3G Broadband on the Go - that actually works

June 20, 2008 – 2:22 pm

There is no shortage of products on the market offering broadband internet access while on the move. Many of these are in the category of PCMCIA Cards that provide a connection to the internet by way of a cellular network. These are great for business travelers and the like who need to make sure they can get online while on the go.

But what if you want to provide a solid, high speed internet connection for a group of people ?

There are some devices that will let you plug in one of the aforementioned PCMCIA Cards, and the device will share the connection over WiFi. I haven’t had the greatest luck with such devices, and many that I’ve seen are high priced. Friends who have used them have told me their performance is lackluster.

Enter the AirBox CM3 Cellular Router from WAAV. It is a cigar-box sized device that is solidly built, simple to operate, and even more importantly - it works. Plug in the power adapter (120v AC or 12v vehicle power), wait a minute for the green light to come one, and you have a working WiFi hotspot at broadband speed.

More advanced users will appreciate features like WEP and WPA support, 2 Ethernet ports for wired applications, GPS tracking, port forwarding, DHCP, and all the usual things a router is expected to provide.

I used an AirBox CM3 with Sprint service on a trip from Beverly, MA to Charleston, WV. There were a few spots along the way where the signal dropped (West Virginia is pretty hilly), but the connection was otherwise strong the entire trip.

Many people evaluate performance by running various bandwidth measuring speed tests, but I prefer more practical tests. For example, running Google Earth is a great way to check just how solid your connection is. With the AirBox CM3, you can seamlessly stream images while you zoom in and out.

Most recently, I thought I’d try something a little more real-time: Video Skype from a moving vehicle using the AirBox CM3 for the internet connection. The results? No problem.

Ok, we only had video from the vehicle out - but that was because the WebCam on the other end died mid-test. In fact, I used a remote desktop tool to connect to the troubled PC to diagnose the problem. The internet connection not only supported the remote desktop viewing, but the remote desktop was showing the streaming video from the vehicle. (No, I wasn’t the one driving during all of this).

The initial cost of the device is right around $500, and the Sprint data plan runs about $59/month. If you need even more bandwidth, check out their dual channel version, the AirBox X2. Double the bandwidth or increase redundancy with 2 carriers.

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