One of the greatest inventions for my new seventeen inch Mac Book Pro — new Mac Book Pro 17-inch LCD review coming soon — is my new Option GT Ultra Express modem from at&t that allows me to go “3G Wireless” and have fast internet connectivity the world over. 


Yes, I have a fast DSL line I use for work, but as our recent East Coat melting made clear, you cannot predict the terms or conditions of the weather and its effect on your local electric grid.

With my Mac Book Pro laptops — and their delicious, yet hardly-used-for-anything-useful, “Express Card” slots — the Option GT Ultra Express modem is a perfect fit for staying in touch in the USA on the at&t network.  
If I go abroad, my 3G modem will still work and connect me to the web. If my local power dies in the USA, I whip out the 3G modem and I’m good to go.
at&t presently offers several discounts and cash back incentives for purchasing the Option GT Ultra Express.  
With a two-year contract, my modem was $49.00USD instead of $300.00USD and I pay $60 a month for 5 gigs of data traffic transmission.  I pay my own way.  I bought my modem and I pay the monthly fee.  I get no favors or discounts from at&t or any other entity.  I am writing this review because I enjoy the product and I want you to know about these solutions and opportunities. 
Now 5 gigs may not sound like much — but for my limited plans for usage — it’s fine because it isn’t intended to be an “always on” internet solution.  
If I did my math right, and if I use 166MB of traffic a day, I’m well within my usage plan and that’s plenty for me.  
In a three hour tour of heavy use — downloading music, watching video and publishing web pages and working with FTP — I used around 79MB over 3.5 hours on the 3G network.  
Beware the days of “all you can eat for one price” on the internet are coming to a close and that includes cable modems and DSL.  
All broadband connections are expensive for ISPs to provide and we will soon be going back in time a decade or so when we had metered internet access. 
Time Warner, Comcast and AT&T are leading the wolfpack to bite you by the byte again — and they’ll win because they “own the pipe:”

AT&T also said Thursday that limits on heavy use were inevitable and that it was considering pricing based on data volume. 

“Based on current trends, total bandwidth in the AT&T network will increase by four times over the next three years,” the company said in a statement.
Internet metering is a throwback to the days of dial-up service, but at a time when video and interactive games are becoming popular, the experiments could have huge implications for the future of the Web.

Metered internet brings back the bad-old-memories of paying a penny per minute for my ISDN line and, if I really wanted to go fast, I could combine both sides of my ISDN line to go twice as fast… for two cents a minute!  Those were the incredibly fast days of “fast on, fast surf, faster off…”
3G on at&t is also the new connectivity speed standard for the new iPhone 2.0.  Since at&t will not presently let you use your iPhone as a tethered internet modem for your laptop, you need to buy a 3G modem and a data plan if you want 3G access on your laptop.  
Here are the 3G (HSDPA) speeds you can expect:
  

Expected HSDPA download speeds of 600 Kbps – 1.4 Mbps 

Expected HSDPA upload speeds of 500-800 Kbps

Compared to the current — and truly awful at&t EDGE internet access —

Expected EDGE download speeds of 70-135 Kbp

— you can see how much better 3G is in every way.
Having that sort of internet connectivity in a regional emergency provides tremendous peace of mind and its everyday convenience is unparalleled.  
Now, when I travel on a train or airplane, or when I’m stuck in a meeting or waiting to meet someone, I can fire up my new wireless modem and have a surprisingly fast internet connection.  My 3G connection feels, and reacts, as fast as my 3MB DSL line. 
In my local testing over the last week, I was able to pull download speeds between 1,271 kbps and 1600 kbps and upload speeds between 489 kbps and 940 kpbs.
Those speed tests were done in a basement surrounded by bedrock with a single window available for emergency egress and a “single bar” of connectivity. 
The higher connectivity speeds were accomplished by spending an extra $75.00 to purchase “launch2et” — special modem software for wireless connectivity.  

Getting the Option GT Ultra Express to work on my Mac Book Pro, was not an easy feat to accomplish alone without the help of the Apple support forums and then launch2net.  

I recommend launch2net for anyone trying to get a good and reliable — and simple! — solution for any 3G wireless device to work with your Mac.  Pay for the product like I did!  Don’t install launch2net and then take the coward’s way out.
The mobile world is changing!  We’re getting faster in the USA and we’re going to owe a dearer price for the privilege of getting there quicker by paying more for the transport. 

16 Comments

  1. It seems to me that the metering is all about a bit of greed because the majority of internet users who pay the $50 a month barely come close to using 5gb a month. I wonder how much it really costs them for the super users.
    In other news, this 3g looks awesome. Something to consider, for sure.

  2. I think the metering problem, Gordon, is caused by a few voracious downloaders/pirates who steal content and the rest of us have to pay for their sins.
    VOIP and content providers will scream the loudest. Downloading a single HD movie from iTunes is one gig in itself so a 5gig limit gets quickly eaten up. If we’re going “all the ‘net, all the time” you can see how fast we all get punished by throttling or bandwidth limitations.
    Comcast is considering something like a tiered plan for internet use: 20 gigs/30gigs/50gigs a month. I think I use under 20gigs a month even thought I’m basically live online 18 hours a day. It will be interesting to see how many people start to scream when their internet allowances begin to get scrutinized by the byte from now on and they have to begin to pay astronomical overage charges just for watching an hour of streaming Office video from the NBC website.
    We’ll likely be back into the days of intermittent POP3 email checks 10 times a day instead of an always-on connection to push IMAP and Webmail.

  3. David, this 3G has a killer look!!! So slick!!!
    Congrats for owning it!
    The speed seems also to be very good…
    I miss the “fastest wireless” days here;
    The broadband speed is okay but the wireless needs to gear up to match my expectation.

  4. Hi Katha!
    Yes, these new 3G networks are exciting. We will finally have a pretty good give and take when it comes to wirelessly surfing. The iPhone 2.0 should finally be usable for webmail and web surfing.
    What sort of broadband speeds do you get in India for home use? How fast is the wireless network for cellphone and web surfing?

  5. So much for getting every episode of eastenders and coronation street. I wonder how many people will start collaborating. I’ll d/l this and you d/l that and when we hang out we can trade dvds. Hope this works – I’m on my blackberry!

  6. Your Blackberry is working super, Gordon! Are you on AT&T or another network?
    You’re right that limiting bandwidth will only turn people underground. The ISPs want tiered service — with them reserving the fastest speeds for their internal use — while the other “deliverers” like Apple and Universal and such would have to pay extra to get any sort of watchable streaming speed from their own ISPs. It’s going to be a real nightmare because we’re going to end up paying double for the same service as I suggested in a previous article:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2006/01/11/double-billing-for-bandwidth/
    You gonna have to REALLY pay if you want to play in the future as we play today.

  7. I’m on at&t – the new name for cingular (just as you predicted!) I look forward to see how soon (if at all) the tiered internet will fall on its face. Eventually bandwidth prices should come down or a couple of fearless isps will come forth and offer all you can dl for a fixed price and when the others start losing their customers they will revert to how they were.

  8. Gordon!
    Yes, a year or three ago the whole reason for moving from DSL to Cable was the faster speed and the “always on” bandwidth… according to the cable Gods.
    I guess now, with streaming video a reality, the cable companies are taking it right in the puss when it comes to delivering a proper speed for all their customers. One hog on one line can adversely affect 100 other people in degraded service.
    That’s why I stay with DSL over cable. My download speed may be 3MB instead of 7MM, but I can guarantee I run closer to 3MB down on a daily average than a residential cable customer runs 3MB. My line belongs only to me and I don’t have to share the wire with 100 other wackos like me! SMILE!
    The people who will really get hurt are the major media companies that want to cut out the local stations and stream content directly to end users. Cable companies don’t like that because they’re getting cut out of the Pay Per View loop as well as the On Demand adverts.
    It will be a great war to watch unfold. Time Warner is already testing tiered service in Texas. We’ll see how quickly they learn if it will work or not.

  9. Complaining doesn’t become you, Anne! SMILE!
    Yes, this modem thingy will push right into your small Mac Book Pro. It’s the oblong slot on the left side. Buy the software I mentioned and you’re up and moving in, literally, five minutes. It’s just that easy.
    You know where to find me if you need help.

  10. Hi David,
    Broadband speed is 100.0 Mbps – both for residential and business – at least the one I use. Might be a little faster/ slower depending on the service provider.
    I use a Reliance wireless card – the speed is 240 Kbps – not good compared to what I used to!