime or USBSerial drivers handle most cards, regardless of the

> Sprint tends to have the best overall coverage of the main carriers as it
> sits right now, but Verizon is in the process of buying Alltel, and Alltel
> is the major network partner for all of the "big four" carriers in rural
> areas.  Going forward, you really have to wonder how much companies like
> Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T are going to want to have their rural coverage
> provided for them by the biggest cell carrier in the country.

Agreed. Time will tell.

> Of course, Sprint and Verizon/Alltel are CDMA carriers.  But they tend to
> lock their equipment to their network, and since they don't have a SIM card,
> you can't just take that equipment and go use it on another carrier.  You
> have to buy different equipment, even if it's from the same model from the
> same hardware manufacturer.

GSM/EDGE/HSDPA is more of a global standard, and the SIM does make
portability more of a possibility, but there are still "locking" issues

Sprint has hidden caps on bandwith as well as throughput, and their
> so-called "unlimited" data plan starts at $60/month.  Verizon is the same.
>  T-Mobile "Total Internet for Data Cards" is $50/month.  For AT&T, their
> DataConnect North America plan is $110/month, but then maybe that really is
> unlimited?

I have heard of the Verizon limits, but not of the Sprint limits.   I will
have to try to see what they do!  Maybe I will go on an downloading spree
and see what happens.


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