The large "Powered by D-Link" logo on the front of the steel-gray KR1 explains what's afoot here: The KR1 was created through a partnership between Kyocera and D-Link. Kyocera handled the EV-DO development; D-Link provided the routing and Wi-Fi capabilities. The KR1 offers two ways to get an EV-DO connection: by way of an EV-DO modem plugged into the unit's PC card slot, or over the USB port for those wanting to connect the KR1 with an EV-DO-enabled phone. And the EV-DO connection can be shared using a wired connection to one of four 10/100 Ethernet ports or wirelessly using 802.11b or g.
Relatively high latency
No signal strength indicator for EV-DO service
Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router, set by retailers. Kyocera Wireless, (800) 349-4188, (858) 882-2000. www.kyocera-wireless.com
Kyocera sent a late preproduction model of the KR1 to me in Washington, D.C., where I tested it using Kyocera's KPC650 wireless card and Verizon Wireless' Broadband Access EV-DO service. Kyocera says the KR1 is both carrier- and modem-agnostic, and my tests didn't disprove the claim. I also tested a Novatel V620 EV-DO card with it and had no connection problems. For client tests I used an IBM T30 laptop running Windows XP and a Linksys WPC54G 802.11g wireless card.
The KR1 comes ready to run out of the box: The configuration information (login credentials and how to connect) for the EV-DO network is stored on the PC Card or phone with which you're connecting. Router configuration is accomplished through the built-in Web management interface. The device offers standard SOHO (small office/home office) router options, including support for both WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA-PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access-Preshared Key) and all the wired routing (including VPN pass-through) you'd expect in this class of router.
Previously, I'd found the management interfaces for D-Link products functional but clunky. I was pleasantly surprised that the KR1's management interface is easier to read than D-Link's.
Although I liked the layout and functionality of the management interface, the lack of information for the EV-DO connection was disappointing. A user can view the IP information and connection status; however, there's no place in the Web interface or on the device to see the signal strength of the EV-DO connection. When I used the router in EV-DO-only mode, in an area where the EV-DO service wasn't strong, I couldn't easily see why the router was losing service. Given that placement of the KR1 will end up as a compromise between signal strength from the EV-DO network and Wi-Fi performance, determining signal strength for the EV-DO connection is a must. I hope this capability will be in the firmware by the time the KR1 hits production.
Performance test results were impressive, with Web-based throughput ranging from 430 Kbps to almost 1 Mbps on the downstream side and 110 Kbps to 130 Kbps on the upstream side.
The problem with EV-DO (and cellular data technologies in general) is latency. Latency was tolerable with ping averages of 147 milliseconds (google.com), 173 ms (syr.edu) and 154 ms (yahoo.com).
Web page load times were good, but not as quick as true broadband. On EV-DO, media-rich sites clocked in at about 16 seconds (ESPN.com), 15 seconds (AOL.com) and 11 seconds (MSN.com). I compared those times to DSL (7 seconds for ESPN.com, 6 seconds for AOL.com and 5 seconds for MSN.com) and found that though EV-DO was slower, it was perfectly usable.
EV-DO's high latency can make it less useful for applications like VoIP (voice over IP), streaming audio or video, or remote presentation. Note that these bandwidth-intensive applications may be limited by the provider's user agreement.
EV-DO is a shared pipe, so the more users on the network, the bigger the performance hit. I didn't notice much difference in performance during peak and off-peak times, however. EV-DO was perfectly suitable for viewing Web pages, checking e-mail and other business-oriented tasks.
After living with the KR1 for a few weeks, I could see its potential. You could use it any place where offices are impermanent--construction sites and trade shows, for example. People who travel often may find the KR1 intriguing, as they can share their EV-DO connection with colleagues, bypassing paid hot spots. There has even been talk of using devices like the KR1 to create mobile hot spots in buses and trains--an idea whose time has come. With an easy setup and good throughput, the Kyocera KR1 router is a device any mobile business can both afford and put to good use.
Sean Ginevan is a freelancer writer for Network Computing and CMP's mobilepipeline.com. He previously worked at Syracuse University's Center for Emerging Network Technologies. Write to him at [email protected].