Truly Mobile Connectivity

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Notebook computer users are discovering that when they need Internet connectivity, a Wi-Fi hot spot isn't always available. Some manufacturers are bundling in wireless broadband technologies, such as 3G cellular services, EVDO and Edge radios, into their systems. That's great if you want your notebook computer married to a particular service, but what if you want some flexibility or the notebook doesn't sport a broadband radio?

Franklin Wireless has the answer with its USB modem for EVDO, model CDU-550, which is the pairing of USB modem technology with an EVDO radio that makes wireless broadband plug-and-play simple. Designed to work with Microsoft Windows (Linux and Macintosh support also are available), the CDU-550 has a broadband connectivity application that allows users to quickly establish an EVDO connection with their wireless providers.

CRN Test Center engineers used the device with two notebook computers—one running Windows XP and the other Windows Vista. The Vista system had challenges due to driver issues, but the problems were readily resolved by a visit to the Franklin Wireless Web site. The XP notebook performed flawlessly.

The biggest problem most users will encounter will be EVDO availability and signal strength, both of which will not be much of a concern in major metropolitan areas. For the most part, the device will be available from major cellular carriers, with Sprint already on the bandwagon. Solution providers also can contact the company directly to purchase the unit and then find a separate wireless broadband provider.

One thing many users will appreciate about the device is that it is truly mobile and can be plugged into a variety of devices that support USB connections. By using Windows' built-in Internet-sharing capability, one CDU-550 can be set up to be shared by a small workgroup—a great solution for a job-site network or mobile team. The device retails for $199; Sprint offers it as part of a service bundle at varying prices.

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