Readers React: Mobile Broadband, Part 2

Last week I shared some feedback from readers regarding their experiences using cellular wireless broadband services from Sprint and other providers. I've got more reader e-mail on the topic this week, so read on.

But first, you may want to read about my own experiences with Sprint's Mobile Broadband service.

What PIN Number?

"I decided to try Sprint's 30-day free trial offer before it expired. I was able to activate online without talking to anyone. It was no easy task, however. After I went through the whole activation process, the computer failed to connect. It never reached the point where I put in any codes or PIN numbers. It just kept showing an error message telling me to activate by phone.

"Then, miraculously, a couple of days later after a software upgrade, I connected to the Sprint network. I was pretty impressed with the speed. I was thinking about keeping the service when the trial was over until I found a bill in the mail for over $100. I was charged a pro-rated amount for the week I used the service, along with the next month's service and an activation fee.

"I asked myself, 'How is this a 30-day free trial?' Disgusted by typical phone company BS, I decided to call and cancel right away. I wasn't even going to continue to use the two weeks I had remaining in the trial. I called Sprint three times to cancel. Each time I was informed they needed my PIN number (a mysterious 6-to-10-digit number) in order to do anything to my account. I wrote down every number the computer gave me that night when I activated. I've got a phone number, an ESN number, an SKU number, and a serial number, but guess what? No PIN number.

"I was informed by three Sprint customer service reps that the only way to cancel my service was to go to a Sprint store and show ID. They would give me my PIN number and then I would have to call Sprint to cancel. This is beyond ridiculous...I had no idea I was going to have to go through this just to cancel a free trial. I am not a Sprint customer, although I was considering switching from AT&T. Not anymore."
--Christopher Taylor, Austin, Texas

DSL vs. Sprint Mobile Broadband

"I have used the Sprint broadband service for close to a year now in Arizona as well as on frequent trips to many other cities. With rare exception, I have true broadband service...I was up and running in under 5 minutes...Sitting on my parents' porch in the rural Connecticut woods about a mile from the freeway between Boston and Hartford, I had 1600-kps download and 800-kps upload speeds, according to My parents' DSL line was significantly slower!"
--Bruce Hancock, Scottsdale, Arizona

[Author's note: Out of curiosity, I used to check my home office DSL connection speeds from AT&T. The verdict: My download speed was 1676 kps and upload speed was 427 kps.]

The Right 'Touch'

"I have just purchased an HTC Touch smart phone from Sprint ($250 with a new two-year contract) and have been using it as a broadband modem for my laptop. So far it has been great. Connections are easy after the initial setup and fast. I had a friend who just recently purchased an iPhone, and he was watching me check the weather and surf on my phone and was extremely impressed by the speed I had, compared to what he gets on his iPhone. With Sprint's new plan of $40 a month for unlimited data using the phone as a modem, I look forward to using the broadband service a lot."
--Jess Newcomb, Oroville, California

Put Your Router Next to a Window

"We use Sprint Mobile Broadband EvDO Rev A cards and have been very happy with the service. We also have a few Linksys WRT54G3G-ST routers that we can put the Sprint cards in and share the Sprint connection with several computers. Unfortunately...sharing with more than three or four computers can mean painfully slow speeds.

"The real advantage of the Linksys router with the Sprint card is you can put the router near an outside wall or window for better reception. In a tall apartment building or hotel where reception at a desk is a problem, the Linksys router is a life saver."
--Bob Lauterbach, Los Angeles

Watch the Fine Print

"I have used the Sprint Mobile Broadband service for about 6 months now. I couldn't be happier. I travel extensively across the U.S. and Canada. My company's security and Virtual Private Network protocols make normal wireless connectivity an exercise in patience or masochism, I can't decide which. So the Sprint service has been a life saver.

"I had some struggles with the installation. The Sprint set-up application didn't automatically run from the CD, so I had to do a fishing trip to find the executable. It wasn't where the manual said it would be, which added to the time to install.

"My loudest praise for the service was on a road trip from North Carolina to Florida, where I was able to work, staying connected, the entire trip (my wife drove). The connection dropped a couple of times, but the Sprint connection software has an auto-reconnect feature that worked like a charm.

"Big warning about using the service in Canada. Either the broadband connection card wouldn't work at all (as was the case in Toronto), or, as in Victoria, I was charged 40 cents a minute, unbeknownst to me, which resulted in an $80 surcharge to my bill. It was my fault, though, as the surcharge was in the fine print on the service agreement."
--Michael K., Charlotte, North Carolina

Future Column Topic: Your Input, Please

I'm planning one or more columns that will provide tips on earning, redeeming, maximizing, and managing frequent flier miles. What are your strategies? Which airline or credit card program is the best, in your experience, and why? Send your mileage tips to me.

To get you started, I've posted a few tips of my own on my blog, Traveler 2.0.

Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips

Sprint Nextel's WiMax Going Forward: Sprint Nextel is set to launch its commercial WiMax services at the end of April in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. No word yet on subscription rates and prices for WiMax hardware.

Fujitsu's Latest Ultraportable: Fujitsu's recently announced LifeBook P800 has a slick black casing; a slimmer, lighter chassis (2.4 pounds); a 12.1-inch, LED backlit wide-screen display; a built-in Webcam; and other cool features. It will be available in February beginning at $1699.

First Look at the XO Laptop: The $188 XO laptop produced by the One Laptop Per Child organization goes way beyond your typical portable computer, with tons of cool technology to spare. But it's of little use to any adult who expects to touch-type on a laptop. Then again, the laptop was designed with children in mind. Most importantly, the XO Laptop concept has inspired such efforts as the Asus Eee PC, a $400 laptop that is designed for adults. Read our First Look at the little laptop that's making headlines around the world.

Suggestion Box

Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.

Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.
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