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T-Mobile WebConnect Laptop Card Review

February 6th, 2010 13 comments

Very rapid proliferation of mobile devices onto the mainstream market brought about vast amount of changes into consumer habits. Competitiveness of cellular communication providers has gone to a completely new level. In ever changing world under the pressure of the global economical crisis, every single mobile communication company is struggling to prove itself the best, and earn a place under the sun. This costumer demand, along with rapidly evolving technological progress forced T-Mobile to finally snatch out that notorious 1700 MHz patent frequency last year, and roll out the high speed 3G network. Coming in last on the US market, T-Mobile has taken some very rapid and ambitious steps in presenting consumers with 3G capable devices and the first in the history of the company, 3G web connect USB Laptop Stick.
Applying my own observations, I have decided to uncover some of the technological nuances, as well as certain terminology that will help some of the readers understand how this machinery operates.
In particular, depending on the level of “savvyness”, one will either review or learn the “Data Bandwidth” concept, and see how it applies to real life situations, looking at my field test results.

So, what is that Bandwidth that all are talking about?
Bandwidth is an amount of data transmitted to and fro during the data connectivity. In other words, how much information was sent and received by your computer during the time when you enabled the Internet connection. Be sure to distinguish the difference between downloads and uploads. For example: When a web page address it typed and requested from the browser, the request is being uploaded (sent out) to the server, which triggers a response in form of a download. During conventional web browsing, hundreds of requests and responses are produced. Every time the end user does that – data transmission occurs, which is taking away from the entire bucket of 5GB, that is allowed by the internet service provider or ISP.

Why is limiting the bandwidth necessary?
“Many ISPs engineered their facilities in the 1990s to use dynamic capacity allocation to serve multiple bursty users. Each user is expected to use high speed transmission for only a short time, for example to download a megabyte web page in less than a second. When use is continuous, as for file sharing or Internet radio or streaming video, a few users who use the connection at high rates for hours at a time may seriously impair the service of others. The concept is most relevant in wireless internet, particularly mobile internet, where both the core network and the access network are shared and total network bandwidth is relatively narrow.
One type of bandwidth cap, administered by an Internet service provider (ISP), simply limits the bitrate or speed of data transfer on a broadband Internet connection. The purpose of bandwidth capping is to prevent individual users from consuming the entire transmission capacity of the cable, a shared resource.” Experts like to call it “Network Domination” (Wikipedia, Link)

We will look at possible network domination scenarios, and provide you with some interesting data, that we were able to acquire during field-tests. Then, we’ll look at the tools that the end user can use for preventing possible overages.
Before we get any further, I would like to show you how fast does the card really work. Tables below (click to enlarge) demonstrates approximate speeds for various activities, beginning from loading web pages and downloading a file, and ending with an upload of a photo to an online Picasa album. The signal strength during the tests was -70 dbm, which can be denoted as 5 bars. Although its more like 4-4.5 bars. The main idea that we were trying to extract from this activity, is to test how fast does the connection operate compared to conventional 2.5G (EDGE) GC89 card. Having almost full service, the connection speed was measured to be 722Kbps for downloads, and about 347Kbps for uploads.

I hope, that by now you can distinguish between the two. Just remember that the upload speed will always be lower that the download. That’s, just how things work. According to some reports on the web, some people who tested the card in New York, were able to achieve a spanking 1000Kbs = ~1Mbs with our data card. At this point, the speed is dependent upon the maximum possible speeds offered by the provider. The actual theoretical speed is much higher. The table #2 in the gallery demonstrates how does the new webConnect match up with the older Sony Ericsson GC89 card. Back when the GC89 was tested in the same experimental conditions, we weren’t able to push any further than 191kbs for downloads and 74kbs for uploads. The table above shows the significant benefit of the 3G technology over the 2.5G.

Overall, at the moment when the article was published, the webConnect data card was offered at a $49.99 price point, for anybody, who is willing to sign up with T-Mobile on a 2-year contract. Realistically, we believe that at this price, with the added ability to use the card overseas and a micro SD card support, the data card offers good performance for the buck. Considering T-Mobile’s firm presence on the international market, signing up with this carrier provides a great value.

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