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Old 01-28-2007, 09:49 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Arrow "Signal strength checker" for all wireless providers... (and Q? about EDGE / EVDO)

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Hi everyone,

I am not sure if something like this exists, but here's my situation. I moved into a new house and my office space is in an area that cannot pick up a t-mobile signal.

Had a few questions...

a) I was wondering if something exists that would let me test the signal strength of each wireless provider so I could pick the provider with the strongest signal strength from this precise location (the exact spot in my house where I am typing to you from right now.)

b) Is there anything that can be bought to improve signal strength should I find that all providers have a weak signal in this spot? I am talking about something a lot more powerful than those "sticker" antennas you can place behind your battery cover. Something that will grab the signal from the air and "amplify" it.

Now some additional questions I had in the back of my mind...

c) Curious which technology has the fastest data-transfer to date? From the little research I've done, I have found "EVDO" and "EDGE", wondering which provider will provide me with the fastest service when it comes to web/email?

d) Can all the newer phones connect to a wireless broadband signal? I have wireless broadband in my house, would my phone automatically switch from the cellular network to the broadband network whenever it picked up the wireless broadband signal?

e) Can all newer blackberries use MS office (outlook, excel, word, etc)? The product descriptions I've read are not uniform and some have direct reference to those specific products (ie "comes with excel"), some say something a little more cryptic like "reads email attachments with spreadsheets"... ok, so does this mean it only reads excel when it comes as an email attachment, and does it also mean that it cannot EDIT or CREATE spreadsheets, only read them? I would assume if you can read them, you would need excel which would allow you to create, edit, read, etc... but I am not sure because of how these are worded.

Thanks everyone for your help!
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Old 01-28-2007, 10:01 AM   #2 (permalink)
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a) I'm not sure if a device like that is made... but most wireless providers have a 15- or 30-day return policy, so you could try each one to see which works best.

b) Yes, you can purchase a repeater, but the good ones are expensive.

c) There are many different ones... EVDO is a "3G" technology offered by CDMA providers (e.g. Sprint, Verizon) that will give you fast broadband-like speeds over the mobile network. EDGE is offered by GSM providers (e.g. Cingular, T-Mobile) and is about as fast as an ISDN line, maybe a bit faster, but Cingular also offers UMTS/HSDPA which is their "3G" technology and is pretty fast.

d) Certain devices have WiFi. I can't recall if any BlackBerries have it, but there are some Smart Phones/PDAs that do feature WiFi.

e) Yes. You may need to download or purchase a 3rd-party application, however.
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Old 01-28-2007, 10:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dandrzejewski
a) I'm not sure if a device like that is made... but most wireless providers have a 15- or 30-day return policy, so you could try each one to see which works best.

b) Yes, you can purchase a repeater, but the good ones are expensive.

c) There are many different ones... EVDO is a "3G" technology offered by CDMA providers (e.g. Sprint, Verizon) that will give you fast broadband-like speeds over the mobile network. EDGE is offered by GSM providers (e.g. Cingular, T-Mobile) and is about as fast as an ISDN line, maybe a bit faster, but Cingular also offers UMTS/HSDPA which is their "3G" technology and is pretty fast.

d) Certain devices have WiFi. I can't recall if any BlackBerries have it, but there are some Smart Phones/PDAs that do feature WiFi.

e) Yes. You may need to download or purchase a 3rd-party application, however.
a) Yeah, I thought that was going to be tough. My first notion was to just try to get people over my house, ask them which provider they were with, and then check their phones in my office. OR go to a store that services all the different companies and ask to take like 5 phones back home with me (while leaving a deposit with them), but that could be a pain too.

b) Just googled "repeater" (didn't know that's what they were called or if they even existed) and found something called clear voice, which was $279. I would say that's a good price if it does what it says it does.

c) Between EDGE and EVDO, is there a standard difference in transfer rates? IE, between DSL and Cable, these can be enumerated... (ie 768kbps), just curious which one is "faster" ?

Additionally, as I research this more, it seems these technologies are a few years old. Is there anything in the pipleline for the near future which would be an even better cellular broadband technology?

Thanks again for your help!
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Old 01-28-2007, 11:34 AM   #4 (permalink)
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EV-DO is marketed at "broadband" speeds and it is pretty fast in areas where the coverage is good, 750 Kbps up to 1.2 mbps. I have a Verizon aircard for my laptop and it works quite well and is plenty fast for my uses. Cingular 3G is supposed to be at least as fast.

EDGE, on the otherhand is not as fast, somewhere inthe neighborhood of 70-80 kbps up to a max of 236 kbps. On a handheld, it isn't really noticeable as the speed is dependent on too many other variables, such as the processor, connection, etc. I have found that EDGE on my BB is good enough.

No Blackberrys to date have wifi, although newer models are reportedly going to be so equipped. Not sure of the benefit however as you need a dataplan anyway for email and Internet connectivity.
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Old 01-28-2007, 12:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dubdub
EV-DO is marketed at "broadband" speeds and it is pretty fast in areas where the coverage is good, 750 Kbps up to 1.2 mbps. I have a Verizon aircard for my laptop and it works quite well and is plenty fast for my uses. Cingular 3G is supposed to be at least as fast.

EDGE, on the otherhand is not as fast, somewhere inthe neighborhood of 70-80 kbps up to a max of 236 kbps. On a handheld, it isn't really noticeable as the speed is dependent on too many other variables, such as the processor, connection, etc. I have found that EDGE on my BB is good enough.

No Blackberrys to date have wifi, although newer models are reportedly going to be so equipped. Not sure of the benefit however as you need a dataplan anyway for email and Internet connectivity.
I may be missing something, but I figured if the ev-do and edge technologies were not as fast as wifi, the benefit would be being able to tap into that faster service when I am at home... though paying for a data plan to use it everywhere else... plus, keeping with the theme of signal strength, a home wifi network would always have a strong signal...
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Old 01-28-2007, 03:33 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clang
I may be missing something, but I figured if the ev-do and edge technologies were not as fast as wifi, the benefit would be being able to tap into that faster service when I am at home... though paying for a data plan to use it everywhere else... plus, keeping with the theme of signal strength, a home wifi network would always have a strong signal...

I didn't say a wifi connection isn't as fast or faster then EDGE or EV-DO. What I am saying is that you might not notice much difference if you are connected one way or the other on a BB. There are too many variables and we do not even know if/how it wil be implemented. Plus, IMHO, wifi isn't all that necessary considering you must have a data plan anyway. I couldn't notice any appreciable gains being on 3G vs EDGE on a Blackjack. Now if you don't have a dataplan of any kind, then wifi is more attractive.

I am not sure what RIM will allow you to access via wifi. Maybe only the Internet and I doubt if you will be able to get to email that way. My guess is BIS 2 was the first move to keep you from accessing email via the web as you could on earlier versions.
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Old 01-28-2007, 06:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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In other words, there's a noticeable difference when tehtering. Not so much on the BB itself (processor is one of the limiting factors).
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Old 01-28-2007, 08:03 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Check out this thread:

BB as Internet for Laptop (high speed)
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Old 01-29-2007, 09:48 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Some of the services (like for me on TMO) have detailed coverage maps down to street level on their websites. I know the TMO site is fairly correct showing the weak and strong signal areas I have encounted.

This method would be less of a pain.
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Old 01-29-2007, 11:23 AM   #10 (permalink)
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A couple (b) items:

SPOTWAVE® | Commercial Indoor Wireless Coverage | Boost Weak Cell Signals - Cell Boosters, Repeaters, Cellular Antennas, Wireless Range Extenders, In-Building, Adaptive Repeater, Distributed Antenna Systems for Business | SpotCell®, 2500Xe, Z1900, ZE (claims to work with 3G)
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Wireless Extenders - Home or Wireless Extenders - Home
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Old 01-30-2007, 04:44 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Hmm, the more research I do on this, it seems that a BB may not even be the right device for me?
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Old 01-30-2007, 08:07 AM   #12 (permalink)
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For me, having the BB has kept me connected in circumstances when I would otherwise have no ability to be in touch with my office and clients, and there were no other options like a laptop, etc. My EDGE connection is superbly fast. But, no, it is not as fast as a highspeed wireless broadband I might get on a laptop, but then again, I also can't get up from using a laptop and pop it into my belt holster and neither can I be driving down the interstate and grab my laptop to check an incoming e-mail and respond timely.

In my opinion, Blackberry's don't replace the need for a full-blown laptop or desktop. Anyone who thinks it is, will be disappointed--just like you can't use a VW bug to pull a 4 ton load of pulpwood, its just not made for that.

Chang, you need to decide what you want, your purpose, first. Then determine what is needed to achieve that purpose. It might not be a hand-held unit.
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Old 01-30-2007, 12:37 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clang
d) Can all the newer phones connect to a wireless broadband signal? I have wireless broadband in my house, would my phone automatically switch from the cellular network to the broadband network whenever it picked up the wireless broadband signal?
Just to add a bit more on this, this feature is referred to as UMA, which is in tests with the T-Mobile market in select areas (I think Seattle right now mainly); not only does it require a handset with WiFi, the handset must also know how to handle a UMA handoff to a wireless access point - which is also UMA enabled. Right now 2 devices are being tested with a custom WiFi router that I hear is a D-Link w/custom T-Mobile firmware.

Article:
Wireless-Watch » T-Mobile UMA in Seattle

The point here is multifold:

- having just WiFi is not enough, tons of phones have WiFi. You *can* use VOIP client(s) that will work that way, put it's not a true handoff like the UMA technology.

- the carrier has to support this (access point, handset, service enablement, etc.) and as far as I can tell, only T-Mobile is working on it. Basically this is a loss-leader for any carrier, as it gives a user "free minutes" on their WiFi link so to speak. Hence T-Mo charging $20 for the service (going on marketing here, I don't live in Seattle so haven't tried any of this).

Of course this is all about voice service; it would be really interesting if UMA handled the BlackBerry data services somehow in the same fashion, but I can't even begin to guess how they'd do it...
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