Clearwire's 4G takes on Northeast Corridor train line, loses

Summary:When Clearwire's 4G service works on the New Jersey Transit into New York it's a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, you spend more time looking at the connection manager software than your work.

When Clearwire's 4G service works on the New Jersey Transit into New York it's a be

autiful thing. Unfortunately, you spend more time looking at the connection manager software than your work.

Make no mistake: 4G is a commuting game changer. Clearwire provided a 3G/4G modem to take for a spin. My test is simple. Can the connection stay up as well as Verizon Wireless' 3G service, which has two dead spots on a 60 minute ride?

The verdict: Clearwire pumps you up, but then lets you down with frequent dead spots. Memo to Clearwire: Just line the Northeast Corridor line with antennas. Commuters are your core audience.

The flip side: Clear 4G WiMAX: Beats Crappy Hotel Internet

No matter what direction you're headed you get whacked with dead spots, initializations and searching for network prompts that can last 10 minutes to 15 minutes a pop. Swapping to the 3G  backup didn't quite work for whatever reason. That 4G to 3G handoff and back should be seamless. Bottom line: You can't reliably stream Howard Stern in the morning and work---a hassle that makes me way grumpy.

As for real work, you really have to time your blog posts around dead spots and cove

rage gaps. Verizon's 3G may be pokey relative to Clearwire, but it's consistent.

My experience raises a question: Do you want a consistent yet slower connection. Or bursts of brilliance? For work, you probably want the former.

Simply put, Clearwire best works for stationary work. The 4G connection just doesn't travel well. A few thoughts on the trip up to New York and back via NJ Transit.

Up:

  • Coverage outside of Princeton was swell. You get optimistic. I even tweeted about my connectivity heaven.
  • Two minutes later I realized I tweeted too soon.
  • I was never able to get the 3G connection to work.
  • Had three drops 10 minutes into the trip.
  • Ultimately punted on it and used my Verizon 3G coverage.

Back:

  • At Penn Station, Clearwire seemed to work.
  • I dropped quickly.
  • It wasn't until Newark things were rolling.
  • Had a brilliant stretch for about 5 minutes.

A half hour into the trip I booted the modem with a bit of disgust. Actually, I wanted to throw the modem at the yapping yenta on her cell phone for the entire trip.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Wi-Fi

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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