If you're a mobile professional working in the field and in need of Internet connectivity, Cingular's EDGE service can come to the rescue. This is especially true if you find yourself needing connectivity off the beaten path, since Cingular's EDGE service is currently more widely available than faster 3G services. With coverage in more than 13,000 cities and towns and on 39,000 miles of highways, EDGE is still among the best mobile connectivity offerings available for hardened road warriors.
Cingular's EDGE service is nice in a pinch, but it's pricey and a far cry away from faster 3G networks, such as EVDO and UMTS. You can use Cingular's EDGE service to send and receive e-mail, run an instant messenger, and browse the Web, but don't expect content-rich Web pages to load with a quick ping. Instead, prepare to watch graphics gradually fill in the page. Video and audio streams are choppy at best. VoIP and Remote Desktop connections are equally disappointing. There's only so much you can accomplish with a typical data transfer rate ranging from 70Kbps to 135Kbps. True, Cingular's EDGE service is nearly twice the speed of poky CDMA 1xRTT connections and about three times faster than GPRS, but EDGE still lacks the bandwidth for smoothly surfing today's Internet.
Data Connect plans currently come in a variety of flavors, ranging from $19.99 for a meager 5 included megabytes to $79.99 for all-you-can-eat service. If you need the EDGE connection only occasionally for sending e-mail when no other Internet connection is available, then the budget $19.99 plan might suffice, but beware: you're charged an additional 0.8 cent for every kilobyte beyond your 5MB limit, and that can get pricey in a hurry. International roaming costs you 1.95 cents per kilobyte.
You can access Cingular's EDGE service with a variety of different devices, including a wide array of PDAs, phones, and laptops. We tested the service on a Sony VAIO VGN-TX670P laptop, which was equipped with a built-in Sony Ericsson Wireless WAN adapter and Cingular's Connection Manager software. The Cingular Connection Manager is a relatively unobtrusive app that lets you connect to and disconnect from the EDGE service, monitor the status and signal strength of your connection, and send SMS messages. Unfortunately, the Connection Manager lacks an easy-to-use odometer for the number of kilobytes brought to bear against your account, which makes it easy to lose track and accrue overage charges.