Wireless Internet is Dead; Long live Wireless Internet!

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, September 18th, 2001, 02:21
Category: Archive

I’d been holding out for Ricochet wireless Internet access in Chicago for at least a year, but when Metricom closed its doors recently, I finally gave in and decided to find a data-capable mobile phone. My business partner connects her PowerBook to the Internet through her SprintPCS service, and it’s surprisingly useful despite the slow, 9600-baud modem speed. But there are lots of holes in SprintPCS’s coverage map, so I wasn’t yet sold.


I’d been holding out for Ricochet wireless Internet access in Chicago for at least a year, but when Metricom closed its doors recently, I finally gave in and decided to find a data-capable mobile phone. My business partner connects her PowerBook to the Internet through her SprintPCS service, and it’s surprisingly useful despite the slow, 9600-baud modem speed. But there are lots of holes in SprintPCS’s coverage map, so I wasn’t yet sold.

Of course, most wireless phone providers now offer wireless Web access, but they’re usually talking about phones that let you send 15-word email messages and check the weather. No thanks — I want to surf with my PowerBook! Verizon is the only other company I could find that offered that service, so I visited their store in the Rookery building this week to choose a phone and sign up.

I told the salesman what I was up to, and while considering the options from Motorola, Kyocera, and LG, he put calls in to tech support teams at Motorola, LG, and Verizon to inquire about Mac compatibility. “Strictly IBM-PC,” came the response each time. Not to worry, I explained, just because a company says they don’t support the Mac doesn’t mean their products won’t actually work. I settled on the stealthy LG TM510, added an LG Mobile Office connection kit, and went on my way.

Back home, I set up Remote Access to use a standard dialup account that I have access to, and plugged everything in. LG’s connection kit uses a PC-style serial port, but a PalmConnect USB adapter converts that to USB. Other adapters are available, but the Palm adapter is inexpensive, it matches my phone, and I already had the drivers installed.

The search for a modem script was trickier. I started with a SprintPCS script, then tried to extract something off of the Windows CD that came with the phone, but finally found an actual Verizon modem script hiding right here on the Web. Whew!

With that installed, I could make the phone dial, but it wouldn’t hold its connection for more than a couple seconds. A little more digging revealed that Verizon has a special number you can dial to use them as an ISP. The number is #777, and you can set Remote Access to log in as qnc with the password qnd. Voila! Moments later, I was online.

A pleasant surprise was that Verizon uses 14,400 connection speeds — still a far cry from broadband or even 56k, but a little better than SprintPCS. And the LG phone even has cool send and receive meters that bounce up and down while I’m connected.

I called the Verizon store today to let the sales staff know that Macs can indeed dial up through their phones. Hopefully they’ll pass that knowledge on to other PowerBook users who come through their store. As for myself, I only wish I hadn’t waited for Metricom and had tried this setup months ago!

Recent Posts