Sticking it to the (hotel) man

Hotels have lost much of their ancillary revenue from me over the last few years. With unlimited roaming plans in the U.S. and the ease of buying prepaid cell service overseas, I only use hotel phones for wake up calls and room-to-room calls.

Sprint Mobile Broadband card from PantechWith EV-DO, they’re likely to lose revenue from their overpriced Internet access as well. I’ve been using Sprint’s Mobile Broadband as I’ve been traveling over the last two weeks. I get unlimited data access for $60 a month.

I’ve used it in a number of different environments:

  • In hotel rooms. With 8 hotel nights this month, I’ve saved $80 in hotel Internet charges, based on the hotels’ relatively reasonable rates of $10/night. (I’ve paid as much as $35 per night.) More importantly, I don’t have to worry about whether the hotel network works. Many hotel networks are run by off-site companies; if you have a problem you’ll get blank stares from the front desk.
  • On Acela. With EV-DO, I can work on the 2 hour 45 minute trip to New York. The coverage is spotty, dropping to the slower (dial up speed) 1XRTT standard at times. Although it roams seamlessly to 1XRTT, it doesn’t seem to transition back automatically. I also found myself roaming on Verizon’s 1XRTT network; I might have better luck with Verizon’s service. Verizon and Sprint have free roaming on their 1XRTT networks, but not on EV-DO.
  • At the Web 2.0 Expo conference. I’m writing this blog post in between sessions. While much of the audience here is having trouble using the conference Wifi network, I’m able to get online without any problems.

Mobile broadband is somewhat of a misnomer. It is slower than most broadband connections; it’s about as fast as the slowest home DSL connections. I would estimate the typical speed I’ve gotten is 250kbps down/100 kbps up on Sprint’s Revision A network. This is less than the “typical” speeds advertised and well under the peak speeds advertised. The image below is an actual speed test from my laptop.

You won’t be able to watch TV-quality video from your Slingbox, but the speed is good enough for most business applications.

For any business with people who travel frequently, this is a slam dunk. Even one extra hour of productivity pays for the one month cost of the service. Because data is unlimited, you could have a stack of five or six cards that people sign out when traveling. (Sprint offers a metered usage plan, but anyone who is reading this blog will want the unlimited plan.)

The one downside is that as with most products offered by wireless carriers, you have to sign up for two years. By then, you’ll be wanting a Wimax connection.

Blast from the past: Sprint’s Stick it to the Man ad.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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2 Responses to Sticking it to the (hotel) man

  1. Alan Tai says:

    Amen! I’ve been tethering with a Sprint PAM (phone as modem) plan for 2 years now with my notebook and PDA. At conferences, while everyone in the room is complaining that they can’t get on the public wifi, I just hop on the Sprint EV-DO network with no hassle. Same with Internet usage at hotels.

    By the way, IMHO tethering is a much better option than the data cards. PAM does not require a 2-year contract, and you can connect the phone via USB or Bluetooth to desktop PC”s that don’t have a PCMCIA adapter or even PDA’s.

    Finally, your connection speed is of course dependent on signal strength. Now, you can set up your own personal repeater like the Wi-Ex zBoost to boost that signal! I’ve read this can be useful if you tend to go off the beaten trail where 0 or 1 bars is the norm…

  2. Tethering is a good idea, too. But many phones (including mine) aren’t Rev. A capable, which means you’ll get slower speeds.

    In my experience, the speed difference between Rev. 0 and Rev. A isn’t as great as advertised.

    The other problem with tethering is that you can’t use your phone at the same time. Right now I’m on a conference call on my phone while using EV-DO card to use the Internet. You could use VOIP while tethering, but that’ll cut into your bandwidth. (Verizon prohibits VOIP over their network, I don’t think Sprint does.)

    If you don’t need to talk and surf simultaneously, tethering is a great alternative.

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