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EVDO for internet access - it beats satellite


(EVDO Makes Me Happier than ISDN and Satellite Combined!)

Cell based internet access, EVDO, or 3G internet. After a bout of ISDN and then a stint with Wild Blue, EVDO is what I finally decided on keeping for my internet access. Before you read this you might want to read both my review of chosing amongst satellite competittion and a quick ditty on satellite's bad customer service. Up to you.

Why EVDO Rules the Roost

evdo cardEVDO stands for Evolution-Data Optimized or Evolution-Data only. What is it? It's basically cell tower based Internet access. If you know anybody who even gets a teeny tiny little bit of cell phone service at your house, then you're a canidate for EVDO service.

Only AllTel customers were able to get a hint of a signal at my house, so I looked into their service offerings. I bought their UTStarcom UM150 USB modem with both retractable antenna and a jack for an external antenna. It costs about $50 to $100 with a service contract or $200 without. AllTel offers truly unlimited access for $60/month, a far cry from the FAP-limited offerings of satellite providers.

To the right, you can see both the UM150 and the indoor 7dBi antenna I picked up for $15 on eBay. The antenna comes with 12 feet of cable for optimal placement. If you're in a spot with really shitty reception, you might want to opt for a high gain (13dBi) outdoor antenna or even a directional (grid) antenna.

Sharing EVDO signal

If you want to hook up more than one computer to your awesome new EVDO internet access, consider buying something like the Kyocera KR2 Mobile EVDO Router or the Linksys WRT54G3G-ST Wireless-G Mobile Broadband Router. Both allow you to share a single EVDO connection over ethernet LAN or wifi 802.11. There are other, more complicated solutions too, like the mini advanced communication computers made by Soekris.com. I ended up getting the Cradelpoint MBR1000. It accepts up to two USB EVDO modems and one expresscard modem. Connection sharing is a snap, and it broadcasts WiFi in B, G and N flavors in addition to four hard ports.

EVDO vs. Satellite

My top of the line $80/mo Wild Blue setup topped out at about 1.6mbps but whenever it rained even a little I was totally knocked offline. Lame. My EVDO setup keeps on trucking through even the most brutal storms but peeks out at about half the pipe of the satellite connection. (If your signal is better, EVDO can get up to 3mbps!) But the best selling point for EVDO is its reasonable latency. On satellite I regularly experienced pings of about 900ms which makes things like SSH, VPN, SFTP, etc painful or even impossible. On EVDO my ping is a much more tolerable 250ms average. Emulating a server via SSH or getting/putting files via SFTP is literally over ten times faster now.

Whereas I couldn't do much bittorrent on satellite because of the FAP limits, my Alltel EVDO service is unlimited. However, the upload speeds are considerably slower, but it's still a much better deal.

Get EVDO now!

So if you're in the market for rural broadband. You owe it to your self to try EVDO first. Do a little footwork to determine which provider(s) have towers closest to you. Spend the bucks for an EVDO modem and give it a whirl. Most providers give you 15 days to check out the service and will refund your money if you can't get a signal. If your signal is sketchy, consider getting an antenna from eBay. Note though that my 7dBi indoor antenna provided only a small boost... but I'm happier nonetheless. Read my latest updates about EVDO. (follow that link!)


Dan Dreifort is a writer, consultant, musician and an IT/marketing/SEO/usability geek. He is the marketing manager for CalicoHosting.com and enjoys international travel. He wears size 10.5 shoes and has a 32" waist. Friends called him 'Duck' in high school. His mother calls him 'wonderful.'