updated 05:25 pm EDT, Mon April 14, 2008
Sprint Connection Manager
The most common way to access the Internet with a laptop computer is through a Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi access isn’t always available. If you can’t find a free hotspot, the next best option is to use a wireless modem for accessing the Internet through a cellular network. Not only are cellular networks more readily accessible than Wi-Fi networks (especially when you’re riding in a car, bus, or train), but cellular networks are still often fast enough for basic web browsing and e-mail access. With a cellular wireless modem (also called a mobile broadband device), a laptop, and a program like Sprint’s Connection Manager software, you can access the Internet wherever you have cellular coverage.
The Sprint Connection Manager displays the signal strength available
Sprint’s software provides a simple interface that displays signal strength, connectivity details, and GPS services at the touch of a button. The program works with Mac OS X 10.4 and higher, as well as Windows XP/Vista; however, the number of supported wireless modems differs greatly. For Mac OS X, the program supports only the following wireless modems:
• Sierra: AC580, AC595, 595U, 597E
• Novatel: S620, S720, EX720, U720, U727
For Windows XP/Vista, the program supports all of these modems:
• Sierra: AC580, AC595, 595U, 597E, 875U
• Novatel: S620, S720, EX720, U720, U727
• Pantech: PC-5740, PX-500
• BlackBerry: 7130, 7250, 8130, 8703, 8830
• LG: LX160, LX400, LX550, LX570
• Motorola: KRZR, RZAR, SLVR, V9m
• Samsung: A900M, m500, m510, m520, m600, SPH-900, SPH-920
• Sanyo: Katana DLX, Pro 200, Pro 700, SCP-3200, SCP-6650, SCP-7050, S1
Wireless modems typically plug into a PC card slot, a USB port, or an ExpressCard slot. Before you can use any such modem, you must configure it to work with your cellular phone account. After you have configured the modem, you can install and run Connection Manager. When you need to connect to the Internet, click the big "Connect" button on the program window.
Once you’re connected to a cellular network, the program keeps track of how long you’ve been connected, how much data you’ve sent and received, and whether you’re connecting using CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access, commonly used in 2G and 3G networks) or EVDO (Evolution Data-Optimized, used in 3G networks).
The program tracks how much time you’ve spent connected
After connecting, you’ll likely want to run a program such as a browser or e-mail client. To launch different programs, the Sprint Connection Manager offers an Applications button, which stores icons of your most frequently-used programs.
The program comes with a list of Application icons for showing Sprint’s coverage map, or accessing Sprint’s online support. You can modify this list, however, to include your own favorite software.
Next to the Application button on the user interface is a GPS button, which can show your current location and display a list of icons for finding the nearest hotel, bank, restaurant or gas station.
Internet access through a cellular network can sometimes be fast enough for uses such as streaming radio or watching videos on sites like YouTube or CNN, but the speed of Internet access through cellular will likely be slower than a typical Wi-Fi connection.
When run through Speedtest.net (http://www.speedtest.net), a Wi-Fi network’s download speed was 12,710Kbps, while Sprint’s cellular network clocked a speed of only 926Kbps. The upload speeds were closer to even, rating 546Kbps on Wi-Fi and 454Kbps via Sprint.
Overall, Sprint’s Connection Manager provides easy access to the Internet from a cellular network. The program’s Application list offers a convenient way to load your favorite software, while the GPS list gives you one-click access to gas stations, hotels, and other important businesses, which can be indispensable when traveling in an unfamiliar area. Combined with Sprint’s cellular network and a laptop, you may never need to disconnect from the Internet again.