Sprint EX720 EV-DO ExpressCard for my MacBook Pro

Several months ago, when I moved to another apartment in the same house, I decided to see if I could use a wireless card and replace my broadband connection altogether (I was getting tired of transferring service and being without Internet for several days). What follows are a few things I learned along the way.

I chose the Sprint EX720 card for a couple of reasons but mainly because it fit in the ExpressCard slot of my new MacBook Pro. Earlier that same year, I tried the Sony Ericsson GC89 GRPS card from T-Mobile and that just plain sucked. The download speeds with the GC89 were horrible and I had all kinds of problems getting the card to work on an older G4 PowerBook (I didn't have my MacBook Pro at that time).

I had read a couple of raving reviews about the EX720 and lots of good stuff about the EV-DO network so I thought the experiment was worth a shot. Since Sprint gave me a 30-day risk-free guarantee, I would only be out the $35 setup fee. The extra features that came with the EX720 were really great, too:

"Sprint offers an external antenna, a carrying case and Broadband Card Adapter (Express to PCMCIA) that are each sold separately as an accessory for this device."

Before installing the card on my MacBook, I did some research and read somewhere that said I needed the "WWAN Support Update 1.0". However, when I tried installing it I got a message that said "This version is not supported". Apparently, my MacBook already had everything I needed because simply inserting the card worked. Almost.

In order to activate the card, a Windows machine is required. Luckily, I had VMWare Fusion installed and I was able to use Windows XP to activate the card. Sometimes the store will do this for you; my boss recently picked one of these up and it came activated.

Speaking of work, David setup my boss's the EV-DO card on one of the Windows machines in the office and shared its wireless connection with the entire office network (using Windows ICS). We're going to be without Internet for a few days while we move to the new office and this wireless card will allow us to continue working. I was absolutely amazed at how well it works. Everyone in the office is able to surf with almost no noticeable difference in speed. Even downloads are fast (I'm talking 1Mbps+ fast!).

Here are the results of some speed tests I ran with the EX720:

100% antenna (inside a coffee shop, away from window):
Download Speed: 1004 kbps (125.5 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 555 kbps (69.4 KB/sec transfer rate)

25% antenna (in my basement):
Download Speed: 542 kbps (67.8 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 163 kbps (20.4 KB/sec transfer rate)

As you can see, these are very acceptable speeds for a wireless card that you can bring everywhere (on the train, into any coffee shop, inside office buildings, even in the bathroom or on the sidewalk). The tiny card even has a jack to attach an external antenna in case you happen to be somewhere that needs more reception (maybe an underground bunker).

The main goal of this experiment was to see if I could replace Comcast broadband at home. The card worked great and was definitely a lot better than T-Mobile's card. I've used my Blackberry as a modem to get online and the speed of this wireless card blew the EDGE network away. However there are lots of limitations to replacing my entire wired broadband connection at home.

If I replace my home broadband connection with a wireless card I cannot tunnel into any of the machines at home (assuming I take my wireless card with me when I leave the house). It's also hard to justify the $65 a month (after taxes), especially if I decide to also pay for a landline Internet connection (Comcast or Speakeasy for around $55).

In the end, I returned the EX720 card to Sprint (they honored their risk-free guarantee). I've grown accustom to having a wired broadband connection at home but if I traveled more this card would definitely be the second most important thing next to my laptop.

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  1. I run Windows XP on my MacBook Pro. I installed a Verizon wireless card on the OS X – works great. Installed it on the Windows side and it conflicts. Cannot find a supplier who supports this configuration. Any answers anyone – or do I have to haul 2 computers around? Or am I missing something here and there is a simple solution. Technically challenged….

  2. Hi Judi,

    Are you talking about running Windows XP with Boot Camp on your Mac or virtualized using Parallels or VMWare? If you’re talking about using Boot Camp, then it should work as it does on any Windows computer and you can probably get support from Verizon if it’s not (just tell them you’re running a Windows computer).

    If you’re using VMWare or Parallels, I’m not too surprised it doesn’t work — I haven’t had any success doing that myself and most information on the web explains how to share the Mac wireless card Internet connection with the virtualized OS.

    Good luck!