Mobile wireless internet service is one of the latest technologies in computing. Not to be confused with a wireless router in the home that sends signals to laptop computers but still uses a cable or DSL connection for the actual internet service, a mobile wireless connection is truly wireless, using a similar technology to that of a cellular telephone to provide internet to devices without any corded or location-specific connections.
In the past, one of the downsides to wireless internet-which has been called cellular internet, mobile internet, or wireless internet-was that the speed of the connection and the service area were both restricted. Wireless cellular internet service used to be painfully slow and the home area for service often didn’t even extend to cover a larger city completely. The signal was also often poor. Remember the days of dropped cell phone calls and static? Well, that problem was only compounded with cellular internet service.
3G/4G Speeds and Quality
This is where 3G entered the scene: third generation cellular networking. And 4G, or fourth generation cellular networking, is already available in limited markets. With the 3G and 4G cellular technology, quality and speeds, cellular wireless internet service now competes with its digital cable or DSL counterparts for speed and quality.
SprintPCS was one of the first wireless networks to offer 3G and 4G cellular wireless internet service-not just on cell phones, but also for mobile computing, laptop and even desktop computers. Unlike AT&T’s similar wireless computing technology, Sprint’s Overdrive 3G/4G Wireless Mobile Hotspot from Sierra Wireless doesn’t have to be plugged into a computer USB port, and there is no need for a router to provide the wireless signal to computers, because the signal comes from the device itself.
In fact, up to five wireless devices can connect to the Sierra Wireless Hotspot from Sprint, including laptop computers, gaming devices, and other internet capable devices, without any wired connections.
Wireless Device and Service
We purchased the SprintPCS wireless internet service from Sprint during our trip from the Houston, Texas area to the Denver, Colorado area. The service cost $69.99 per months, with the Sierra Wireless Mobile Hotspot free with a two-year contract. Sprint was offering a free 30-day trial of the service and the device, so we figured there wasn’t much to lose if we didn’t like it.
Though we expected we would not have wireless internet signal in the mountains of Colorado near Red Feather Lakes, we were surprised to have signal and internet service. In fact, the internet mobile hotspot had service in areas where the regular Sprint cellular service did not-and as an added bonus, when the mobile hotspot was active, our cell phones had cellular service through the hotspot. The service in the mountains was dial-up painfully slow, but it was service in a location we had not expected to have service.
Wireless Device Specs
The setup of the device was super easy. We simply turned it on, plugged in the charger and then followed the onscreen instructions of the device to active it and select a new and unique password.
The device itself only measures a little over three inches by three inches and is just a little over half an inch thick-not a tiny device, but small and very portable, as well as lightweight. There is one small one inch by one inch LCD style display on the flat face of the device and there is one round on/off button below the screen. Power is provided by rechargeable batteries, which can charge through a standard electric plug or with the included adapter plug to charge via USB.
Once the device was turned on, the laptop immediately found the wireless signal and prompted to connect to the device. Two clicks and the internet was instantly available. While 3G is not as fast as some cable internet services, it is at least as fast as many DSL internet services, much faster than dialup internet, and faster than satellite internet.
Mobile Wireless Service Area
While we were on the road, we had internet service all the way from Denver back to Houston, and in a couple of areas, such as in the middle of Houston proper, we had the new 4G service. The device automatically searches for and finds the best signal and fastest service, so when the device comes into a 4G area, it automatically changes to the faster speed-which, by the way, beats Comcast’s digital cable internet speed.
Download and Bandwidth Limits
When using the 3G networking, which is what is available in most markets, there is a limit of five gigabytes per month of download-which might not seem like much, but while we were using the device, and I really use a lot of high-end data transfer such as video uploads and streaming media and images, in two weeks’ time, we didn’t even use half of the monthly allotment, and there were four users connected to the device. When connected to the 4G network, there are no limits on the transfer for the month-that is, 4G is unlimited.
Wireless Mobile Internet Recommendation
I was completely impressed with this small device. If one is an average computer internet user who doesn’t download music and videos/movies but surfs moderately on the internet, for the price, this device is a handy tool to have. It can fit easily into a pocket or a backpack and can provide internet service to any computer anywhere cellular phone service is available (and even in some areas where it is not), without any additional equipment or setup. For those who are already in a 4G network area, the device is even more desirable for price, function and speed.
The SprintPCS Overdrive 3G/4G Wireless Internet Mobile Hotspot from Sierra Wireless is a tech-geek’s dream gift and makes internet accessible from just about anywhere at any time. I highly recommend the product and was very impressed with the service. For the frequently traveler, this is a must-have product.
SprintPCS’s website with information on the Overdrive Mobile Hotspot from Sierra Wireless.