USB Modems and Signal

USB modems are popular for a good reason. You can use them in just about any computer as opposed to an express card or pcmcia card, they are much more versatile and often have the connection manager right there in its flash drive. Small, easy to transport, and easy to locate in a good spot.

When you are first starting out with EVDO, putting your modem in a location to get a good signal should be your first order of business. If you plug it in your desktop or laptop and have a great signal with super speeds right off the bat...well you're in luck. A lot of folks aren't so lucky. This is where a little effort is going to make big changes. First ... move it. If its a laptop, try different areas of the house. If its a desktop, get yourself a usb extension cable and put the modem in a window or up higher. Little changes in location can make a big difference.You can get these in various lengths and couple them together. Heck you could make it 30ft or so without signal loss. That is going to let you put the modem just about anywhere for a good connection. Keep your eye on the signal strength (RSSI) meter.

USB modems typically draw about 400mA's of power and max out at around 600 -1000mA's. When they are in a dormant state (not transmitting or receiving) they draw about 4mA. One thing to note is if you have a weak signal the modem is going to try and compensate for this by ramping up the power to that 600-1000mA level. When it does this the modem often gets warmer to the touch. Considering that the typical USB port is spec'ed at 500mA this creates a quandary. That is where the Y-cable comes into play.

It is going to allow the modem to draw power from two usb ports, therefore giving you that 600-1000 mA needed for the power ramp up. These cables are often included with the modem package. If not they are easy to find online and you could add the extension cable onto the end to give you the power you need and the ease of placement. An option to the Y-cable is a powered usb hub which has the bonus of extra ports for other gizmo's.If none of these additions work then its time to step up to an external antenna.