Verizon access Manager software
The other part of the picture is software. Both modems use Verizon’s VZAccess Manager program on OS X and Windows. I guess that brings me to my primary complaint about both of these data cards—they don’t have internal storage partitions with the software stored on them.
In the past, data cards I’ve used seem to always have at very least a read only partition, sometimes even a microSD card drive letter, where drivers and management software were stored. The obvious reason for this was that you could then have a guaranteed way of getting online even if you didn’t have the driver CD with you. Without this, you can potentially be stuck in a maddening Catch-22 situation where you could conceivably get online, but only if you had the foresight to install drivers beforehand. I literally have a small pile of various modems for EVDO and UMTS that all have this simple feature.
So for some reason, all of Verizon’s launch 4G LTE modems lack an internal storage partition with the drivers, which is incredibly confusing. I sincerely hope newer modems have the feature, and that the reason this is lacking is purely due to the current architecture of these cards and not some legal preclusion.
I started using the UML290 before its first firmware update, and likewise before it had official OS X support. The UML290 needed a firmware flash from the Windows version of the VZAccess Manager; then I could download the OS X version of VZAccess Manager and use the UML290 without issue.
My initial testing results from the UML290 were taken on a Latitude XT running Windows 7, and later on an Inspiron 8500. However, I spent equal amounts of time just testing the two on a 2010 MacBook Pro and 2011 MacBook Pro.
VZAccess Manager on Windows 7
In Windows, VZAccess manager has a bit more configuration detail and offers different options than on OS X, but overall the organization and functionality is the same. There are tabs for both connectivity management, statistics, SMS/text messaging, and finally WiFi locations. At the bottom is a persistent bar displaying connectivity status, duration, activity, current cellular number (the data card still has a phone number for SMS), and signal strength. Hovering over the signal strength bars creates a bubble with more details about the current cell environment. When connected to 1x or EVDO, you get the current RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) for both 1x and EVDO. When connected to 4G LTE, you get both RSSI and SINR (Signal to Interference Noise Ratio).
I’m glad to see that SINR is being reported, since it’s very important on LTE to have a measure of how much noise there is in addition to inter-symbol-interference due to loss of orthogonality. This can come from reflections that exceed the cyclic prefix length, and more importantly from doppler shift, which causes loss of carrier orthogonality when the user equipment is moving quickly. Thankfully OFDM is engineered to work with this.
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