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Cover Story
May 2006 • Vol.4 Issue 5
Page(s) 38-41 in print issue
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Wireless Broadband Delivers No Matter Where You Are

With all of the cellular technologies and terms tossed around today, it’s hard to keep things straight. But one technology, EVDO (Evolution Data Optimized), deserves special attention. EVDO (pronounced as individual letters), or sometimes called DO for short, set the standard for wireless broadband networking by delivering speeds that are comparable to the wired broadband we use at home and work.

EVDO has great potential to change the way we work, live, and play using our mobile devices. But in order to better understand EVDO and its uses, let’s take a step back to see where EVDO began.

A Brief History Lesson

EVDO dates back to 1999, when QUALCOMM developed the initial design of 1xEVDO (or EVDO for short) in order to meet IMT-2000 (International Mobile Telecommunications 2000) requirements for a method of stationary communications with downlink speeds greater than 2Mbps (megabits per second). The goal of IMT-2000 was to create guidelines for high-speed mobile, voice, data, Internet, and multimedia services that use cellular technology.

A member of the CDMA2000 (Code Division Multiple Access 2000) family, the initial name for EVDO was HDR (High Data Rate). After ratification by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), the name changed to 1xEVDO. At that time, 1xEVDO stood for 1x Evolution-Data Only. Due to possible negative connotations associated with the word “only,” the name was later changed to stand for 1x Evolution Data Optimized. The name is derived from the fact that EVDO is a direct evolution from the CDMA2000 1xRTT (1 times Radio Transmission Technology) standard and carries only data traffic.

Use an EVDO wireless PCMCIA card, such as the Sierra Wireless AirCard 580 for Sprint, to connect to the Internet via your laptop.

1xRTT provides two to three times dial-up speed and is available anywhere a cell phone can receive a signal. Typically, most carriers have limited 1xRTT speeds to 144Kbps (kilobits per second). However, 1xEVDO improves upon the 1xRTT standard by adding HDR capability and using time-division multiplexing on the forward link.

In February 2002 the first EVDO standard, Release 0, launched commercially. With Release 0, the standard for high-speed wireless broadband using cell phone lines was set. EVDO Release 0 has a forward data link speed of up to 2.4Mbps and a reverse link data rate up to 153Kbps.

As with all other technologies, EVDO continues to improve. First, software enhancements were created for existing EVDO Release 0 networks in order to provide QoS (Quality of Service) and Gold Multicast capabilities. With these software enhancements, carriers can improve the experience for their customers and still keep their upgrade costs at an affordable level.

After the EVDO Release 0 software upgrade, the next major enhancement to EVDO came in the form of a hardware and software upgrade known as EVDO Revision A. Revision A increased maximum speeds to 3.1Mbps on the forward link and 1.8Mbps on the reverse link. The increase in data rates from Release 0 to Revision A is significant and can improve QoS capabilities, along with enabling new bandwidth-intensive applications.

In addition, Revision A has air interface enhancements that reduce latency and therefore improve data rates. By supporting low-latency services, Revision A enables VoIP (Voice over IP) and video telephony on the same carrier with simultaneous delivery of voice and data. Also, EVDO Revision A is fully backward-compatible with Release 0 networks. Both revisions of the EVDO standard are considered 3G technologies.

Coverage In The United States

Given the promises and abilities of EVDO, you may be wondering how you can get in on the action. Unfortunately, it can be hard to recognize EVDO offerings because they are typically marketed under alternative names. According to 3G Today (www.3gtoday.com), there were nearly 20 million EVDO subscribers worldwide as of November 2005. And at press time, there were seven EVDO operators in the United States: Mobile ESPN (mobile.espn.go.com), Amp’d Mobile (get.ampd.com), Sprint Nextel (www.sprint.com), Midwest Wireless (www.midwestwireless.com), Alltel (www.alltel.com), ACS (Alaska Communications Systems; www.acsalaska.com), and Verizon Wireless (www.verizonwireless.com).

Currently, EVDO roaming between carriers is not available in North America. Therefore, it’s important to choose an EVDO carrier that suits your coverage area. Let’s look at the features and services of each of the seven EVDO providers previously mentioned.

The Palm Tro 700w is one of the latest phones compativle with EVDO technology.

Mobile ESPN. If you watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5, you may have caught two commercials advertising the new Mobile ESPN. Mobile ESPN operates as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) using the Sprint nationwide network for wireless voice and data service. The data services, including fast access to ESPN’s sports content, full Internet browsing, email access, and downloads, are made possible using Sprint’s EVDO service. Mobile ESPN is touted as the “first national wireless phone service provider targeted to sports fans.” As a phone service targeted to sports fans, Mobile ESPN offers customizable ESPN content, including real-time scores, breaking news, commentary, and analysis, along with fantasy sports information and audio and video programming using unique ESPN-branded handsets.

Amp’d Mobile. Mobile ESPN isn’t the only EVDO service that’s fresh off the block; targeted at youth, young professionals, and early adopters, Amp’d Mobile launched on Jan. 6, 2006. Amp’d Mobile’s niche is its proprietary user interface that provides quick access to content in categories such as music, games, sports, entertainment, news, lifestyles, and more. In addition to traditional voice and text services, all Amp’d handsets feature EVDO, push-to-talk walkie-talkie, digital camera, video, removable memory, high-resolution screens, built-in stereo sound, and USB connectivity for side-loading music from CDs and PCs.

Sprint Nextel. You might recognize Sprint Nextel’s EVDO service as either Sprint Mobile Broadband or Sprint Power Vision. The reason for the two names is due to different target markets; Sprint Mobile Broadband targets business customers, whereas Sprint Power Vision targets the general consumer. Either way, though, as of press time, Sprint Nextel’s EVDO service was available to more than 213 major metropolitan markets (defined as cities with populations over 100,000). Sometime in the early part of 2006, Sprint Nextel’s EVDO service is expected to reach over 150 million people. Sprint offers both PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) computer cards and handheld devices that are compatible with Sprint’s EVDO network.

Midwest Wireless. Although some may call Midwest Wireless a smaller player in the market because they are limited to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, Alltel noticed them. On Nov. 18, 2005, Alltel announced that they are in the process of purchasing Midwest Wireless in a deal set to close in the first half of 2006. At press time, Midwest Wireless offered five consumer data plans with fees ranging from free for 1MB/month to $79.95 for unlimited megabytes. These plans are designed for all users on compatible phones, PDAs, or laptop PCs. For business users, Midwest Wireless offers Mobile Sync and Mobile Office. Both services offer unlimited data and Internet access, as well as access to your company’s Microsoft Exchange 2003 server. The Mobile Office service has greater mobility and access to files than the Mobile Sync service.

Alltel. At press time, Alltel’s Axcess Broadband EVDO service was only available in 12 cities. These cities with EVDO coverage include St. Pete, Tampa, Lansing, Phoenix, Little Rock, Cleveland, Akron, Oklahoma City, Norfolk, Richmond, Charlotte, and Raleigh. Because Alltel also offers 1xRTT wireless connectivity through its Axcess MobileLink network, wireless data connections will automatically transfer from the Axcess Broadband network to the Axcess MobileLink network in areas where Axcess Broadband is not available.

Play games with your EVDO phone, such as The Incredibles 3D Mobile Game available from V CAST.

ACS. The Mobile Broadband Internet network from ACS is available throughout its wireless coverage area. In other words, you’ll have EVDO service anywhere an ACS cell signal is present. As one of the first players in the EVDO U.S. market, ACS launched its Mobile Broadband Internet service in June 2004. In fact, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau were the third, fourth, and fifth cities in the United States to deploy EVDO. The ACS Mobile Broadband Internet network provides wireless Internet access to laptops using the ACS Wireless PC Card. Compatible phones, such as the Pocket PC 6600, are also available from ACS.

Verizon Wireless. Verizon Wireless brands its EVDO service as both BroadbandAccess and V CAST. Verizon Wireless has been the longest EVDO provider in the United States, with an October 2003 launch followed by a national rollout in January 2004. Since then, BroadbandAccess has grown to include 181 major metropolitan areas, which includes 150 million people. The service is expanding coast to coast and is currently offered in 72 major U.S. airports (defined as having more than 10,000 passengers in and out annually). BroadbandAccess is targeted primarily at the business market and focuses on providing high-speed Internet access to laptops. The V CAST service, on the other hand, is targeted at consumers and provides high-quality video, 3D games, and music. V CAST is available at locations where BroadbandAccess is offered.

Devices Of Today & Tomorrow

In addition to a variety of cell phones and smartphones that use EVDO, a few PC solutions are also available. Some of the EVDO PC data cards include the Audiovox PC5220, Sierra Wireless AirCard 580, Kyocera KPC650, and the Audiovox PC5740. These PC cards typically plug in to the PCMCIA slot on a laptop and enable you to surf the Internet or connect to your company’s VPN using the EVDO network.

In the future, look for integrated EVDO functionality in laptops and other mobile devices. In September Verizon Wireless and Lenovo announced their plans to integrate the Verizon Wireless EVDO network functionality into their ThinkPad notebooks. HP and Verizon Wireless also announced a partnership in September with plans to bring the EVDO connectivity to HP mobile business devices such as notebooks and other mobile devices.

At press time there were quite a few popular cell phone and smartphone offerings available from many of the U.S. EVDO carriers. Some of these phones include the new Palm Treo 700w, UTStarcom PPC6700 or XV6700 (different models are for different wireless carriers), Samsung SCH-i730, and the Motorola RAZR V3c. Although these phones and many others offer EVDO capability, you still have to purchase an EVDO data plan to make full use of the EVDO services. Prices for EVDO plans range from carrier to carrier. Sprint and Verizon Wireless both offer unlimited EVDO access for $59.99 per month, assuming you’ve met qualifications such as a compatible voice plan.

Moving Forward

Relatively speaking, EVDO is still considered a new technology. Still, EVDO has a strong foothold in the marketplace, along with promises and plenty of room for expansion in the future. As existing carriers expand their coverage and new carriers join the market, more and more EVDO phones and devices are sure to follow. With all of the possibilities for using EVDO, it will be exciting to see how technology such as EVDO changes the ways in which we conduct business and connect with friends and family. Who knows? Maybe someday you'll use your mobile phone to videoconference with partners in China, relatives in Europe, or to exchange business contracts with clients on the other side of the country.

by Jennifer Johnson

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