On-the-go Internet is becoming an increasingly important part of our busy lives. 3G wireless has served mobile users well for a while, but 4G technology is here to bring us speeds that are faster than ever. And yes, St. Louis area residents can get in on it. We now have another choice for mobile Internet – Clear has launched their 4G wireless service in the area and I recently had the chance to test it out.
Before getting into the service itself, let’s briefly go over the equipment and installation. Clear offers a few different USB modems that plug directly into your laptop or netbook. The particular device I used during testing was the Series S 4G+ USB modem, which features automatic switching from 4G to 3G if you should roam outside of a 4G coverage area. The modem is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, as well as Mac OS X Versions 10.5.x and 10.6.x.
Installation turned out to be very easy. I plugged the modem into a free USB port on my netbook, and the device was automatically detected and the installation began on its own. There are no software CD’s to worry about which is something netbook users will appreciate. Installation took a few minutes to complete and when it was finished, all I had to do was click the “connect” button on the Connection Manager and voila, I was surfing the web at 4G speeds.
So how fast is 4G? Very fast. Faster than my home DSL connection for sure. I ran multiple tests at speedtest.net to see just how fast Clear’s service is and the results were very impressive – I consistently got download speeds of around 5 MB/s. During peak times it was sometimes a bit slower than 5 MB/s, but not by much. For comparison, the download speed for my home DSL connection averages around 2.5 MB/s, making 4G nearly twice as fast! This increase in speed saves a lot of time when downloading large files (such as HD videos) and it’s all wireless so it goes wherever your laptop goes.
The strength of the 4G signal at my home in North County was perfect and reliable 100% of the time that I tested the service; I have no complaints. I also tried it out for a few days in Clayton and got a perfect signal with no interruptions or other problems with the service.
Of course, it’s very important to first check out Clear’s coverage maps to make sure 4G is offered in your area before you decide to commit to the service. A good majority of St. Louis City and the surrounding municipalities already have 4G coverage, but there are still spots that remain without it.
So what happens if you find yourself out of a 4G coverage area? With a compatible modem, you can simply work off of a 3G signal. I got to test this out during a trip to Franklin County – Clear does not currently offer 4G service in that area, but the modem found a 3G signal right away and I was able to use that for my Internet connection. Again, the signal was strong and the connection was reliable.
Clear offers a few different service plans that all include unlimited data use at a cost that is pretty competitive. After using the service every day for nearly a month, I am left very pleased and highly recommend it.