EV-DO Makes the Wi-Fi Hotspot Obsolete

Do you often find yourself sitting in a Borders cafe or local Starbucks because you need to be online? It's almost second nature now that we plan our lunch breaks and other activities around Wi-Fi access. While Hotspots are still a relatively new thing, your cellular provider is already planning its extinction.

Welcome EV-DO, the new cellular data technology that's being rolled out in the US by the nation's largest CDMA cellular providers, Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS. With EV-DO, a mobile user can connect to the Internet at near broadband speeds practically anywhere they can get a cellular signal. How fast? EV-DO has a theoretical download speed of 2.4Mbps, though average speeds range between 400kbps and 700kbps. Compare that to Cingular's EDGE technology, which has a theoretical max download speed of 384kbps, but typically averages between 20kbps and 200kbps, and it becomes obvious how EV-DO is changing the landscape of mobile data access.

An EV-DO AirCard is required to get this level of mobile freedom, which is a PCMCIA cellular modem that connects to a provider's data network (pictured above). Once installed, a user can surf the web at broadband speed anywhere EV-DO service is provided. When EV-DO service is not available, the modem switches to the old 1xRTT, where speeds rarely top 80kbps. EV-DO technology is already starting to be integrated into mobile handsets, but there's no guarantee it can be tethered to a laptop and used as a modem.

EV-DO isn't everywhere, but Sprint offers it in some metropolitan areas, though it you look at their map, a covered market isn't very... covered. Verizon currently has the best service offering, which is said to be available in 84 metropolitan areas and 426 national airports. By the looks of their coverage maps, they're way ahead of Sprint.

Of course, EV-DO isn't free. Verizon is currently charging $59.99 per month for unlimited (though they have a laundry list of things in their terms of use that states what a user "shouldn't" do, like stream video and download applications) use within their network with a 2-year service agreement & qualifying voice plan. Sprint currently charges $79.99 per month for unlimited access to their currently limited network.

While EV-DO is still pretty expensive, the price is expected to drop as competition heats up. GSM providers, like Cingular and T-Mobile, are working on their own 3G high-speed data networks using other technologies. In a matter of years, children all over may be asking their parents, "What do you mean you had to be in a specific spot to use the Internet?"


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