A new generation of PCMCIA cards lets handhelds, portables or desktops grab data over cellular networks at speeds rivaling wired broadband.
CDMA network providers Verizon Wireless and Monet Mobile Networks sell cards using the new 1xEV-DO "data only" specification for $30 to $150, with an accompanying data subscription running $40 to $80 per month. Transfer speeds depend on network load and distance from a cell. But you can expect e-mail, file and Web page downloads at a zippy 300 to 500Kbps on a regular basis.
As yet, Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess is available only in and around San Diego and Washington, DC, with data rates falling back to dial-up modem speeds in other areas. But the Verizon cards also log on to Wi-Fi networks.
Monet Broadband, sold through Best Buy, currently serves only six large Midwestern metropolitan areas. About half of its subscribers use it as an alternative to wired broadband, says Steve Visintainer, marketing vice president of Monet Mobile Networks in Kirkland, Washington.
Among GSM/GPRS providers, AT&T Wireless has upgraded its network and offers comparably priced PC Cards and service nationwide, based on the EDGE protocol.