Many of you know that my wife is a church planter. I’ve been struggling with finding a good way to get high-speed Internet service at the church since we moved into the building more than two years ago. DSL service is not available in that semi-rural location and cable is too expensive.
In late January Sprint completed their roll out of EVDO Rev. A service in the Kansas City area. The first day it was available I got a Pantech card and started testing/using the service everywhere I went, including the church. Bottom line: it rocks. It gives a user experience very similar to DSL or even cable for everything except large file downloads. I’m seeing speeds in the neighborhood of 750+ Kb/s down and 250+ Kb/s up (though it does vary somewhat by location and time).
So having passed the performance and reliability test, I decided it would work well for the church until a faster, affordable land-line service becomes available. Yesterday I got a Linksys WRT54G3G-ST router that accepts an EVDO card and/or a wired broadband connection, routes, has a 4-port switch, and does WiFi. In other words, it’s a WiFi router that can use EVDO to get to the Internet. This thing is very cool and it works quite well, but it was a pain to set up. Turns out you need to upgrade the router firmware before it can see/use the Pantech card, but finding the upgraded firmware on the Linksys site is nearly impossible. (By the way, it’s here.)
Now … think about how this could fit in to your disaster recovery planning. This little guy is a completely mobile WiFi hotspot. All you need is electrical power and EVDO coverage. (If it can’t find a Rev A tower it will drop back to the the older EVDO Rev 0 or 1xRtt.) Admittedly, the bandwidth is pretty minimal for a subtantial number of users trying to share an Internet connection, but it could be set up instantly almost anywhere. One of these and some computers could provide an instant office with zero lead time to order DSL or T1 service to a location.
In the event of disaster, you could go to your local Sprint or Verizon store, sign up for service, and walk out within an hour with an activated card. Getting an EVDO router could be a bit tougher to find on zero notice. Stores like CompUSA are carrying some of these, but not all are compatible with all EVDO cards and services. You need to verify compatibility prior to purchase. We tried a D-Link router we bought at retail with no success and had to take it back.
Also … think about how this could be used to provide backup for a critical Internet link in a remote location such as a second campus. I configured the Linksys to give priority to the wired WAN link and connected that link to my cable modem at home. Then I connected my laptop to the router via WiFi and I was on the Internet through the cable. To test the failover, I pulled the plug on the cable. Instantly the Linksys connected to EVDO and continued my sessions without interruption. Neither my Skype nor my MSN IM connection dropped. Sweet!