Reader Ken Oen writes: I am currently a Sprint (S) PCS customer (for a voice-only cell phone) and a cable modem customer with Cablevision (CVC) (Optimum Online) for my desktop PC at home. I am considering getting either a Blackberry 7130e or a Palm (PALM) Treo 700p with Sprint to use as a high-speed modem for my desktop PC via the USB. My theory is that I would use this service to replace my cable modem service. I get use of the mobile device to do e-mail and light Web surfing while on the go, and of course, it would also be my cell phone.
I noticed in your June 8 column on the Palm Treo 700 series (see BusinessWeek.com, 6/8/06, "Palm Barks Up the Right Treo") that you mentioned the use of the device as a high-speed modem. I was wondering if you have tested it and what your thoughts are on using it to provide Internet service to a home user? Obviously, it's not going to be as fast as cable modem service, but I don't think that will be an issue for me. Sprint's signal inside my condo is very strong (they have a tower a few properties over that's visible from my windows), so signal strength is not a concern. My concern is if this service is reliable and stable enough to count on it as my only Internet service? Any insight you have on this would be greatly appreciated.
The only device currently available that will do what you want is the Treo 700p from either Verizon (VZ) Wireless or Sprint. Provided you can live with download speeds averaging 250 to 500 kilobytes per second, the Sprint or Verizon EV-DO service is a reasonable alternative to broadband. I found that using the Treo with a USB cable connection to a Windows PC gave about the same performance as a laptop with built-in EV-DO or with an EV-DO add-in card. Using Bluetooth wireless was more complicated to set up and cut the speed somewhat.
The main issue, as always with wireless, is coverage. To get maximum performance and to avoid dropped connections, you need a good, strong signal. Of course, the fact that your usage will be stationary greatly simplifies matters, and if you have good coverage, you should find the service reliable.
If you use this arrangement, you will generally want to have the Treo connected to its charger. Running the handheld as a modem will suck the batteries dry pretty quickly.