With the Kyocera KPC650 cellular modem card and Verizon's growing EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) network, traveling professionals finally have the killer app they've been looking for: broadband access on the road. If it's available in your area, an EV-DO connection will allow you to access the Internet at high speeds from wherever you are--be it train, car, or airport--and the KPC650 is the conduit. But, as you might expect, it doesn't come cheap. At $99 (with a two-year service contract) the card is relatively inexpensive, but Verizon's all-you-can-eat data package will run you $79.99 per month.
The card itself looks much like any other PC Card with the addition of a fold-out antenna to facilitate connections. Some users may prefer the clean lines of a card without this antenna, such as the Novatel Wireless V620, which is also available through Verizon. Even if you're a stranger to networking, installation could not be easier. The included documentation walks you through every step of the process, even telling you exactly when to slide the card into the notebook. In fact, we were up and running in less than five minutes, and that includes the time it took for Windows to recognize and install the correct drivers.
Verizon's VZAccess Manager software offers one-touch dial-up to the network and also provides management software that allows you to keep track of your account. It also supports text messaging and organizes your other applications.
Our informal tests found the KPC650 to be relatively inconsistent. Unlike the V620 which produced consistent high-speed connections, the KPC650 had big swings in connection rates. For instance, the first morning we used the card, the CNET Bandwidth Meter showed our connection speed to be a whopping 68,000Kbps, and it remained steady for quite a while. Naturally, our expectations were high for the next morning as well, but the card produced only a disappointing 230Kbps. At Kennedy Airport, where we expect this card to get the most use, we managed a slightly higher 277.2Kbps. We prefer the Novatel Wireless V620 card for its faster, more consistent performance.
Currently serving 32 major metropolitan areas, Verizon's coverage area is growing quickly, and users can search for coverage in their area via the company's Web site. Although we didn't test it, the KPC650 can also access Verizon's NationalAccess service which is CDMA based and will get you consistent but lower connection speeds in areas of the country where the EV-DO service has not yet reached. Additionally, the company's Quick 2 Net service will give you a 14.4Kbps connection.
Kyocera provides a one-year warranty for the KPC650 card. Verizon handles the support and tech question via a toll-free phone line that is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT, seven days a week. Verizon's Web site includes BroadbandAccess and NationalAccess FAQs, a glossary, and an equipment guide.