Staying Connected on the Road with Cellular Modems - Page 2
Surfing Made Easier
Fortunately, there's a way of getting around all of these difficulties (except the slow speed). Sprint PCS sells a Wireless Web Connection Kit for many Internet-enabled phones. This kit includes a set of cables that connect your phone to your laptop's serial port. This connection lets you use a real keyboard and a full-featured browser to surf the Web. However, even this isn't as easy as it sounds.
After purchasing the kit for about $100, I realized that many of the newer notebooks don't have a serial port. I got around this limitation by buying an adapter that converts a USB port into a serial port. You can see the entire setup in Figure 2.
Windows 2000 Difficulties
The adapter took care of the physical connection, but there was still one more problem. When I tried to install the driver for the cellular modem, I discovered that it didn't support Windows 2000. I'm using a Qualcomm phone; some other brands may include Windows 2000 drivers. I called Qualcomm and asked about the drivers, and was told that they have no plans to offer future support for Windows 2000.
Because the Setup program was supposed to run under Windows 98 and Windows NT, I assumed that the driver would probably work under Windows 2000 and that the Setup program itself was probably the problem. I managed to manually install the driver, but then I made an interesting discovery: The phone doesn't actually include a modem. When the phone tries to access the Web, it dials a special access number. This access number connects to a modem at the phone company's building. This modem then makes the connection to the Web and relays the information back and forth. To make a long story short, because of the special nature of the cellular modem, I was unable to use it under Windows 2000 even though I installed the driver. I had to set up a dual-boot environment and use Windows 98 whenever I wanted to use a cellular data connection.
In spite of all the problems I had initially, I still think this type of modem is the best choice when it comes to wireless Internet, simply because you can use a standard Web browser on your laptop with it. The price is right, too. Although the rates change frequently, I was able to get Wireless Web service for about $10.00 per month. Of course, this is in addition to my regular phone bill. Under this arrangement, Wireless Web minutes don't cost any more than standard voice minutes. //
Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance writer. His past experience includes working as the director of information systems for a national chain of health care facilities and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. Because of the extremely high volume of e-mail that Brien receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message, although he does read them all.