What is EVDO?: Deciphering the Mobile Broadband Acronym

As the viability and popularity of mobile broadband grow, one four-letter acronym is being thrown around a lot: EVDO. It can be difficult to decipher the many acronyms of the tech world and EVDO, short for Evolution-Data Optimized, is as esoteric in longhand as it is in shorthand.


But in actuality, EVDO modems and EVDO wireless Internet are anything but esoteric. In fact, you probably already own an EVDO modem, or two. Any device that connects to a mobile broadband network – devices like smartphones, e-readers, tablets, and new computers and laptops – has a built-in EVDO modem.

So What Is It?


Mobile broadband providers transmit online data over EVDO radio signals. This transmission is what makes mobile broadband wireless. An EVDO modem picks up these signals on-site, establishing an Internet connection between the device and the provider’s network.


EVDO modems are built into all smartphones, all mobile hotspot devices, some e-readers, some tablets (not Apple), and some personal computers (again, not Apple). As a general rule: if a device has a SIM card slot, it also has an EVDO modem. Devices with built-in EVDO modems can connect directly to mobile networks without an intermediary like a mobile hotspot or a USB modem

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USB modems make devices without a built-in modem EVDO compatible

Users can access EVDO wireless Internet on any device that doesn’t have built-in EVDO by using an external modem instead. External modems are either mobile hotspots (that connect to the device via Wi-Fi) or USB modems/air cards (that connect to the device via a USB port). Rarer are wireless routers with an integrated EVDO modem, ExpressCards, and PC cards [1].


Using EVDO: EVDO Wireless Internet Services


To activate an EVDO modem, a user must purchase a SIM card with mobile data from a service provider. National carriers Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are the largest providers of mobile data, but local carriers provide regional coverage as well. These three figures should give you a basic idea of how much EVDO wireless Internet services cost:


  • Mobile broadband through Verizon costs between $60.00 (for 10 GB) and $120.00 (for 30 GB) per month [2].


  • Mobile broadband through AT&T costs between $20.00 (for 300 MB) and $375.00 (for 50 GB) per month [3].


  • Mobile broadband through Sprint costs between $10.00 (for 100 MB) and $110.00 (for 30 GB) per month [4].


Both built-in and external modems can be unlocked or locked to one service provider. It is more common for external modems to be locked to one provider because each carrier sells its own external modem hardware. There is, therefore, less hardware overlap between carriers with mobile hotspots or USB devices than with phones, tablets, or laptops.


Because mobile broadband plans for EVDO modems often require a contract just like cellular plans (two years is standard for Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint), make sure to do a site survey of your property before you commit to one provider. Striking a balance between cost-effectiveness and performance/reliability in your location is key.


What Can EVDO Do? Comparing Network Performance


The performance of mobile broadband varies dramatically based on local coverage and network. There are, currently, two network options for EVDO wireless Internet: 4G LTE and 3G. The different potentials of the two networks define what EVDO can do.


  • In ideal coverage 4G LTE networks (available, at varying strengths, from all national carriers) download at between 5 and 12 Mbps and upload at between 2 and 5 Mbps.


  • In ideal coverage 3G networks (available, at varying strengths, from all national carriers) download at between 600 Kbps and 1.4 Mbps and upload at between 500 and 800 Kbps [5].


Fewer wires mean greater freedom.


Carriers like to vaunt the speed and reliability of their networks (both 4G LTE and 3G) and the popularity of mobile broadband certainly bolsters their cause. While it is difficult to beat the value of DSL or cable when it comes to the home Internet, EVDO (on a smartphone, especially) is a more effective personal Internet. EVDO is also, for rural users, a long-awaited and relatively economical alternative to satellite Internet.