On February 1st, Verizon Wireless announced they had begin implementing EV-DO Rev A mobile broadband in major metropolitan areas. Sprint had already begun implementing Rev A back in October 2006. The big deal about EV-DO Rev A is the upload speed. Once it's implemented in your service area, your mobile broadband upload speed will jump from 50-100Kbps to 300-400Kbps.
When Apple released the WWAN Support Update on February 19th, I noticed it listed some new Rev A ExpressCards as well as a Rev A USB broadband modem, the Novatel Ovation U720. The thought of a USB modem was exciting to me since it should mean any Mac with a USB 2.0 port can utilize the mobile broadband networks.
But a closer reading of the WWAN Support Update page on Apple.com reveals these words under System Requirements: "Intel-based Macintosh Portable." That implies that the Rev A USB modem support is only for MacBooks and MacBook Pros. But that wouldn't stop us from trying non-portables.
We obtained the Novatel Ovation U720 from Verizon (which they call the USB720). It "plugged and played" like a dream on our MacBook Pro C2D. With the latest WWAN Support Update, we didn't even need the VZAccessManager software to connect to Internet. This is good news for 13" MacBook owners, They don't have an ExpressCard slot like the MacBook Pro, so the USB based U720 is their salvation for a 3G EV-DO solution.
Ugh. The bulky USB modem protrudes 3.5 inches when plugged directly into the USB port and tilts downward, potentially stressing and/or bending it. You can eliminate potential stress by using a USB extension cable but you are still dealing with a dangling thingee.
An ExpressCard Rev A modem would seem more desirable for the MacBook Pro but Verizon doesn't currently offer a Rev A rated ExpressCard/34 modem. I predict they will soon add the Rev A Novatel Merlin EX720 ExpressCard used by Sprint.
FLASH -- March 16th, 2007 -- If you have a MacBook Pro and plan to use Verizon's mobile broadband data network, you will want the V740 Rev A ExpressCard/34 being released on March 30th. (EVDOinfo.com gave us a heads up on this. Their 3GStore is offering it for $109.99, or $70 less than Verizon's direct.)
We were impressed with the U720's performance. On April 10th, our Verizon broadband data network was upgraded to EV-DO Rev A. Previously, our upload speed maxed out at 128Kbps. Take a look at it now:
WORKS ON DESKTOP MACS AFTER ALL!
At first we could not get our Quad-Core G5 Power Mac or Mac Pro Quad-Xeon to recognize the U720. But Alex Sian of EVDOinfo.com suggested removing the WWAN Support modem script. Once we did that, the VZAccessManager installer was able to detect the U720 modem we had connected to the USB 2.0 port. We are happy to report it works like a charm and attained the same speeds as when used on our MacBook Pro.
That's great news for those of us who live in the "boonies" and don't have access to Cable or DSL broadband networks. That means we can use Verizon and Sprint's broadband data networks on Mac desktops as well as laptops.
WAYS TO SHARE THE CONNECTION
1. If you have the U720 (or the V740) connected to your MacBook Pro or MacBook, you can share the internet connection with other Macs on your local network via AirPort or Ethernet. Go to System Preferences on the MacBook Pro. Click on Sharing. Click in Internet tab. Choose "Share connection from (modem name)." For "Choose computers using" select either Built-in Ethernet or AirPort (Wi-Fi). Click START.
Next, go to your deskop and ciick on the AirPort icon on the Finder menu bar. You will see your MacBook Pro listed as a network option. Once you select it, you can surf the internet via the U720 connected to your MacBook Pro.
When we used this approach, the download and upload speeds where identical to the "direct" MacBook Pro connection!
2. You can plug your EV-DO card into a Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi Router like the Kyocera KR1 or the Linksys WRT54G3G-ST. We have both in our lab. Any Mac within range of the WiFi "G" signal can use it as a portal to Verizon EV-DO Rev A network and access the internet. Though both routers are designed to accept PCMCIA cards, the KR1 also a USB port. With the latest firmware upate, you can use the USB based U720 modem with it in Rev-A mode.
For those of you with a PCMCIA or CardBus slot in your PowerBook, there are at least two Rev A cards for you. Sprint is offering the PCMCIA version of the EX720. It's not Mac compatible but EV-DOinfo.com will "Mac preactivate" it for you.
Verizon states in their press release that the AirCard 595 PCMCIA (Cardbus) card is Rev A as is the new PC5750.
DEFINITION OF MOBILE BROADBAND DATA NETWORK TERMS
Verizon and Sprint's 3G (for "3rd generation") wireless broadband data network uses EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) technology. For more info, read Wikipedia's discussion of EV-DO.
Cingular's 3G wireless broadband data network uses HSDPA/UMTS (High Speed Downlink Packet Access/Universal Moblie Telephone System) technology. It's sometimes marketed as "3GSM." For more info, see Wikipedia's discussion of HSDPA and UMTS.
WHERE TO BUY
Order your Novatel Ovation U720 from Verizon Wireless and get $50 rebate for a net cost of $129. EV-DOinfo has it for $69 net and provides much better support for Mac users than Verizon.
Purchase Mobile Broadband Wi-Fi Routers like the Kyocera KR1 or the Linksys WRT54G3G-ST from EV-DOinfo. (You can purchase them from other sources but they don't provide customer support for Macs that we have experienced from EV-DOinfo.)
Read a review of the Sprint version of the U720 on EV-DOinfo.com. They also reviewed Sprint's ExpresssCard EX720 (Rev A).
Check out the comparison of EV-DO routers on EV-DOinfo.com.
Get a booster antenna to increase both signal strength and speed. In our testing, our download speed increased by 36%
Read the press release from Verizon Wireless concerning their Rev A upgrade and two cards that support it.
See Verizon Wireless' full list of broadband data network modems.
See Cingular's page on broadband data network modems.
Test your upload and download speed using DSLReports.
Read about Apple's plan for the 3G version of the iPhone.
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