AT&T Rocking 4G LTE in the Twin Cities

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Looks like today is the day when AT&T flips the switch on full-time LTE for the Twin Cities.  I noticed back in September that the State Fairgrounds was lit up and providing some nice download speeds.  Also the U of M campus and a few other northern suburbs have been enjoying that functionality as AT&T was going through testing.

I can’t find an official release on AT&T’s website, but a few media outlets are reporting this too.

heraldonline.com

Star Tribune

Pioneer Press

Windows Phone 7 GSM Only at Launch?

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Kind of a bummer for Verizon and Sprint customers who were hoping to have one of those new Windows Phone 7 devices in time for the holidays. 

Initial reports indicate that Microsoft will delay the launch of an OS that will support CDMA technology in order to focus on GSM.  This is probably for good reason as CDMA is widely used in the United States, but not much at all beyond that.  GSM is the predominate technology overseas and in other foreign countries.

That being said, AT&T and T-Mobile would be the first to offer the devices, while Spring and Verizon customers will have to wait till sometime in 2011, when CDMA support is rumored to be made available.

"We had to make some trade-offs," senior product manager Greg Sullivan told CNET today. "Even Microsoft doesn’t have unlimited resources. We had to prioritize doing fewer things, really, really well." (Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-20016752-56.html#ixzz102lPKtPl)

Virgin Mobile Doesn’t Survive My Bag of Gadgets

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Mobile Devices, Technology

Only a week after I had purchased the Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go USB card, I returned it to Best Buy, the exclusive reseller of this product.

Last week, I wrote about the Broadband2Go card with somewhat of a glowing review because of the fact that it was available without a contract and actually connected through Sprint’s EVDO network.

So why didn’t it survive my bag of gadgets.  It’s pretty simple. 

Windows Only Support

I use both a Mac and PC and most of them time I am using Windows on top of my Mac.  This means that wherever I go, I usually have my Mac with me so I can work on both personal and business-related stuff.

Even though the Virgin Mobile website indicates that the system requirements include Mac OS 10.3, and the modem drivers actually install on my Mac, there is no “Connection Manager” type software.  I did manage to get the modem to connect to the Sprint network, but attempts to surf the web were filled with errors and lots of slowness.

I should’ve known this from the beginning when I discovered that the modem had to activated (programmed) on a Windows PC.

Weird Connectivity Issues

I call it “weird” because I got it home and found that I only had one bar for reception off of the card in Windows.  The activation process was extremely slow – took me about 30 minutes in whole to get the card activated.  Page loads were slow.  I have never had problems with Sprint coverage in my house previously.

Questionable Customer Support

Since not working on a Mac was a deal breaker, I returned it to Best Buy.  I called Virgin Mobile to cancel my account and was greeted with someone who I couldn’t completely understand and in the end took about 15-20 minutes to close my account as he “worked on the system”.  I was holding a screaming baby for all of the 20 minutes, but that didn’t seem to make him work any faster.  When I was asked about why I wanted to cancel, I plainly told the rep that the card didn’t work on a Mac.  I didn’t expect any technical banter, but I did also mention that the Virgin website includes Mac OS in their system requirements.  In the end, my account was closed, but my opinion of Virgin Mobile, although somewhat appealing, is now questionable.

In the end…

I still wanted to have an aircard so I went back to Best Buy and purchased the AT&T Quicksilver aircard.  This aircard has support for both Mac and PC and was functional and ready-to-go when I left the location. 

Both Windows and Mac have a connection manager that gets installed as soon as you insert the card.  I found this to be handy. 

The only quirk for me was that the firmware update that was recommended required Windows to apply the firmware update.  My opinion is that if you are going to support an OS, make sure that your application and any required utilities also support the OS.  Although they clearly noted on the website that the Mac firmware update was in development, you need to have this.  If I am a “Mac-Only” user, I’m left in the cold if I need that firmware update (which according to the website connectivity issues and provides stability), things that most people would like.

Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go USB Aircard

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Mobile Devices, Technology

I picked up a Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go USB modem for my laptop tonight.  I travel fairly regularly and like to have access to the Internet when I am on the road.  Since AT&T hasn’t enabled tethering for it’s iPhone users still, I wanted to find an aircard that would allow me to get Internet access wherever I may be.

I thought about purchasing an AT&T card, but wasn’t crazy about having to sign another two year contract even though the hardware was free, or pay $60 per month for data access.  In addition, monthly data transfer was capped at 5 GB.

Other vendors like Sprint and Verizon offer similar plans.

The one that I found that was pretty intriguing was the offering from Virgin Mobile called “Mobile Broadband2Go”.  Virgin Mobile prides itself on not signing it’s customers up for contracts, but providing affordable hardware and service at competitive prices. 

The USB modem cost me $99 at Best Buy.  While the competitors tend to give away their hardware for aircards, they get you by signing the two year contract and put you in a position to pay an early termination fee if you decide to quit your contract early.  $60 is a lot of money on top of an existing cell bill just to provide data access.

I intent to use it both with my work laptop which is PC-based running Windows 7.  I also plan to use it with my MacBook Pro.  I thought I would activate it using my Mac, but what I found out is that when you insert the USB modem into a USB port on your Mac, it will automatically start the installation of the modem drivers.  However, the configuration of the connection is completely manual and up to the user.  The process is a little different on a Windows machine.  When you insert the USB modem, an installation for a Connection Manager is started which installs the required drivers and an application to manage the aircard connection.

The important thing here is that initial activation of the modem has to take place on a Windows PC and not on the Mac.  Since when Connection Manager is started, it brings you to Virgin Mobile’s website where you can enter all of your account information.  It in turn gives you a couple sets of numbers which have to be entered in the Connection Manager to program the modem before it is usable.  During this time you will also select a rate plan or how you want to handle the data access on your account.

Once I followed the process to activate the modem on the Windows PC, I was then able to take it out and put it into my Mac and make things work. 

Why did I pick Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go?

1. No contract commitment (and no activation fee)
2. Pay-as-you-go Plans
3. Uses Sprint EVDO Network

Why I would possibly consider another carrier like AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon?

1. Quality of network
2. 5 GB data transfer/month vs. 1 GB max on Virgin Mobile
3. Price savings on larger data transfer plans

Who is the Mobile Broadband2Go suited for?

In my opinion, it is probably best suited for the person that needs occasional Internet access while on the go.  If you are an everyday road warrior, you’ll probably find that traditional aircard plans are better suited for you.