Sunday, July 20, 2008

My WiMAX Experiment - Part 6: Summary and Final Thoughts

My experiment in the Rogers Portable Internet over the past several weeks has left me with mixed feelings.

On the positive side of things, it has enabled me to be connected while at work as I illustrated in Part 2. However, in its present modem form, it is bulky and fairly non-portable. It was neat to get a flavour of a WiMAX enabled N8X0 via my in-car experience of Part 5. I thought it was pretty slick to be downloading maps while I drove.


1. Offers some mobility in Canada without using expensive data via cell phone. For a fixed second location such as what I required, it is adequare.

2. The price is fairly good - $20/month for 10 GB which is cheaper than any data plan I can get with tethering in Canada.


1. The Portable Internet Basic that I had was slow. 512 kbps is nothing to write home about in today's day and age. For mobile versions of popular sites, it was adequate.

2. Not really portable. My in-car setup showed that using this modem in a car is impractical due to its size.

3. Frequent loss of signal has meant that my connection hangs in sometimes critical points of surfing.

4. The flavour of WiMAX currently retailed by Rogers and Bell does not allow the modem to handoff to the next tower - a severe limitation for true portability.

5. VOIP - forget about it.


Primus Canada is trialing a newer version of WiMAX that runs on 3.5 GHz in Hamilton, Ontario. This may be the type of WiMAX that allows handoffs. However, that trial is limited to Hamilton, and there is no indication when a nation-wide rollout would occur.

If Rogers and Bell upgraded their networks to allow faster, more reliable connections with the ability to maintain connections while travelling - it would then come down to price. For instance, you can currently get a USB 3G modem from Rogers, which costs $50/month. It only gives you about 300 MB of data. The speeds are much higher, and it runs on cell technology, so coverage is excellent. Coupled with a Cradlepoint router, this would be a faster and more portable internet solution. Of course, tethering from a 3G cell phone would be better also, but recently, tethering in Canada has become expensive.

My conclusion:

I started off this experiment without a hypothesis really. I did not know what to expect. What I found is that given better hardware (faster and more portable), and a more advanced network, this would be a viable mobile solution. For instance, a pocket sized WiMAX modem could be coupled with a Cradlepoint router.

Alternatively, something like a N810WE with a more advanced network would probably be fine for me. I am however beginning to think that 3G makes more and more sense. For existing tablet users, something like a USB 3G modem. And for a future tablet, an integrated 3G radio.

If there is a network upgrade in Canada, and I can get my hands on some newer hardware, or a N810WE, I would love to redo this experiment. Until then, I think I will reconsider my WiMAX subscription.

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