Turn Your Cellphone into a High-Speed Modem

New high-speed wireless services enable you (or your laptop) to access the Web via your cellphone. Here's how to pick the right provider.

Illustration by Christoph Niemann

Illustration by Christoph Niemann

It's travel surfing made simple: New high-speed data plans, which began rolling out this spring from the major wireless providers, turn your cellphone into a modem, enabling you to get e-mail or surf the Web from anywhere at speeds of about 40Kbps. You can either connect via a laptop, or use your cellphone's color display. Picking the provider that's right for
you depends on what you want to do. The more data-intensive your activities, the higher-speed network you'll want. If you want to know the instant you get a message, look for a service with an always-on connection. As you browse these service plans, keep in mind that 5 megabytes of data equals approximately 90 Web pages or 850 e-mail messages.

VERIZON
Technology: CDMA 1X
Average Speed: 40 to 60Kbps
Connectivity: Dial up; times out in 5 minutes
Base Pricing: $30 plus voice minutes, or $35
for 10MB

AT&T WIRELESS
Technology: GPRS
Average Speed: 25 to 30Kbps
Connectivity: Always on
Base Pricing: $2.99 plus $0.02 per kilobyte, or $7.99 for 1MB

CINGULAR WIRELESS
Technology: GPRS
Average Speed: 40 to 60Kbps
Connectivity: Always on
Base Pricing: $6.99 for 1MB

VOICESTREAM
Technology: GPRS
Average Speed: 40Kbps
Connectivity: Always on
Base Pricing: $2.99 for 1MB of phone access only, $19.99 for 5MB using phone as modem

SPRINT PCS
Technology: CDMA 1X
Average Speed: 50 to 70Kbps
Connectivity: Dial up; times out after several hours of inactivity
Base Pricing: Not available at press time