FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Discusses National Broadband Plan

As we discussed earlier this week, the FCC has announced a plan to make high-speed internet available to more people. Today, in a video posted on the broadband.gov website, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated the broadband teams' plans to make higher speed access a reality: "we must lead the world in creating opportunity and affordable broadband." He goes on to make several points regarding the importance of broadband access and the FCC's goals:
  • America needs to have all the tools to be able to compete in the 21st century economy
  • 1st responders must have access to broadband in order to ensure safety
  • A broadband network can aid in lowering costs of education and healthcare
  • Goal: Children must be digitally literate by the time they leave high school
  • Goal: Lower costs of investment into broadband networks
  • Goal: Unleashing and allocating additional spectrum for unlicensed use
  • Goal: Create jobs
  • Goal: Accelerate online learning by removing barriers to entry

Genachowski concluded his passionate appeal by letting us know that this broadband mission must not end with a public appeal. He says, "It is now time to act and invest in our nation's future by bringing the power and promise of broadband to us all." Amen to that!

Discuss the FCC's broadband plans on the 4G Forums



Transition to 4G with 3Gstore!

Did you know Sprint and CLEAR have 4G coverage on their WiMAX network in 27 cities now? They're also launching in new markets every quarter and are the only carriers that currently have 4g WiMax service.

We know this may not affect you now - but why not prepare yourself for the future?

3Gstore.com (4Ginfo's "sister site") can help you if you are thinking about your transition from 3G to 4G, or starting your mobile broadband service with 4G. In addition to 4G-only devices, both Sprint and CLEAR also offer dual-mode 3G/4G devices, which is great for folks who travel outside 4G areas (or aren't even in a 4G area at all yet but want to be prepared for when 4G arrives!). CLEAR's and Sprint's modems can even be used with a variety of Cradlepoint routers, which allow you to share your connection with multiple computers or devices.

Click here to learn more about whether 4G or combined 3G/4G service is an option for you and how 3Gstore can help you make the transition to the world of 4G!

Read our full "Transition to 4G" article on EVDOinfo.com


Sprint to Unveil First WiMax Phone - HTC Supersonic

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Sprint to Unveil First WiMax Phone - HTC Supersonic



Sprint is expected to announce the first phone compatible with their 4G WiMax network at CTIA next week. The device is made by HTC and is being dubbed the Supersonic. Sprint is hoping to gain a new customer base with new 4G devices,  and they currently have the lead in 4G as they have built a large 4G network, while other carriers don't have any 4G coverage currently.

The device is expected to be the centerpiece of a Tuesday presentation made by Chief Executive Dan Hesse during the CTIA Wireless trade show.


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The FCC Outlines Its National Broadband Plan

Many Americans, from large cities to rural areas, still do not have access to broadband internet, and the FCC is forming a plan to make high-speed internet available to more people. The full plan hasn't been released yet, but here are the details that we do from the preliminary reports this week:

  • Currently only 65 percent of Americans have high speed internet access at home
  • The plan is part of President Obama's 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which flags $7.2 billion to internet related advancements
  • The initial plan aims for each community in America to have at least one "ultra high speed" connection at a library, school, or military base.
  • The FCC plans to move forward in creating an infrastructure that would allow 100 million American households to transfer 100Mbps   
  • The overall goal is to provide 90 percent of Americans with high speed internet access by 2020.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said this about the plan: "the National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy."  Some are critical of this plan, arguing that it will do far too little to decrease the overall costs to broadband customers that currently spending $30 - $60 monthly for their service, which is why some believe there is such a gap between the number of broadband haves and broadband have-nots (in addition, of course, to coverage/availability).  

On a list of countries that have the fastest internet, the US is currently ranked #14 with 3.9Mbps (South Korea is ranked #1 with 14.6Mbps, which is expected to be at 1 gigabit by 2012), and as previously mentioned, only 65% of Americans have high-speed internet. It's clear that something needs to be done to get the country up to speed, and we are very much looking forward to seeing the specifics of the plan as more details become available.

Discuss the FCC's broadband plans on the 4G Forums


Intel leaps ahead with WiMAX 802.16m

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Intel leaps ahead with WiMAX 802.16m



TAIPEI: Chipmaker Intel said it is stepping up development for the next generation WiMAX 2 technology, which is based on the IEEE 802.16m standard.

Intel vice-president and director of its WiMAX programme, Rama Shukla said that the company is working beyond the current 802.16e standard and is expecting 802.16m to be a huge improvement over the former.

“We expect 802.16m to be a significant improvement over 802.16e, moving forward in terms of delivering a huge jump in delivering faster download and upload speeds,” he said.

Intel claims the new standard will deliver download speeds of up to 170Mbps and 90Mbps for uploads. The new WiMAX standard is said to be fully backward-compatible with the 802.16e standard.

Shukla said that although development of the 802.16m standard is expected to be completed by the middle of this year, it is only expected to be commercially available in 2012.

Other enhancements that 802.16m offers include higher VoIP capacity, lower latency and ability for users to use the service even when travelling at speeds of 350km, which is the speed of a bullet train.

This is an improvement over the previous WiMAX 802.16d standard, which could only service devices in fixed locations and not mobile devices like smartphones or laptops.

Intel said the improvement comes in light of the huge shift in consumer data consumption as a growing number of mobile devices are able to connect to the Internet.

Embedded chips

Paving the way forward for WiMAX, Intel said it has introduced to the market its WiFi/WiMAX combo embedded solutions which include its Kilmer Peak chipset for notebooks and Evan Peak for smartphones which integrates WiFi, WiMAX, Bluetooth and GPS.

Taiwan-based original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) Acer and Asus introduced Intel-based notebooks with built-in WiMAX features in conjunction with the launch of VMAX Telecom’s 4G WiMAX network in Taipei recently.

Intel said it expects most major PC OEMs to offer WiMAX-enabled notebooks by the second half of this year.



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Quest for a Mac with 4G: Inside the Clear USBw 25100

At 4Ginfo, we're on a mission to embed 4G wireless inside one of our Mac laptops. You may be asking yourself... why would we want to do this, considering there are USB modems that are compatible with the Mac? For mobile professionals it may be more convenient to have the wireless chip built-in to the laptop, as its one less thing you have to keep up with or forget to bring on your trip; additionally, some people do not like having a modem sticking out of their computer (adds to the bulk and increases the odds of something getting broken).
Plus, it just looks cooler and we're doing it for the geek factor!
Many Windows laptops already have embedded 4G WiMAX chips in them, but there aren't any Mac laptops that come standard with this option, so we're accepting the challenge to embed it ourselves! In order to do this, we have to find a 4G chip that meets certain requirements in order to be able to embed the chip on the MacBook motherboard. Since no one has ever published any information of whats actually inside 4G modems, we had to take it upon ourselves to crack open some modems and see what's in there. We have decided to share this valuable information with you on what we found inside each card - and how we managed to open each card without damaging the internal components.

Clear USBw 25100 Top Shell
Clear USBw 25100 Bottom Shell

The first 4G Wimax modem that we decided to open up is the CLEAR Motorola USBw 25100, AKA W100 (above). This device was very difficult to break open without damaging the circuit board! Our tester started by drilling several small holes one the back of the device, below the CLEAR logo. Once he had several holes drilled, he used a very thin knife to lift up the top half of the shell to take a look inside the shell to see what was inside, to ensure that he wasn't going to damage anything as he continued to pull apart the shell. To his surprise, there were two plastic rods melted to both sides of the shell that actually went through the mount holes on the circuit board near the USB connector. This meant that if he tried pulling the shell apart, it would break the circuit board inside! He estimated where he thought those two points were on the outside of the shell, and then drilled two holes through the plastic rods without damaging the circuit board. This was a very precarious process - as our tester explained, "I must admit that I wasn't sure that I would be able to drill out the plastic rods without drilling into the circuit board, but thankfully I was able to do so without damaging it!" Once he drilled out the rods, he was able to remove the bottom layer of the shell (pull slowly, as there is an adhesive holding the middle and bottom layers of the shell together).

Once the plastic shell was gone, this is all that you will find inside:
Clear USBw 25100 Chip
Clear USBw 25100 Chip

As you can see, the CLEAR USBw 25100 doesn't have a PCI Express Mini Card inside, so we won't be able to use this device to have "real Mac Embedded 4G". The chip only has a USB connector which is permanently soldered on the circuit board. While we could technically use this chip for embedded 4G inside our MacBook, we are going to continue opening up other 4G modems to see if other models offer a PCI Express Mini Card inside, or another more preferable way of embedding 4G inside of a Mac laptop.

One other interesting thing we discovered from our trip inside the CLEAR modem is that Foxconn actually makes the circuit board. Foxconn is an ATi certified manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards. It also looks like Quanta Computer makes the WiMAX 4G radio that is on the circuit board:
Clear USBw 25100 Foxconn
Clear USBw 25100 Quanta
Next we will take a look at the Sprint U301 3G/4G modem - perhaps that device will have what we need for our 4G Mac! Check back to 4Ginfo.com/mac4G to continue following our journey!
If you have any questions, comments, or feedback related to this project. Join in on our discussion on the 4G Forums! If you have experience porting Linux drivers to OS X, we'd love to hear from you!

Portable WiFi: Internet Access On The Go

Many of our readers are always on the go, making 3G or 4G mobile broadband a great fit for their internet needs. For those that require mobile internet connectivity for more than just a single computer or device, we often hear questions about how to get truly portable WiFi. With a mobile hotspot, you can access the internet almost anywhere you go, just as long as there is a cellular signal. Unlike a 3G or 4G device that is directly connected to your computer, with a mobile broadband WiFi hotspot several people can get online to check their email, watch YouTube videos, checking social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, or even have a video chat conference - all at the same time! The possibilities are endless. Whether you're an average consumer who wants to entertain yourself and the family while traveling or a business professional who must be able to stay in contact with clients at all times, a portable mobile broadband WiFi hotspot will allow you to keep all your devices online anywhere you go.

The most popular options for portable WiFi is the new Sierra Overdrive (Sprint 3G/4G), as this device contains both the modem and wireless router capabilities in one ultra portable device, but these are not the only options! Read on to compare the various options for portable WiFi:

Sierra 3G/4G Overdrive:

The Sierra Overdrive is an all-in-one 3G/4G mobile hotspot available from Sprint. It's the first 3G/4G hotspot available and provides mobile broadband connectivity to up to 5 users via WiFi.

Carriers Supported: Sprint

3G/4G Compatibility: Works with Sprint 3G & 4G Networks

WiFi Range: up to 150 feet (maximum of five simultaneous WiFi connections [Pepwave Surf Mini can be used if you need to connect more than 5 users])

Battery Life: About 3 hours depending on usage (an external battery is also available for more battery time)

Pro's: Convenient; affordable; 3G & 4G capabilities; LCD screen that shows battery meter, signal strength, 3G/4G network connectivity and more; audible indicators for various alerts; MicroSD card for shared network storage; "rubber feet" on the bottom of the unit that keep the unit from sliding around on your vehicle's dashboard, etc.

Con's: Locked to Sprint; no ethernet port for hard-wired connections (add the Pepwave Surf Mini for ethernet capability); no antenna port for connecting an antenna directly to the device to improve signal strength (if you need to improve signal strength you will need to use a wireless repeater system like the Wilson Ceulluar SignalBoost with Cradle, but these will only boost the 3G signal - there are no signal-boosting products currently available for boosting the 4G signal).

Read more about the Sierra Overdrive 3G/4G Hotspot

PHS300 + 3G/4G or 4G Aircard:

The PHS300 is a portable mobile broadband router with a 2-3 hour rechargeable battery that allows you to connect your 4G or 3G/4G aircard for internet access.

Carriers Supported: Sprint, CLEAR, and more (see PHS300 Device Chart for supported carriers and devices).

3G/4G Compatibility: Works with 3G and 4G modems from many carriers (see above)

WiFi Range: 30-80ft through walls, much greater unobstructed.

Battery Life: 2-3 Hours. 3Gstore.com sells additional PHS300 Internal Replacement Batteries and external battery packs for more battery life.

Pro's: The freedom of being able to switch carriers if needed; works with 3G and 4G aircards from a huge variety of carriers (and Cradlepoint releases firmware updates often that allow it to be used with even more devices).

Con's: Not quite as small as the Overdrive; no ethernet port for hard-wired connections (add the Pepwave Surf Mini for ethernet capability).

Read more about the PHS300 Router


Other Cradlepoint Router + External Battery Pack + 4G or 3G/4G Aircard:

If you need more advanced features on the go, such as the ability to use multiple data cards from different carriers (AKA load balancing), ethernet connectivity, or more WiFi range, you can use another Cradlepoint router with an external battery pack to provide up to 16 hours of portable WiFi. Not sure which Cradlepoint router would be best for your application? Compare them here: Which Router Is Best For Me? For more information on the available battery packs, check out this article: Tekkeon Battery Packs For Cradlepoint Routers Comparison.

Carriers Supported: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, Alltel, CLEAR, and more (see Router Compatibility Chart for supported carriers and devices).

WiFi Range: Varies depending on model. CTR500 = 50-80 ft. MBR900/MBR1000/MBR1200 = 100-200ft.

Battery Life: Varies depending on model of router and external battery pack. For more information see external battery pack information.

Pro's: The freedom of being able to switch carriers if needed; works with aircards from a huge variety of carriers (and Cradlepoint releases firmware updates often that allow the routers to be used with even more devices); ethernet connectivity; maximum battery life; good WiFi range.

Con's: Not an all-in-one solution; more bulky components.

Not sure which portable WiFi option is best for you? Contact the mobile broadband experts at 3Gstore (4Ginfo's sister site) to discuss your needs! 

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