IP on wheels

Have you ever been BONG’D on the road? Well it happened to me.

As early adopters and testers of different IP and mobility products, we have the rare opportunity for moments of inspiration and enlightenment. Since I see more hours of windshield time on the road than anyone else in the Fox Group office, I was the perfect candidate. {I’m based out of Wasaga Beach} .

What were we testing this time?

Fox Group was asked to test, experience and rate the Kyocera 1xEVDO card for Laptop computers on various cellular network providers.

1xEVDO ( EVolution Digital Optimized) is the 3G (Third Generation) of cellular based services designed to move IP data at speeds approaching terrestrial services.

What did we do?

As I prepared to install the software associated with the card, I had a moment to reflect on how far services have come.

In 1997, Digital PCS was delivering 40 to 60 Kbps but the initial 1x retrofit allowed speeds of “up to” 144 Kbps. This was the technology that allowed police services to install on-board computers in the police cruisers. Now, 3G services are designed to allow hand held devices and laptops the ability to transmit text, imaging and speech on the same connection.

Installation was a breeze… the CD installed the software and the Kyocera card slipped into the PCMIA slot in my laptop and started up without any issues. I immediately opened my Outlook and downloaded some emails. Not as fast as the 3Mbps ADSL at Fox Hollow, but ‘reasonable’.

Naturally, the next question was ‘how fast is fast?’ It became clear that an objective test needed some defined parameters so I decided do use a ‘speed test web site’ as a relative measure of throughput.

Where did we test the EVDO card from and what were the results? Fox Hollow is in a rural area near Mount Albert , Ontario which is about 50 kms northeast of Toronto . This area was not yet 1xEVDO enabled so I had a ‘control’ test, from which to measure. The speed measured was measured to Linkline.net since it provided measurements in both directions.

At Fox Hollow the Kyocera card measured 129 Kbps download and 134 upload. This compares favourably with a 2B+D ISDN service since this was true throughput and the IP overhead was extra.

The next step was to take this to my home office in Wasaga Beach . Here I measured 117 Kbps download and 138 Kbps upload. This was reasonably consistent with Fox Hollow. Tests in Barrie and Newmarket had similar results.

Since I was driving to various points making tests, the laptop was on the passenger seat of my car. Honestly, it was just sitting on the seat, I was NOT using my laptop while driving.

I decided to drive to Toronto to test the high speed capability and just north of the 407 the 1xEVDO icon appeared. It was at this point that I heard the familiar “BONG” of my MSN Messenger. Roberta was messaging me and waiting for a response.

I pulled off the highway and sent back a message that I had been on the 400 and here we were, using the same technologies that we use throughout the work day.

At this point we were using a computer plugged into a Mitel VoIP set, through an ADSL connection to the IP cloud. From there the packets routed to the Bell Cellular Network to my 3G card on my laptop.

While stopped on the side of road near Canada ‘s Wonderland, I ran the speed test and the results were impressive. The test revealed 509 Kbps download to laptop and 109 kbps upload to the Network.

At my next stop in a plaza, a local coffee shop had wireless (802.11G) capability for its patrons which my wireless card detected and notified me. This was my epiphany… my intellectual “BONG”.

Our observations and thoughts on use of EVDO technology

The only negative comment I have is that the removal process is a bit cumbersome since the card has to be “ejected” in software before it can be physically removed. Incorrect removal can cause ‘fatal errors’ …. Something I decided not to test.

As 1xEVDO rolls out in the Bell and Telus network, high speed capability was now as ubiquitous as cell phones. As an example, for individuals working in clients’ offices, IP access is no longer a problem. The transition is smooth and just a couple of mouse clicks turns on the 3G card. I did a number of tests in Toronto and the slowest download was 378 Kbps.

Clearly, as 1xEVDO use grows, the IP gap will be closed for those who need ubiquitous IP coverage capable of voice, text, image and speech. For 3G services, this is only the beginning as the manufacturers continue to develop and deploy improved network performance and throughput.

This will enable improved individual and corporate productivity, truly allowing people to work wherever they are.

Bill Elliott is a director at the Fox Group. Roberta Fox will return next month.

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