TV SMITH's Dua Sen: Going Wireless (Part 2)
TV Smith's Dua Sen
TV Smith's Dua Sen. The politically incorrect irregular columnist combines his idiosyncratic observations and tangential commentary into a blog...


by TV Smith

Back to: Part 1

"Sitting under a shady Ficus tree, I braced myself for broadband deliverance"
- TV Smith, 2005

First, let's see what's in the oversized white box. Underneath a layer of black sponge, lies my salvation - the SOMAport™ subscriber terminal. The entourage include an AC adapter, a USB cable, an Ethernet cable, instruction manual and quick setup guides in English & Bahasa Malaysia. There is also a documentation CD with USB drivers tagging along.

The wireless terminal is made by SOMA Networks and is cattle-branded "Made In USA" on its bottom. The finishing and build quality is excellent right down to the supplied AC cord with 3-prong plug. Although it is essentially a radio transceiver, there is no external antenna. It looks very much like a sleek desktop UPS, except for a peculiar dome on top. Reminiscent of those funny but now defunct LimoSinghs plying KLIA.

Handsome Buddies

On the front of the unit, there are two multi-coloured LED indicators. One for power (status) and another for (network) connection. On the rear; a USB port, a RJ 45 Ethernet port, 2 RJ-11 telephone jacks and power input socket.

Power? Being the consummate road warrior, my vehicle naturally spits out regulated 240 volt AC power. So what's there to stop me? Nothing. Not even my regular wi-fi bud and coffee mate, Pummkin. She was waiting wistfully for me at Starbucks while I flirted with a sexy new (radio) frequency, elsewhere.

A quick glance of the instructions manual and I was ready to tango. Since my PCMIA network card is (still) missing, I resorted to the supplied USB cable. I was about to rip open the wrapper, when the attached label screamed: "STOP! Use the USB cable ONLY if you cannot establish a connection to the Internet with the Ethernet cable" (see pic below). Point taken, but there was no explanation as to why Ethernet interface is preferred. I suspect it is a transfer rate issue.

Anyway, I powered up the SOMAport™ and fired up my notebook on the front passenger seat. About 30 seconds later the upper pilot light turned green after the initial boot up and running of dignostics. The lower network light continued flashing in amber as it hunt for a base station. About a minute later it locked in to one and turned green as well.

I connected the USB cable and Windows XP asked me to cough up the drivers. Installation was quick and painless. Next I opened up Firefox and after a a couple of excruciating minutes, the Jaring registration page popped up, hotspot login style.

Lesson # 5 : There is a second registration stage to be completed online. Remember your username and password.

Your line (account) will be activated and a phone number (015 XXXX XXXX) assigned only after completing this (critical) process. In case you didn't know, you can plug in a phone and start making or receiving calls, at applicable rates. I found out later that there is a dial tone even when it is unconnected to any PC. So theoretically, it also acts as a standalone wireless phone. Not Bad!

So within minutes, I was checking mail, uploading stuff, SSHing my server and surfing to my fav sites under a shady ficus tree. I got home and thankfully it worked too, despite the Jaring woman's dreadful premonition.

Lesson # 6 : Follow your instinct but prepare to wait one month for the refund if you are wrong.

Here's some bandwidth test results at around 2:00 am when traffic was presumably lighter. Also bear in mind that I live on the edge of the coverage area and connect via USB. A network cable should speed things up a bit. Also, the user guide recommends placing the unit as high as possible. I placed it on the floor next to my notebook, next to a tiger, next to my bed.

Firefox Bandwidth Tester Extension
  ZD net UK Speed Test
Jaring was most optimistic
  Dire consequence?

· Can be used anywhere where there's signal. Makes things much easier if you move   house or office.
· True mobility with a notebook and portable power supply.
· No more fear of lightning strikes and fried modems through the phone cable.
· Easy setup.
· Dual interface - USB or Ethernet.
· Internet telephony with low rates and landline voice quality.
· Software upgrades can be automatically pushed from Jaring directly to the terminal.
· No log-ins require for subsequent sessions after the initial.
· Great last mile solution. May be the only means to broadband for many.
· Accessible and friendly technical support (helpline).

· No signal strength indicator or meter makes optimum placement of terminal guesswork   at best.
· Limited coverage areas (for the time being).
· Relatively slow and expensive for a 1 Mbit service.
· Currently only 2 ISPs in the world uses this system. Early adopters will find it lonely as   support from fellow users non-existent. No user groups or community help available   for the moment.
· Proprietary hardware. No competition means expensive - RM 1200 quoted for the   terminal.
· Initial service is rolled out to overserved areas such as KL Main, PJ and USJ instead of   Streamyx and Webbit deprived and other underserved areas.
· Atrocious counter service (at KLCC)

There are some other minor issues like latency and repeated (momentary) loss of signals but overall, I'm loving it. It beats crappy Streamyx narrowband in my area, any day. I will post more information as I try it out at various locations in the Klang Valley. Meanwhile, if you are a fellow user, please share your experience here or report the highest speed attainable in your area.

Yes. This post was uploaded via Jaring Wireless broadband from the top of Kepong Bridge.
No. I wasn't driving and surfing...

Back to: Part 1


© 2005 TV SMITH
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