Wireless Internet Card
A couple of years ago I purchased a Verizon Wireless PCMIA card to use on my notebook. I intended to use it when I traveled, and I did. In 2006, when thunderstorms put our phone service out for over a day, I ended up working on the laptop instead of my PC – because it could connect wirelessly.
Next I purchased a Media Center PC that had built-in Wi-Fi. Since the notebook did, too, I could then make the laptop become a hotspot to share the internet connection with my desktop PC.
Since then, I’ve changed both my notebook and my wireless card. The new “card" is a Verizon Wireless USB stick. It plugs directly into the front of my desktop and connects the same way the laptop does.
It’s not inexpensive. The USB stick runs $69/mo standalone or $59/mo if you also have a cell phone with Verizon. Sprint lists the same USB stick for $59.99/mo.
Note that not all areas get great reception with a wireless card. Be sure that if you purchase a wireless card to use with your notebook and as a backup internet source for your desktop, make use of that 30-day return policy the carriers offer and make sure it works plugged into your PC or notebook where you actually intend to use it.
What kind of performance can be expected with a modern wireless card? The current Verizon cards run under the “EVDO rev. 1" protocol, which provides a third generation, or 3G, network. I tested the speed of the USB stick for this article at speedtest.net and saw 1,617 kb/s (kilobits per second) download, 464 up. This compares to DSL, which is my primary connection, at 646.4 KB/s (kilobytes per second) down and 52.3 up.
So let’s convert kb/s to KB/s so we can directly compare. This amazing formula comes into play:
((1617 x 1000)/8)/1024 = 197.4 KB/s is the USB’s sticks download speed.
Bear in mind that our government says that anything over 786 kb/s is broadband! That’s about 96 KB/s. (To put this into perspective, a 500 KB/s connection downloads a megabyte every 2 seconds. That same megabyte will take over 10 seconds at our government's minimal broadband speed.)
Anyway, this shows that my wireless card is about one-third as fast as my DSL connection.