DSL and cable broadband are great when you happen to be sitting in a room with an activated modem, but what are you supposed to do when you're away from home or the office and need a fast Internet connection? Well, look no further. Sprint's Mobile Broadband service lets you access the Internet via the wireless carrier's relatively small but growing EV-DO network. EV-DO, which stands for Evolution Data-Only, is one of a handful of 3G technologies that cellular carriers have been rolling out over the past couple of years. EV-DO is faster than Cingular's EDGE service but slower than the new HSPDA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) services that are beginning to appear in a few cities. Today, Sprint's Mobile Broadband service covers most major metropolitan areas and a lot of places off the beaten path as well. Check out Sprint's coverage maps to see if the service is available in the areas where you travel.
At $59.99 per month for unlimited data transfers, Sprint's Mobile Broadband service is a bit more expensive than DSL and cable, but not by much. Considering the flexibility you gain with a mobile connection, the price difference is acceptable. In fact, mobile professionals currently paying for a Wi-Fi hot-spot service for connectivity on the road may find this a better, cheaper alternative: better because they won't have to hunt down a local cafe or the like to get a connection; cheaper because they can consolidate their home and hot-spot services into a single mobile data service and arrive at a lower total cost.
That said, Sprint's mobile service isn't perfect. As with any cell-phone or cellular data service, Sprint's Mobile Broadband offering is prone to isolated weak and dead spots within the service areas, and you won't be able to use it in places such as subways, where cell phones don't work. I used the service on my daily bus commute across San Francisco. With CNET's Bandwidth Meter, I measured throughput ranging from 250Kbps to 1.3Mbps, which was fast enough for me to maintain a solid VPN connection to my office at CNET and take care of morning e-mail and other chores. Using Skype, I was even able to make a conference call with friends in Germany for free.
I used Sprint Mobile Broadband on an Averatec 3715 laptop equipped with a Novatel Wireless Merlin S620 PC Card modem. Sprint also offers the service for the Sierra Wireless AirCard 580. If you prefer a handheld device to a laptop, you can access the service with a Sprint PPC-6700.