WIFI Versus Verizon Aircard

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Mar 9, 2005
      Ive been debating on wether to go for a laptop with Centrino for WIFI or hook up my desktop with a Verizon Aircard for mobile wireless.  Has anyone experienced both types of wireless?  If so, can you tell me which seems to get the better reception and Generally Faster speed.  Im trying to figure out which product I would be more happy with but I dont have anything to compare the speeds too.
    I have a great desktop computer and can hook it up with a Verizon Aircard or I have to go out and buy a Laptop that has Centrino built in. I figure I can add the Verizon Aircard to the laptop if needed but Im trying to figure out which system is better.
Thanks for any help, Jeff
Think of the air card as a cell phone, although you won't be making voice calls on it. Reception and coverage area is going to be essentially the same as Verizon's coverage area across the country. Speeds will vary from an advertized low of arround 110Kb/s to somewhere in the range of 300-500Kb/s in a few selected cities. I have an air card with t-mobile and made extenive use of it on a 10,000 mile trip in 2004. But t-mobile's air card service is much slower than Verizon's, and is approx 40Kb/s.

A wireless laptop is about the same as getting a wireless card (not air card) and plugging it into your computer. You need to be in range of someone transmitting and receiving a WiFi signal, also known as a hot spot. There are WiFi hot spots in airports, Kinko copy shops, Starbucks, and an increasing  number of campgrounds. My experience with WiFi at campgrounds has ranged from good to useless, and is a function of what kind of antenna the campground has and where it's located. I've paid as much as $8/day for WiFi and not been able to get online. Alternatively, if you are camped close to someone with a satellite internet service in their RV, they may be kind enough to offer a local hot spot so you can have a free ride on their service. This is quite common among groups of folks on this forum who attend rallies or camp together.

Note that you don't need to buy a new laptop to use WiFi. You could add a WiFi card to an existing laptop or desktop relatively inexpensively. The limitation is going to be the same as a laptop with built-in wireless i.e. you need to be close to a hot spot.

If you're travelling, and unless you're planning to be close to freinds who have satellite internet service, you're going to need a way to connect to the internet, which probably means you'll need cell service. This could either be an air card, such as the one Verison sells, or a cell phone with a cable to connect to your PC. The price of air card service will vary by carrier, and Verizon's is much more expensive that t-mobile, but Verzion's speed is going to be much higher.

As Tom explained, the two systems are completely different. My primary internet connection when traveling is my Sprint PCS cell phone. I get better than dial up speeds and Sprint does not charge me for minutes or data when I use it, but I do have to be in a Sprint PCS network coverage area to use it. Verizon users have to be in a Verizon 1XRT zone. The phone can handle both voice and data, unlike the aircard which is data only. Aircard coverage is the same as the phone coverage. All you get is a usage package for a fixed price. Of course, with the Sprint package, there is no additional usage pricing.

Wi-Fi is a different animal. Centrino is Intel's trade name for a hardware configuration including a Wi-Fi chip. The same, or even better Wi-Fi performance can be obtained by a separate PCMCIA card inserted into your laptop. I used a PCMCIA card in my previous laptop and my current laptop has a built in chip (not Centrino). Performance is about the same. The Wi-Fi chip is good when in an area where Sprint has no PCS signal and there are open networks available, such as at Moab where all the satellite internet dishes make their connections available to us.

You can get a lot more information and download a tutorial for Sprint or Verizon cell phone use at the Yahoo Group site:
Rather than use a PCCard on a notebook, I would suggest a USB WiFi adapter.  Being on a cable allows you to better locate it for a stronger signal.  A PCCard often requires you to position the whole computer to get a strong enough signal.  However, as others have mentioned, I wouldn't depend on WiFi hotspots for internet connections while travelling.  One of the cellular data plans will give you better coverage, but even those won't always be available.  See the coverage maps at the various cellular web sites for an idea of where you can use the services and choose the one that best corresponds to your travel patterns.
Thankyou all very much for this information.  It clears things up tremendously.  I definitely will be going for the aircard and then adding WIFI in later on.  Probably good to have both.  Thanks again.  Your comments helped alot.  Sincerely, Jeff
Hi Jeff,

I am on Verizon and use the cell phone on their express net. It is quite fast compared to dial up but not as fast as satellite. However, I am very happy with the performance when I have no other choice. :) I expect I'll probably stick with the cell phone for the near future.

expect I'll probably stick with the cell phone for the near future.

Unless you get spoiled with the Satelite connection like somebody else I know did. :D
LOL Ron. You know Jim has ben spending a lot of time around us lately, so it just might rub off ;D
Yep.  He will have about several possible Satelite connections to choose from in Moab.  He may just get real spoiled.  After all didn't take but about a week for that other guy to get spoiled. ;D ;D
Hi Ron & Tom,

It's not a matter of getting spoiled. I'm already there!! :) The problem is not being able to use it when in CT without purchasing another antenna to be mounted on our daughter's house along with the monthly charge. On top of that, I was just informed by one of my former managers that we, as retirees, may be getting DSL as part of our retirement benefits. I'm not holding my breath but that sure would take care of the CT problem. We'll just have to see what happens in the next year or so.

If the DSL thing doesn't turn out it isn't difficult or expensive to set an extra antenna.  When you leave you just move the modem with you.

I'm not sure my SIL would want a dish that large on his house.(G) We just moved the DirecTV dish there last summer.


We'll see what happens with the possibility of DSL at our daughter's. If that doesn't happen, I might just have to obtain a Directway. Oh well, what's another summer working??? :)


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