The folks at Verizon Wireless and Weber Shandwick Worldwide sent me a review unit of the Verizon Mi-Fi2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. It's a great device that combines the broad coverage of EV-DO (the 3G cellular data system used by Verizon and Sprint in the USA) with Wi-Fi. Except for the initial activation, there's nothing to plug into your computer. You simply turn it on, wait for it to warm up, and connect to the Wi-Fi network it creates.
It's an incredibly convenient device, and saved the day recently when a bunch of my fellow contributors to Make: Online and I needed to get online at Maker Faire. There was free Wi-Fi throughout the event, but due to the huge number of people there, it was not as fast as we needed it to be. So, we kept the MiFi running behind the counter in the Maker Shed the whole time. This was a big help as I had my computer out as a semi-public terminal; most of the time, my computer was running a web-based demo using the Make Controller Kit as an HTTP server, but people also used it to look up information about various products, especially anything having to do with Arduino, which was super hot.
Throughout the event, we had little trouble with the MiFi; there were usually two of us using it, and at only one point (on Friday, when we were setting up) did we max out the user count (5).
The only problem we did have was the flashing yellow light syndrome, which has affected me about a half dozen times since receiving the test unit in mid-May. When this happens, the MiFi is completely crashed, and I have to pull out and reinsert the battery to get it to respond. Hopefully a future firmware update will solve this problem.
All in all, I am quite happy with the MiFi. I use it primarily in Rhode Island and the DC metro area, and in places in between. On the train ride between Rhode Island and DC, I didn't get the solid coverage that the Verizon Wireless "Dead Zone" train commercial promises; at several points, even in metro areas, I dropped back to 1xRTT (the 2.5G protocol that tops out at around 144 Kbps) or lost the signal completely.
But in fairness, I have tried T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon along this route, and none of them has provided solid station-to-station wireless coverage. And when my signal goes, I hear all the ongoing voice conversations stop, too; there's simply no tower in many spots.
Some of this is no doubt due to the fact that the train travels through areas that are just far enough off the main 95 corridor (especially in Connecticut north of New Haven, where you should be looking out the window instead of working anyhow) to be out of range of cell towers.
How about the speed? On my last trip, I averaged 781 Kbps (low of 481, high of 1504) downstream across 5 samples within EVDO coverage areas. While waiting for the train to arrive at the Kingston, RI station, the results were incredible: an average of 1929 Kbps across four tests. All the speeds were tested using Toast.net's Blue Angels download.
Upstream speeds, using Toast.net's Sample Picture B upload, yielded an average of 447 Kbps (low of 257, high of 770) across four tests.