I've been using Sprint's broadband service for many months and have
had no problems.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
T e c h n o f i l e
Sprint's wireless computer modem is fast and trouble-free
Dec. 9, 2007
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard
Every modern laptop computer comes with wireless capability these days. But as many laptop users
already know, finding a wi-fi connection, or hotspot, can be hard, especially if you're away from home.
Even when you locate a hotspot, you quickly find that wi-fi signals usually can't travel very far --
150 feet or so is about the maximum. That's why many laptop users are turning to a different way of connecting wirelessly.
It's called wireless broadband. It uses a little device that plugs into your laptop (or is built right in, in some cases).
Wireless broadband devices connect to cell phone towers and work inside buildings and moving vehicles.
But -- there's always a "but," right? -- wireless broadband isn't free the way most wi-fi is. The cell
phone companies that offer it charge as much as $80 a month if you don't already have a cell phone account with the carrier.
If you can't write off the monthly expense as a business deduction and you're not married to Donald Trump, this kind of
wireless freedom could add hundreds of dollars a year to the cost of your lifestyle.
If you just cried out for financial mercy, you've got company. I find most wireless broadband plans too
expensive, too. So when I looked at the least expensive way of staying online no matter where I am, I was drawn to Sprint's
mobile broadband service. Unlike Verizon's wireless plan, which costs $80 for non-cell subscribers and $60 if you have a
Verizon cell phone account, Sprint charges $60 whether you have a Sprint cell phone account or not. This saves $20 a month
over Verizon's plan if you want to stick with your current cell phone service.
The Sierra Aircard itself can cost literally anything from "free" to more than $100, depending on the
deal you make and whether you buy it from Sprint or from a discounter. Look for the best deal.
I've been using Sprint's broadband service for many months and have had no problems. I wanted to be
able to use Sprint's service no matter which laptop I was carrying, so I chose a USB modem instead of the increasingly
popular plug-in card design. Every laptop has a USB connection, but small laptops such as my wife's Apple iBook don't have
space for a card slot.
The modem is a Sierra Wireless Aircard, model 595U. It's smaller than a Snickers bar and can plug
directly into a USB jack using a snap-out USB plug. If that's not feasible, you can use a cute little base station that's
included with the modem. Sprint didn't have much Aircard support for Apple's Mac OS X computers when I started using the
service, but that's improved now, and there's no difference between the way the Sierra Aircard works on Windows and a Mac. (I
use it on both.)
Unlike the Verizon broadband device I used last summer (for the report, go to
www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec072207.html), the Sprint modem has always performed at near-broadband speeds and has never
dropped the line. A caution might be in order if you're used to wi-fi speeds: Wireless broadband is likely to be slower than
wi-fi. The Verizon modem I used was sometimes much slower, but the Sprint device has held up well.
A small touch I appreciated was the fit and finish of the Sierra Wireless
Aircard. It looked and felt like a piece of jewelry. I enjoyed passing it around to admiring friends and asking them to guess
what it was for. Many seemed surprised that a modem, the most utilitarian of all computer accessories, could be so pleasant
to the touch.