A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I was going to try out cell tower-based broadband internet at our family’s lake house (a place where you can’t get a good cup of coffee, let alone internet service). Well, it worked great. Here are some details of the experiment:

My equipment:

  • Verizon Wireless V640 ExpressCard (not sold by Verizon anymore, but the equivalent looks to be the V740 ExpressCard); this fits in either a MacBook Pro or the router below
  • Cradlepoint MBR1000 Wireless Router (802.11n)

The location:

My findings:

  • On most days, the speed was comparable to DSL (somewhere around 1Mbps is my guess, but don’t quote me on that. DSL speeds range between 128kbps and 1.5Mbps); however, there were times that pages would not load for 2-3 minutes.
  • The Cradlepoint router needed to be placed where the cell strength was the best (logical); this meant that there were places through several walls that received a diminished wireless signal.
  • All Macs were able to connect to the router with no problem (we had three different ones, which had 10.4 or 10.5).
  • PCs were able to connect as well, save for one that had trouble due to Dell’s proprietary network “wizard.”
  • As many as six computers were on at the same time without issue, though there were a couple of times the PCs got a “connection timed out” message; we’re not sure why that was, but guessed that the bandwidth was being tested.(?)

How to buy:

  • The ExpressCards are available through various cell service providers; you’ll want to check with yours to see what the coverage is like beforehand. MacBook Pros use a ExpressCard 34 slot. Read more about ExpressCards. These are generally between $49 and $129, but may be heavily discounted with a new service plan, so you may want to check with your provider.
  • The Cradlepoint MBR1000 Wireless Router is available from 3G Wireless. The current price (at the time of writing) is $239.99.
  • We offer two Linksys models for special order at $139.99–one for Sprint and one for Verizon. It should be noted that these use 802.11g rather than 802.11n, and that it includes a PC Card slot (the slot used by PowerBook G4s). PC Cards are available from you cell provider as well. Find them here.

Overall, we were extremely pleased. Many thanks again to Jason for lending his equipment to me for the weekend! Feel free to email me with any questions, or to share any experiences you may have had with a similar setup.

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