3G/4G WWAN Wireless Mobile Broadband FAQ

Contents

I want wireless connectivity

Unfortunately the computer industry is rife with jargon and buzzwords. The term wireless is used for a whole range of technologies that are completely different from each other. When discussing wireless vendors may be referring to WiFi (802.11*), Bluetooth, WWAN (mobile broadband), or several other technologies. We will deal with the first two mentioned in different documents.

Many customers, when requesting wireless connectivity, are referring to 3G (third generation) wireless telephony, which in turn refers to a range of technologies including EVDO, CDMA, EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, UMTS, and others. 3G and similar services are typically offered by the mobile phone carriers and allow access to the internet over the data portion of their mobile networks. For more information on this see the next question.

CTR500 Cellular Travel Router
CTR500 Cellular Travel Router More Information - View Product Pages Buy Now
CP-WANLAN-CTR500
CTR500 Cellular Travel Router for WWAN 3G/4G to WiFi/Ethernet Networks
Utilize a single mobile broadband data ExpressCard, USB, or USB tethered phone WWAN connection to provide network wide internet access over WiFi or wired Ethernet LANs
MicroU2E for ExpressCards
USB-EXP-ADP-01 More Information - View Product Pages Buy Now
USB-EXP-ADP-01
MicroU2E USB 2.0 to USB 2.0 Mode ExpressCard 34|54 Host Adapter
Cross-platform adapter allows use of USB 2.0 mode ExpressCards with USB 2.0 equipped computers

I want to use a 3G service with my computer

For the most part this is possible, but it depends on several factors including: connections on host computer, 3G hardware available, and connectivity options offered by specific wireless vendors. To make this easier to understand, we will break down the possibilities in the next question to specific computer setups and address both what is currently available, and what will be available in the near future.

I want to provide 3G/4G WWAN Wireless Mobile Broadband service to computers on my LAN Network

An excellent way of providing Wireless Mobile Broadband (WWAN) for a fixed location is a wireless gateway/router. Harnessing 3G or 4G mobile data networks (AKA cellular data networks), wireless gateway/routers handle the connectivity with mobile carriers like T-Mobile, Vodaphone, Sprint, AT&T (Cingular), Verizon, and many others. Wireless gateway/routers typically accept mobile broadband connectivity devices including 3G/4G PCMCIA PC Cards and USB devices. These wireless gateway/routers are extremely versatile, offering support for mobile (cellular) broadband data network devices ranging from the older style EDGE and CDMA to the lastest EVDO Rev. A and HSDPA cards.

Wireless gateway/routers then provide an internet connection (WAN) to individual computers or local are networks (LAN) via WiFi (802.11*) or wired Ethernet just as a gateway or router plugged into DSL, T-1, or other wired WAN options do. Share a single mobile (cellular) broadband data account throughout a household, business or branch office. Connect existing wired networks to wireless gateway/router, or take advantage of built in WiFi to enable roaming connections. Perfect for rural locations, wireless gateway/routers provide a cost effective and easy to administer solution for broadband connectivity. Synchrotech has created a compatibility matrix to aid in determining wireless gateway/router compatibility with individual mobile (cellular) broadband data networking devices.

Wireless Gateway/Routers Available From Synchrotech
Top Global MB6000 Phoebus
Top Global MB6800
Top Global MB8000 MobileBridge

The Kyocera KR1 Broadband EVDO Mobile Router accepts a range of 3G Wireless PC Cards from various carriers and routes the connection over WiFi (802.11g) or Ethernet and has a simple web configuration. It is not tied to any specific platform and is client agnostic to systems on its LAN. It has many more capabilities not listed here. See Kyocera's product brochure or site for more information. For an excellent review of the device see the EVDO Info Site's review. The device costs under $300 dollars depending on where it is purchased from. Kyocera KR1 Now Supports More EVDO Rev A Devices, Including U720/USB720.

I want to use a 3G service with my laptop

Laptop with PC Card slot

This is the easiest to address, nearly all the existing solutions on the market today use PC Card host adapters for 3G wireless services. In the U.S. most carriers (Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, et al) sell 32-bit PC Cards (CardBus) for access to their 3G networks, although ExpressCards are begining to catch up in terms of availability. In Europe and other regions a mix of 32-bit PC Cards (CardBus) and 16-bit PC Cards are available. Since nearly every PC Card slot on laptops since 1996 are of the 32-bit (CardBus) variety, the fact that many 3G cards are CardBus shouldn't be an issue. In truth, laptop older than the CardBus standard probably wouldn't work with 3G anyway.

Several of the new Novatel Wireless Merlin ExpressCards (XU870, EX720, V740) have an optional PC Card adapter so they can be used with PC Card and ExpressCard based machines. This is an excellent option as it protects the card investment for people that have a PC Card equipped machine now, but will upgrade to an ExpressCard based machine in the future. The ECA16 also allows use of ExpressCard based WWAN Wireless Cards in a PC Card slot with the added benefit of supplying more power than 32-bit OEM versions.

In this case as long as your operating system supports the card, you shouldn't have to do anything but purchase the PC Card and subscribe to the carriers' service. Shop around as 3G coverage varies by region and prices vary as well. Although some of the solutions listed below for laptops without PC Card slots would work with PC Card slot equipped laptops, it is better just to use a PC Card in this case for simplicity and compatibility.

Laptop with ExpressCard slot

ExpressCard is the latest standard from the PCMCIA, which will eventually replace PC Card on laptops. Many new laptops have this new standard, especially more compact models. Since the 3G carriers predominantly employ PC Card as 3G hardware, this leaves the following options for ExpressCard equipped laptops in order of availability:

  • Use an ExpressCard to PCMCIA PC Card and CardBus Adapter with an existing 16-bit or 32-bit 3G Wireless Card. The DuelAdapter works with a broad range of WWAN mobile broadband PC Cards
  • Purchase an ExpressCard version of a 3G Wireless device. In the case of some carriers, wait for them to release one. The following is a sampling of the available devices:
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin EX720 EVDO Rev-A ExpressCard (Sprint)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin V740 EVDO Rev-A ExpressCard (Verizon)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin XU870 HSDPA EVDO Rev-A ExpressCard (Cingular?)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin V640 EVDO ExpressCard (Verizon)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin V740 EVDO Rev-A ExpressCard (Verizon)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin V730 EVDO ExpressCard (Verizon)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin XV620 EVDO ExpressCard (Verizon)
    More and more of these cards are being released each day, check with your carrier to see what they have available. Try to get an EVDO Rev-A or HSDPA card as opposed to the older ones for better speeds. Several of the new Novatel Wireless Merlin ExpressCards (XU870, EX720, V740) have an optional PC Card adapter so they can be used with PC Card and ExpressCard based machines. This is an excellent option as it protects the card investment for people that have a PC Card equipped machine now, but will upgrade to an ExpressCard based machine in the future. Additionally, a large computer maker that relabels Novatel Wireless products in an attempt to appear innovative.
  • Purchase a USB to 3G Wireless PC Card adapter. Elan Digital Systems Ltd. has three models. The U142 is a USB to 32-bit PC Card reader which works with a select subset of 3G wireless PC Cards. Only a handful of the cards it supports work with wireless carrier supplied connection software, the rest require an arduous setup process. The U132 is a USB to 32-bit PC Card reader which works with a select subset of 3G wireless PC Cards. Only a handful of the cards it sutports work with wireless carrier supplied connection software, the rest require an arduous setup process. For 16-bit cards Elan offers the U111, a USB to 16-bit PC Card reader. Like the U132, the U111 will work with a select subset of 3G wireless PC Cards. Only two of the cards it supports work with wireless carrier supplied connection software, the rest require an arduous setup process.
  • Purchase a USB version of a 3G Wireless device. In the case of some carriers, wait for them to release one. The following is a sampling of the available devices:
    • Novatel Wireless Ovation U720 EVDO Rev-A USB Modem (Sprint)
    • Sierra Wireless AC595U EVDO Rev-A USB Modem (Verizon)
    • Franklin Wireless CDU680 EVDO Rev-A USB Modem (Verizon)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin USB720 EVDO Rev-A USB Modem
    • Franklin Wireless CDU-550 EVDO USB Modem (Sprint)
    • Novatel Wireless Ovation U720 EVDO USB Modem (Sprint)
    More and more of these devices are being released each day, check with your carrier to see what they have available. Try to get an EVDO Rev-A or HSDPA device as opposed to the older ones for better speeds.
  • Utilize a 3G phone tethered to a laptop. Many carriers offer the ability to connect GPRS/EDGE phones to laptops over various ways such as USB. Some carriers call this a phone as modem option. The mobile phone acts as a 3G modem and provides similar functionality as a 3G PC Card. Check with mobile carriers in your area for availability. [See Tethered in Important Links below]
  • Germany's Nova Media USB Globesurfer ICON, an all-on-one GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSDPA wireless data modem for the PC: product page.
  • See the FAQ entry for Wireless Gateway/Routers for WWAN 3G/4G to WiFi/Ethernet Networks. These devices accept a range of 3G Wireless PC Cards from various carriers and route the connection over WiFi (802.11*) or Ethernet and have simple web configurations. They are not tied to any specific platform and are client agnostic to systems on its LAN.
  • Another option, especially if if the laptop is brand new, is to see if you can trade it for a model with a PC Card slot or a model that has built 3G wireless connectivity. Examples of the later include Sony's VAIO TX series with built in support for Cingular 3G, or Lenovo ThinkPads and HP Compaq nc6140 with built in support for Verizon 3G.
  • ExpressCard.Org lists a variety of USB Wireless WAN Modems. Synchrotech has not looked into this option, but such devices may be a viable option for some customers.
MicroU2E-MV for ExpressCards
USB-EXP-ADP-02 More Information - View Product Pages Buy Now
USB-EXP-ADP-02
MicroU2E-MV USB 2.0 to USB Mode ExpressCard 34|54 Multi-Voltage Host Adapter
Cross-platform adapter allows use of USB 2.0 mode ExpressCards with USB 2.0 equipped computers, adds 1.5V support for Option Wireless devices
Kyocera KPC680 ExpressCard
Kyocera KPC680 ExpressCard More Information - View Product Pages Buy Now
EXP34-WWAN-KPC680
Kyocera KPC680 ExpressCard WWAN Wireless Mobile Broadband EV-DO Rev.A
The best EV-DO ExpressCard with free MicroU2E and DoubleQueue, cannot be activated on Verizon or Altel Networks

Laptop with no slot

Many compact and sub-notebook designs are so small as they include no card slots or have a CompactFlash (CFII+), SD Card or other small form factor slots. While it is feasible that a 3G option for CFII+ or the like could be manufactured, chances are they wont for two reasons. First, most U.S. carriers utilize 32-bit technology while CompactFlash, SD Card, and other small form factor slots are 16-bit. Second, laptops with small form factor slots have been on the market for some time, and to date no 3G carrier makes cards for them. Therefore, the choices for slot-less or small form factor slot equipped laptops are in order of availability:

  • The MicroU2E USB 2.0 to ExpressCard Adapter allows the use of many WWAN Mobile Broadband ExpressCards with a USB 2.0 port.
  • Purchase a USB version of a 3G Wireless device. In the case of some carriers, wait for them to release one. The following is a sampling of the available devices:
    • Novatel Wireless Ovation U720 EVDO Rev-A USB Modem (Sprint)
    • Sierra Wireless AC595U EVDO Rev-A USB Modem (Verizon)
    • Franklin Wireless CDU680 EVDO Rev-A USB Modem (Verizon)
    • Novatel Wireless Merlin USB720 EVDO Rev-A USB Modem
    • Franklin Wireless CDU-550 EVDO USB Modem (Sprint)
    • Novatel Wireless Ovation U720 EVDO USB Modem (Sprint)
    More and more of these devices are being released each day, check with your carrier to see what they have available. Try to get an EVDO Rev-A or HSDPA device as opposed to the older ones for better speeds.
  • Purchase a USB to 3G Wireless PC Card adapter. Elan Digital Systems Ltd. has three models. The U142 is a USB to 32-bit PC Card reader which works with a select subset of 3G wireless PC Cards. Only a handful of the cards it supports work with wireless carrier supplied connection software, the rest require an arduous setup process. The U132 is a USB to 32-bit PC Card reader which works with a select subset of 3G wireless PC Cards. Only a handful of the cards it supports work with wireless carrier supplied connection software, the rest require an arduous setup process. For 16-bit cards Elan offers the U111, a USB to 16-bit PC Card reader. Like the U132, the U111 will work with a select subset of 3G wireless PC Cards. Only two of the cards it supports work with wireless carrier supplied connection software, the rest require an arduous setup process.
  • Utilize a 3G phone tethered to a laptop. Many carriers offer the ability to connect GPRS/EDGE phones to laptops over various ways such as USB. Some carriers call this a phone as modem option. The mobile phone acts as a 3G modem and provides similar functionality as a 3G PC Card. Check with mobile carriers in your area for availability. [See Tethered in Important Links below]
  • See the FAQ entry for Wireless Gateway/Routers for WWAN 3G/4G to WiFi/Ethernet Networks. These devices accept a range of 3G Wireless PC Cards from various carriers and route the connection over WiFi (802.11*) or Ethernet and have simple web configurations. They are not tied to any specific platform and are client agnostic to systems on its LAN.
  • Another option, especially if if the laptop is brand new, is to see if you can trade it for a model with an ExpressCard slot, a PC Card slot, or a model that has built 3G wireless connectivity. Examples of the later include Sony's VAIO TX series with built in support for Cingular 3G, or Lenovo ThinkPads and HP Compaq nc6140 with built in support for Verizon 3G.
  • ExpressCard.Org lists a variety of USB Wireless WAN Modems. Synchrotech has not looked into this option, but such devices may be a viable option for some customers.

Other laptop options

Many times end users or businesses need 3G access not so much for the portability factor, but because they are in a remote or rural area in which 3G is the only available "broadband." In these situations it is sometimes a simple matter of setting up a desktop machine with a PC Card reader or laptop with a PC Card slot to access a 3G PC Card and then sharing the internet connection over Ethernet or WiFi (802.11*). As long as the 3G equipped machine is running an operating system that can multi-home and act as a router, this option allows a household or business LAN to access a 3G network.

I want to use a 3G service with my desktop

Desktop machines are surprisingly easier to support than slot-less laptops in may cases. As long as a machine has open PCI slots there are a range of PC Card readers available that work with 3G wireless PC Cards. To make this easier to understand, we will break down the possibilities in the next question to specific computer setups and address both what is currently available, and what will be available in the near future.

Desktop with PCI Express or ExpressCard slots

With ExpressCard Slots
With PCIe Slots
  • Add an ExpressCard slot to a PCIe based computer to gain options above.
  • PCI Express to PC CardBus readers should be available soon, allowing the use of 3G PC Cards.

Desktop with available PCI slots

Desktops with available PCI slots can take advantage of PCI to PC Card readers, which provide identical functionality to a laptop based PC Card slot. A 32-bit cardbus capable reader is essential for devices from U.S. based 3G carriers, while others may be able to use a 16-bit reader depending on whether they have a 36 or 32-bit card. PCIe based desktop machines are also able to add a an ExpressCard slot to gain all the options of an ExpressCard based laptop as discussed above.

Synchrotech carries a range of these devices, with the following recommended for most end users:

32-bit two slot Ricoh based
PCM-CR-PC2IC3 http://www.synchrotech.com/products/card-rw_01_pci_2slot_pc-card_pc-cardbus_ti-pcii1520.html
32-bit one slot TI/Ene based
PCM-CR-PC1IC2 http://www.synchrotech.com/products/card-rw_06_p111_p222_elan_pcmcia_pc-card_reader_slot.html
32-bit two slot TI/Ene based
PCM-CR-PC2IC2 http://www.synchrotech.com/products/card-rw_06_p111_p222_elan_pcmcia_pc-card_reader_slot.html
All others, including 16-bit readers
http://www.synchrotech.com/products/card-rw_00.html#pci
Router
See the FAQ entry for Wireless Gateway/Routers for WWAN 3G/4G to WiFi/Ethernet Networks. These devices accept a range of 3G Wireless PC Cards from various carriers and route the connection over WiFi (802.11*) or Ethernet and have simple web configurations. They are not tied to any specific platform and are client agnostic to systems on its LAN.
MB8000 Wireless Gateway
MB8000 Wireless Gateway More Information - View Product Pages Buy Now
TG-WANLAN-805283
MB8000 MobileBridge Wireless Gateway/Router for WWAN 3G/4G to WiFi/Ethernet Networks
Utilize a single mobile broadband data WWAN connection to provide network wide internet access over WiFi or wired Ethernet LANs
MB6800 Wireless Gateway
MB6800 Wireless Gateway More Information - View Product Pages Buy Now
TG-WANLAN-687482
MB6800 Wireless Gateway/Router for WWAN 3G/4G to WiFi/Ethernet Networks
Utilize a single mobile broadband data WWAN connection to provide network wide internet access over WiFi or wired Ethernet LANs

Desktop without available slots

In the rare, but occasional case of a desktop computer with no PCI, PCI Express, or ExpressCard slots, the options are the same as Laptop with no slot and Other laptop options with the understanding that purchasing a different laptop or desktop should be read where the FAQ entry mentions purchasing a different laptop.

Product Availability Timetable

Platform Option 3G Product Availability
Earliest Likely
Laptop Options PC CardBus Slot CardBus 3G NOW
PC Card Slot ExpressCard WWAN NOW
ExpressCard Slot ExpressCard to PC Card and CardBus NOW
ExpressCard Slot ExpressCard 3G NOW
USB 2.0 Ports USB to WWAN ExpressCard NOW
USB Ports USB to 3G Wireless NOW
USB, Bluetooth, IrDA, RS-232 Tethered 3G Phone NOW
Top Global Routers 3G PC Cards NOW
Kyocera KR1 Router 3G PC Cards NOW
Elan U142 Select CardBus 3G * NOW
Elan U132 Select CardBus 3G * NOW
Elan U111-530 Novatel Wireless Merlin 530/630
partial Select 16-bit 3G *
NOW
Desktop Options PCI Slot to PC CardBus Reader CardBus 3G NOW
ExpressCard Slot ExpressCard 3G NOW
ExpressCard Slot ExpressCard to PC Card and CardBus NOW
USB 2.0 Ports USB to WWAN ExpressCard NOW
USB Ports USB to 3G Wireless NOW
USB, Bluetooth, IrDA, RS-232 Tethered 3G Phone NOW
PCI Express Slot PCIe to Express Card for ExpressCard options NOW
PCI Express Slot PCI Express to CardBus Reader and CardBus 3G October 2007 December 2007
Top Global Routers 3G PC Cards NOW
Kyocera KR1 Router 3G PC Cards NOW
Elan U142 Select CardBus 3G * NOW
Elan U132 Select CardBus 3G * NOW
Elan U111-530 Novatel Wireless Merlin 530/630
partial Select 16-bit 3G *
NOW

Mac OS X 3G Solutions, Information and Links

MacBook Pro

See Laptop with ExpressCard slot and the following:

PowerMac G5 or Mac Pro

See Desktop with PCI Express or ExpressCard slots and the following:

PowerBook With PC Card Slot

See Laptop with PC Card slot and the following:

MacBook, iBook, and other Macintosh Systems

See Laptop with no slot and the following:

Miscellaneous Mac Related Information

Why aren't there as many options for robust and secure operating systems like Open/Net/FreeBSD, Mac OS X, or Linux?

Unfortunately, many carriers focus exclusively on the volume rather than quality market. These means if you are using robust and/or secure operating systems your options are much more limited. The Elan U132 will not be available outside of the Windows platform. Approved tethered phone options, such as those by Cingular, rely on Windows only software. There are workarounds to GPRS phone issues, the following links are suggested as a starting place.

Unix and Unix-Like Links and Information

Elan's U142/U132 Quick Facts

Important U142/U132 links

Elan Product Page
Elan's product page for the U132
Supported Card List
Elan page with additional model support other than those listed on product page
Frequently Asked Questions
Elan's FAQ page for the U132

Other Important Links

New Product Announcements

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