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

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.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware, Wi-Fi
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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.

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 coverage 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

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5 comments
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  • No better on 3G in the UK

    Too many drops; frequent switching between 3G and GPRS.

    Whilst voice calls are reliable and seamless, except in tunnels, data is completely different. And on 125mph high speed trains, by the time a connection is negotiated it is ready to drop again.

    On the occasion that it works well, it is great. But (in the UK) chances of a good connection aren't much different from the chances of getting a seat on a peak period train.
    tony@...
  • Wow! 125 MPH!

    Sorry- I'm more interested in the speed of your trains vs the speed of your Internet service.<br> Britain, USA, France, Germany, China, Japan...<br> You all have such beautiful HIGH-SPEED TRAINS! <br> Here in Canada, our train service matches our paltry internet speeds- mostly 2G, with a lot of dial-up. <br> Golly, if you travelled from Montreal to Toronto, our two biggest cities, (combined population more than 8 million and only 300 miles apart) your fastest train speed is perhaps 65-70 mph.<br> And commuter trains? LOL! They are even slower!<br>And one of the major hi-speed train builders in the world (Bombardier) was originally a Canadian company. Go figure.<br>We Canadian 3rd-worlders look with envy upon you technologically advanced nations. We salute you. <br>And as hewers of wood and drawers of water we shall faithfully do your bidding. <br>Unless, of course it involves nuclear science! That is clearly evil!
    PercySludge
  • RE: Clearwire's 4G takes on Northest Corridor train line, loses

    I had a very similar experience on SEPTA's West Trenton commuter rail line, on which I commute into Philadelphia. I tried CLEAR 4g service for six months and found the service to be fast (when it worked) but very spotty. It was good for less than half of my one-hour commute. Now I use Cricket 3g service, which is slower but far more reliable. I can work online for nearly the entire commute now, except when the train goes underground downtown.

    Bill A.
    Yardley, PA
    bill.a
  • RE: Clearwire's 4G takes on Northest Corridor train line, loses

    Thanks for the article. I was considering CLEAR 4G for my commute on the Austin Metro train (TX) but now I think I will try Verizon 3G
    nichenator
  • RE: Clearwire's 4G takes on Northest Corridor train line, loses

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