Review: Verizon BroadbandAccess
Ok, I'm going to call this Part 1 of the reivew, since I've only had it a couple of days and have only been around the LA area with it so far.
I fiigured I would try to install it on my laptop before bringing it into the car and screwing something up. The instructions, and the salesperson, say specifically to install the software BEFORE installing the PC card into the slot. Apparently all this does is copy the drivers onto your system, but why would they tell you that? Anyways, I followed the instructions very carefully. First you put in the CD, and click on the first Install link on the autorun screen. Then you click on the second install link. During this second installation, the program will prompt you to insert the PC card into the computer. It says that Win2K should recognize it as a modem, and to accept the defaults, at which point it should return to the install. Well..... my computer decided to recognize it as a USB hub, for which it couldn't find the drivers, so the device didn't install correctly and the Verizon install program wouldn't continue. After speaking with tech support for a few minutes (they were actually really helpful), I decided to cross my fingers that it was a problem with my laptop, and my carPC install would go perfect. But the first thing I did, afer a suggestion from the tech support guy, was to get the latest version of the driver and software from the following place:
(It's the PC5520V_INSTALL file).
This install software was much easier. It downloads as an .exe. So I took this file to my carPC and ran it. It seemed to install fine and never asked about insterting the PC card. So when it was done, I inserted the Verizon BBAccess PC card and Windows proceeded to recognize it correctly and install the necessary drivers for it. So far, so good.
Now, the way this works, is that it shows up as a Dialup connection in Network and Dialup Connections. But you can't use it right away, you have to run the Verizon-installed Mobile Connection Manager (MCM) first to initialize the card. It basically just asks for your phone number (the card comes with it's own phone number), and initializes the card, somehow.
You can use the MCM software to connect to the network if you want. It has this nice little display, very similar to the one on my phone, that shows antenna strength, and whether you're on the BBAccess network or the older NationalAccess (1x) network. But you can also just go into Dialup Connections and hit connect on the connection. Preferring as little software running on my system as possible, I opt for the latter. IF you poke around your Network and Dialup settings, you should be able to make the connection dial automatically when a network connection is requested. Not sure how well this works yet though, need to put some more time on it first.
As I was driving around town today, I turned on the connection and left it connected. I went to ESPN.com for football scores and set the refresh on 30 seconds. It seemed to stay connected all the time, and while not as fast as my cable connection, everything seemed to load pretty damn quick. Especially considering I was doing 45mph. I just downloaded from download.com at aroudn 60KB/sec, and I'm currently uploading some new pics to my server for posting on my "showoff" thread (http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/show-off-your-project/36104-2004-4runner-2-a.html) and it's holding around 10KB/sec. So I guess I'm getting their "typical speeds of 300-500 kbps with bursts up to 2Mbps", though I haven't seen the "burst" speed yet.
But, being able to pull open a browser and check email, look up phone numbers, etc, has already shown to be pretty handy.
For those of you who are wired no matter where you go and wish you could install wireless in your head, this seems to be a pretty good solution for your car. I haven't yet tried outside the BBAccess area, but inside of it the speeds are good, and the connectivity seems to hold real well between cell sites. Although, with a price tag of $80/mo for unlimited access plus the card price (I think around $80 after rebate), it's still a little expensive. For those with a 25% discount like me, you might be able to justify it though.
TO BE CONTINUED
On Wed. I leave for a 2-week trip up into the Bay Area and through Tahoe back down the east side of the Sierras. Throughout that entire area, I'll be outside of the BBAccess area and into the NationalAccess service area, as well as being around some spotty reception points for cell phones (in Tahoe and some remote areas on the drive). When I return, I'll add another post here with my experience through those areas and how well the service would connect and act.