Cellular modems have come a long way in the past few years, and since they are
now capable of speeds between 400Kbps and 2Mbps, you'll see these services
being marketed as mobile broadband. These new data services work wherever you
can get a cell phone signal. There are several ways to use mobile broadband
to connect your Linux laptop to the internet wherever you go. Several
different data services are available, here are the options, providers, and
how they work in Linux.
First, some terms: RTT is an earlier cell phone data protocol with
speeds up to 100Kbps (2-3x modem speed). EVDO (technically 1x EV-DO) stands for EVolution
Data Optimized, and operates on CDMA networks. Built on top of RTT, it
operates at 400-700 Kbps typical, 2.5 Mbps max. Cellular providers are
quickly rolling out EVDO to all their cell towers, but if you are in an area
without EVDO, you can count on automatic fallback to the slower RTT speeds
anywhere your phone works. HSDPA is a different data protocol, mainly
used by Cingular's EDGE network, and by AT&T. HSDPA modems also work fine in Linux.
WWAN stands for Wireless Wide Area Network, and is
a blanket term for all high speed cellular data modem technologies.
In Linux, these devices are configured as standard serial ports via the
usbserial kernel module. This happens automatically at boot on our systems.
You can dial in using pppd, wvdial, or minicom, all of which are detailed in
the EmperorLinux manual. The two ways these EVDO modems are physically
packaged is PCMCIA (CardBus) cards (for systems without EVDO built-in), and as
Mini-PCIe cards (about the size of a postage stamp) that are being built into
the next generation of laptops. If you order a Toucan T61,
Rhino D830, Koala D430, Raven X61, or
Tarantula CF-30, you'll have the option of an internal,
Linux-supported EVDO or HSDPA mobile broadband miniPCIe card.
You should first compare coverage areas for the different data providers, to
see what EVDO coverage looks like in your area. You'll find full coverage in
any large metro area, and many interstates and airports.
Verizon EVDO coverage:
Zip Code: https://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/CoverageLocatorController?requesttype=newsearch
Sprint EVDO coverage:
AT&T HSDPA coverage:
More information on EVDO is available from