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Can a 4G LTE hotspot survive a train trek?

Keith Shaw | Sept. 20, 2012
As I write this, I'm currently on the Amtrak Acela Express train from Providence, R.I., to New York City. Joining me on this journey is the Verizon Jetpack, a 4G LTE MiFi (made by Novatel Wireless, model 4620L) unit that acts as a bridge between my Wi-Fi client (a MacBook Pro) and the 4G LTE wireless service offered by Verizon Wireless.

12:34 p.m. Time for a speed test -- 4.32Mbps down, 0.30Mbps up -- train slows down due to congestion in Groton, Conn. Stays on bridge for several minutes, allowing me to upload blog posts and photos without worry.

12:57 p.m. The train is moving quickly, I have three bars of 4G coverage. Test shows 1.07Mbps down, 1.33Mbps up -- that's never fun, when uploads are faster than downloads.

12:58 p.m. Back to 3G -- from here until 1:30 p.m., we get spotty coverage, but it does seem to stay at 4G for the rest of the trip.

2:02 p.m. Still on 4G, but speeds aren't really that great. Finished trying to write blog posts, just checking email and surfing the Internet -- no heavy lifting.

2:13 p.m. Arriving in Stamford, Conn. 4G speeds OK. 2.15Mbps down, 0.96Mbps up.

2:18 p.m. Down to one bar, now back to two bars. Internet burped.

2:19 p.m. Turned off everything, switched to see if Spotify could stream (mainly because of the annoying conversation going on behind me). A couple of glitches listening to music, but not horrible.

2:32 p.m. Trying Netflix quickly before the train arrives. Sadly, Netflix needs Silverlight plugin to view over Firefox browser, spend rest of the trip downloading plugin (getting about 250KBps, but dropping at times to about 70KBps.)

2:41 p.m. Yes! It works! Sort of -- got 10 seconds of video before it stalled.

3:22 p.m. Checked into the hotel, in the room, checking Internet speeds. Four bars on the 21st floor in midtown Manhattan. Wow. 15.6Mbps download, 5.03Mbps. There's no place like New York. Time to get some real work done.

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)




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