Mark your own spot

March 21, 2012

Unless you live TV free, by now you’ve likely been exposed to the seemingly endless advertising battle between Verizon and AT&T over their respective 3G networks. The wireless providers pull no punches as they take shots at each other’s service networks, but they never really stop to explain just what 3G means.

Unless you live TV free, by now you’ve likely been exposed to the seemingly endless advertising battle between Verizon and AT&T over their respective 3G networks. The wireless providers pull no punches as they take shots at each other’s service networks, but they never really stop to explain just what 3G means.

If you weren’t already aware-just like with many technologies and materials-that 3G stands for 3rd Generation. And while they compare them as if they were the same thing, AT&T and Verizon actually use very different platforms for the third step in the evolution of their respective wireless communication networks.

But all that fighting will soon be a thing of the past as the next generation of network technology, (yup, you guessed it, 4G) is already here­-at least in most major markets. The first provider of this latest generation of mobile data service isn’t one of the big cell companies, but Clearwire, a company that, through its WiMax technology, can offer mobile download and upload speeds two to three times as fast as the top 3G network. It’s not quite cable-modem fast, but using a device connected to Clearwire’s 4G network gets to websites, videos and other online information almost as quickly.

While just a handful of smartphones are currently capable of accessing the highspeed 4G network, there are other ways to get on. Clearwire’s CLEAR Spot 4G mobile hotspot lets any device capable of connecting to a Wi-Fi network jump into the 4G fun.

The battery-powered, pocket-sized device creates a portable Wi-Fi network anywhere it can get a 4G signal. With a capacity for up to eight users simultaneously, it creates a spot for laptops, netbooks, 3G smartphones, iPads and other devices to cruise at 4G speeds. The hotspot handles the 4G transmissions, and because they are connected via the Spot’s temporary Wi-Fi network, they get to operate at 4G speeds without having to be 4G-compatible themselves.

Reaching multiple Gs

While the CLEAR Spot 4G is only applicable in areas covered by Clearwire’s 4G network, CLEAR Spot 4G+ provides nationwide mobile Wi-Fi access by connecting to Sprint’s 3G network anywhere it can’t get a 4G signal.

Just as compact as its non-plussed cousin, 4G+ does make a few minor sacrifices for the more flexible connectivity. Namely its battery life is around three hours of continuous use rather than the 4G’s four hours, and it only allows five connections at a time.

Mobile and secure

Both CLEAR Spot mobile hotspot devices provide network security in the same formats familiar to anyone using a home Wi-Fi router. This means only users with the proper password can access the network.

One thing users don’t need to do is stand next to the hotspot to soak in the 4G Internet. Both hotspot devices work at a range of up to 150 feet so people connected to the portable network have some room to roam.

Actually the entire network can roam. As long as the CLEAR Spot has a signal, the network is active. If a signal is available, it’s possible to have multi-user 4G Wi-Fi access from a moving car or train (or even on a plane if the airline allowed it).

With a strong signal, (and like wireless networks from the other providers, Clearwire’s continues to expand and improve) there’s no need to seek out somewhere with free Wi-Fi while on the road or just out of the office. With the CLEAR Spot 4G and 4G+ it’s now not only possible, but quite simple to take the Internet-and the speeds we’ve all come to take for granted-almost anywhere.