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Three Telecom Accessories Worth Considering

Laptop-toting advisors could benefit from these products.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 03/09/2006

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In this month's companion piece, I look to the future of telecom, but even today there a number of tools that can be worth their weight in gold to the mobile financial advisor.

If all you need to do while traveling is check your e-mail, these items won't help you, but as we come to depend more and more on Web-based applications, a PDA will not be able to substitute for the power of a laptop. Here are just a few ideas the laptop-toting advisor should consider:

Cellular Broadband Service

I recently had a hand in organizing a technology conference for advisors in Florida. On the very first morning of the conference, at least two of the speakers were planning on incorporating live demonstrations of Web applications into their presentations. Unfortunately, the hotel's Web service provider had a serious problem, and for a few hours, the hotel's network was dead. Not a good start to a technology conference!

If the broadband service had not been restored (which it was), it would have caused serious headaches for some , but not for those who could access the Web through a high-speed (EV-DO) data service from Verizon Wireless or Sprint PCS. While not yet universally available, Verizon Wireless offers this service in 60 major metropolitan areas. Sprint PCS offers a similar service using the same EV-DO technology, but its coverage lags Verizon's at this time. Cingular has just started rolling out Broadband Connect with a potentially superior technology called HSDPA. It can carry higher speeds and carry voice and data simultaneously (EV-DO cannot), but it is not yet widely available.

High-speed cellular broadband service not only offers redundancy on the road, it can serve as a backup to your primary Internet service provider at home and in the office. If there is one constant with regard to technology, it is that glitches occur from time to time. With so many of us being so reliant on the Internet these days, doesn't it make sense to have multiple points of Internet access? 

For frequent travelers, cellular broadband is becoming a necessity. With hotels frequently charging up to $15 per day for high-speed Internet access, and many airports charging $7 to $10 per day, the $59.95 major wireless carriers charge (when paired with a voice plan) is not all that expensive, although I wish it was even cheaper!

Let's not forget that WiFi, whether free or paid, is not universally available. I'll concede that cellular broadband isn't either, but the combination of these two systems significantly improves your ability to connect while mobile. 

Even when WiFi is available, configuring your computer can sometimes be time consuming. With your own cellular card as your primary system, logging on to surf the Internet or e-mail the office should be less stressful.

I'll confess that I've been a holdout with regard to cellular broadband until now, but my recent experience at the conference, combined with last year's hurricane disasters, convinced me that I need to get myself cellular broadband now; and I will.

A New Breed of Wireless Routers

Okay, so I've decided to purchase a PC card to get cellular broadband service. End of story, right? Not quite. There is a new type of router that would make a great addition to my new cellular broadband service. This class of device is so new, that I'm not even sure there is a name for it yet, although Kyocera calls it a mobile router.

On Feb. 1, Kyocera announced the release of the Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router. Here's how it works: You plug your little PC card into the KR1 Mobile Router instead of into a PC slot on a laptop computer. You can then easily share the connection with others.

Think about that for a second. Assuming that you are in an area with good coverage, you can enjoy your network in a car, on a bus, on a train, or in a hotel room. If you often travel with one or more colleagues, the device, which retails for $299.99 will pay for itself in no time. But that's not all. The KR1 offers four Ethernet ports for a wired connection to the router. This means that even those laptops without a wireless network card can join the network. It also means that in an emergency, you can connect desktop computers in your home or office to the router, provided you have an Ethernet cable.

In addition to using a PC card as a source, the KR1 can actually use a limited number of cell phones as a source for its signal. Unfortunately, the KR1 is not for everyone. At the moment, the KR1 is hard to come by. I did a Web search, and the few sites that claim to carry them did not have any in stock, although more are expected within a week or so. It only works with EV-DO broadband networks, which means that it is only available to Verizon and Sprint customers. (Other devices such as the $599 Junxion Box work with other carriers including the new Cingular HSDPA network.) 

There also may be some question as to whether or not your user agreement with your carrier permits these routers and, if it does, whether it will continue to do so. On the other hand, in the past, cable companies tried to charge users extra for connecting multiple computers to a broadband connection. We all know how that worked out. 

Travel Routers

For those of you who do not opt for cellular broadband, and even some of you that do, a travel router is an excellent investment.

When you are in a hotel room or somewhere else with a wired Internet connection, these lightweight, pocket-sized marvels allow you to create a wireless environment to work in, or to share an existing wireless connection.

Most major router manufacturers, including Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, and Belkin offer some sort of travel router. Prices generally range from about $50 to $100, depending on speed and features. Don't leave home without one.

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