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I have an EVDO cell modem from Verizon Wireless, which I use primarily to get online and get work done when I'm on a train, or in some stationary position where there is no WiFi access.  The EVDO service, marketed by Verizon Wireless as "Broadband Access," and officially called 1xEVDO, is a 3G successor to the 1xRTT service Verizon Wireless introduced a few years ago.  1xRTT was barely as fast as a 56K dial-up connection, and I used it as an "in a pinch" solution when I needed to get online at any speed.  EVDO service meanwhile, hovers around 500Kbps and can "burst" at speeds of up to 2Mbps.

I am traveling this weekend for a wedding being held at the Bel Air Hotel.  For reasons too boring to go into, I am actually staying at the hotel as well.  You can imagine things are a bit expensive here: the cashews from the mini bar are over $22 and the movies are $15 a piece.  After a ridiculously overpriced breakfast, on the way into the room, actor Ray Fiennes walked right past us; not surprising then that incidentals seem to cost more than the rooms themselves.

Hey, don't get me wrong: it's a lovely serene place and the black tie wedding tonight will be picture-perfect.  The fact remains, however, that I need to get online and the in-room high-speed Internet access is $12.95/day.

Well, it's EVDO to the rescue.  I get a nice strong signal in the room, and I'm online with bandwidth running at a healthy clip.  The EVDO service is starting to be offered in a sufficient number of markets such that people may soon start using their own modems to avoid hotel broadband charges the way they now use their cell phones to do likewise with in-room telephone service.

Verizon Wireless needs to do two things to see this service enjoy wider adoption and see themselves enjoy the profits that are certain to result: optimize or completely phase out "dormant mode" (which causes the modem to disconnect after a short period of inactivity, then try to reconnect quickly upon subsequent network requests) and lower the monthly unlimited price from the current $79.99 to $49.99 or less.  These two changes, in combination with a wider network build out, could convert hordes of subscription WiFi customers and start to attract mainstream consumers.  A bundle deal with Verizon DSL (a service offered by Verizon Communications, not Verizon Wireless, which could be a spoiler) could even help Verizon compete with the cable companies.

This is Verizon's fight to lose.  Their overwhelming number of cell towers throughout the country and the quality of EVDO technology should put a stake through the heart of public subscription WiFi.  The question is whether Verizon and Verizon Wireless can learn to adopt aggressive marketing and pricing tactics to make the service a true success.

Posted on Saturday, August 20, 2005 1:28 PM | Back to top

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