Beating the commute with EVDO

My blogging output has been miserable as of late and it’s been bugging me because I really like sitting down to write and there are lots of big blogarific thoughts rolling around in my head these days. That being said, getting down to Yahoo! a few times a week (when I’m not working in the Berkeley lab near my house) means a my 43.7 mile commute that has me in the car for several hours every week. Driving is an antidote to writing — not to mention that this calculator told me that my commute costs me $13,731 a year (!!), and this environmental calculator estimates that my car is dumping just under 900 pounds (!!) of pollution into the world every year. Not good. All of this has made me seriously re-evaluate my commute situation and how to make it better.

First, a little more background on the specifics of my commute situation: a lot of people don’t realize this, but the best way to get from Berkeley to Silicon Valley on mass transit is via the Amtrak Capitol Corridor. I’ve taken the train a few times now and it’s a nice ride — but while this particular route that winds down through Silicon Valley seems to be a natural for solid wi-fi service, the wi-fi offering sucks. Check out the message above the byzantine wi-fi “schedule” on the Amtrak site to see why:

Currently, our Wi-Fi enabled cars rotate among different trains, giving all passengers a chance to test the service. Please be aware that trains are rotated out of service for regular maintenance and that there may be times when Wi-Fi service is unavailable. Check the schedule below to find out when Wi-Fi will be on your train!

Yeah, like I really want to add “figure out which trains have wi-fi today” to my morning to-do list.

I don’t know why it took me so long to think of this, but I finally thought: EVDO is the answer to my problems. Within minutes of this realization, I had signed up for the Broadband Access service from Verizon Wireless which promises “typical download speeds of 400 – 700 kbps, capable of reaching speeds up to 2.0 Mbps”. I ordered the Kyocera KPC650 card and it’s on its way. Now, not only will I be able to get high-speed access on the train instead of worrying with their wonky wi-fi, I will be able to get online while I’m waiting for the train. The service is expensive, but easily paid for many times over by eliminating (or at least greatly limiting) the car commute. This is looking like a win-win.

Of course, I had this same level of excitement in late 2001 when I was taking Caltrain to San Mateo and had just ordered the Ricochet modem that never really worked well enough to use on the train. I hope this time is different (the reviews of the service I’ve seen are stellar). Fingers crossed!

8 thoughts on “Beating the commute with EVDO

  1. If you are connected to the Internet through your EVDO card, you can turn your wifi to open internet access for everyone around you 🙂 On a mac it is very easy to do.

  2. I had it on my xv6600 but mobile 2003 can’t detail, among other things, so I switched it to a card, and now I’ve had my son, on the laptop in the back seat, check for slow spots.

  3. EVDO has a theoretical throughput of 2.4 megabits per second. This is as fast as many residential DSL and cable broadband connections currently available in the United States. Qualcomm has produced impressive demonstrations of EVDO’s capabilities; in one, a video conference was conducted with a participant traveling in a car at 60 miles per hour (96 km/hour). In another demonstration, a phone call was placed from a bullet train moving in excess of 150 miles per hour (240 km/hour).

  4. A significant advantage of EVDO over competing technologies is that it uses the same broadcasting frequencies as existing CDMA networks. As purchasing spectrum from regulatory agencies is extremely expensive, this brings down the cost of building and using the new networks. The major EVDO deployments in the US are by Verizon and Sprint, and there is also a large network in Korea. At present, EVDO has not made significant impact in Europe or other major Asian markets; W-CDMA is the 3G standard of choice in those regions.

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