By the Book:
Windows 95/98, Windows NT, or DOS (Version 6.2 or later)
PCMCIA type III slot conforming to PCMCIA’s
Standard Version 2.1 or later; Card and Socket Services compliant to version 2.0
For data/fax communication: an application, terminal
or fax software such as HyperTerminal, ProComm, WinFax, etc. (not included)
For Purposes of my Review: PCMCIA
type III slot, HPC Pro CE device (IBM z50) running CE 3.0, Core System Version
What Comes in the Box: CYNET Complete Cell Modem, antenna, antenna extension cable, land based telephone
connector with RJ-11 jack for Data Access Arrangement (DAA), Phone extension
cable, software disks with Install & Activation utilities, Users Guide &
Technical reference manual, Mini Mag antenna (optional), Jabra EarSet™.
I have to start this review by stating the obvious: Cellular is
slow and awkward. You know it, I know it, and the fly on the wall knows it, too.
But the fact of the matter is that there are still some areas of the country
where it is basically the only wireless option available. While it is true that
there are some great wireless options offered to people that live in Dallas,
Chicago, and New York, people like me, that live rural Texas, are pretty much
SOL where those services are concerned. So bearing that in mind, on to my
It has been a long time coming…a means for me, and countless
others that live or work in rural and suburban communities around the United
States, to wirelessly connect to the internet from their WinCE based devices.
In the city where I live, there really were no options to
choose from once you had decided that you wanted the ability to connect to and
surf the internet, much less the ability to retrieve your e-mail wirelessly.
We basically have two major wireless companies: Cellular
which provides analog service on the TDMA network; and Sprint PCS, on the CDMA
network. I live in San Angelo, TX, but the ranch where I work is located 45
miles south, in Eldorado, an area that is not serviced by Sprint PCS and CDMA at all. So
for now, my only viable wireless option is to use an analog cellular phone for
I had just about given up hope on ever having a wireless connection
for my Pocket PC that would work where I needed it to; until I read about an
upcoming product introduced at Comdex for the Compaq iPAQ: the CYPAQ sleeve.
These are pictures of the CYPAQ
sleeve both off and on the iPAQ:
The CYPAQ will be able to
accept either two type II PC cards, or one Type III PC card. I didn’t get
excited, until I further read that this was a way to attach CYNET’s
Complete Cellular Modem to a WinCe device. Yada, yada, yada…WAIT! Did the article say cellular
modem? Sure enough.
I re-read, and saw that this
was a modem specifically for analog cellular TDMA systems, just like the
Cellular One service I currently have.
What really caught my eye was
that not only would I be able to surf the internet and retrieve my e-mail
wirelessly – I could also use the cellular modem to make voice calls!
I thought that would be the absolute ultimate – a cell phone in my iPAQ!
Another interesting factor was
that you could also use the cellular modem for land-line calls, with the
included adapter. This is a great way to save money on cellular charges, if you
just happen to be somewhere where you can plug into an ordinary phone jack.
I knew I had to try this CYPAQ
sleeve combo. Julie wrote to CYNET,
the company that is the worldwide distributor for this product, and found that while the
CYPAQ sleeve has
a due date of sometime first quarter 2001, the cellular modem is available
I happen to already own another
WinCE device that is capable of accepting a type III PC cards: the IBM z50. I
saw no reason to wait to test the cellular modem, if I could begin using it now,
and at least find out if it was a viable option for my particular circumstance.
So with great excitement, the
request was sent for a cellular modem evaluation unit.
I have to admit – I was a little worried, but also quite keyed
up, when I finally received my package from CYNET containing the CYNET’s
Complete Cellular Modem and all of it’s accessories. My fear was
that though the modem would work with the iPAQ (ARM), for some reason it
might have software compatibility issues with my z50 (MIPS). Well there are
software problems – none so major that you can’t work around them – and
best I can tell, none having anything to do with what type of processor your
WinCE device uses.
So the awaited day arrived, and my package came. I opened it
with high spirits. Inside I found a plethora of accessories for my new toy,
shown in the earlier picture. I had to laugh at the inclusion of the magnetic
based antenna. I suppose it is for a car – and the magnet seemed quite strong –
but since this was an evaluation unit, I didn’t want to take the chance of
losing the antenna while cruising down the road! :0)
First inspection of the cellular modem revealed that there were
several inputs on its exposed side. One for whatever variation of antenna you
needed to use, one for the land-line hookup, and one for the Jabra EarSet™.
Here are the front and back views of the cellular modem, with
the compact mini-mag antenna installed:
Once mounted in my z50, the modem sat very flush; except when
the compact antenna was inserted – it stuck out approximately 1/2".
I inserted the Cellular PC card into my z50, ready to do
whatever was necessary to get this thing working…
Setting up the Modem:
Now ordinarily, you would have to go to or call your cellular
service provider, give them the Electronic Serial Number (ESN) off the back of
your cellular modem, and then use the provided software to configure your modem
on your own.
I did not have to go through any of these steps, as my
evaluation unit was already activated – which turned out to be a very good thing, as
I’ll explain in just a moment…
I realized soon after opening the package, that the included
disks – which contained all of the necessary dial pad and cellular programming
software – were not going to work with my z50. There was no included WinCE
software, and there is none available at this time.
This was not a big problem for me, as the modem I received was
already configured to a Cellular One phone number out of Houston for the
evaluation period. But, if I had received the modem un-programmed, I would have
needed either a laptop running Windows that accepted a type III PC card and 3.5
disks, or a desktop system which could do the same.
It was a waste of time to even bother with the floppy disks.
None of the drivers on the disks were necessary for the WinCE system to run the
The disks included programs were mainly to install system
status icons in the PC desktop tray, and of course, for configuring the modem to cellular service.
My z50 detected the cellular modem immediately, and it was
available as a choice from the drop-down menu of modems for making new
So I set up the necessary info on dialing up my ISP, and gave this
new connection its own shortcut on my desktop.
Internet & E-Mail Access:
Dialing up my ISP was simple, and there was something really
satisfying about being able to access the internet and my e-mail, without using
a land-line. For those of you in cities that have had these services for some
time…think back to the first time you connected wirelessly. Remember that
moment of awe, and then that satisfied feeling of, "Yeah, no wires for
I felt that, and more…
I took the z50 with cell modem installed to Eldorado, the town
where the ranch I manage is situated. Sitting in a rural restaurant, I was able
to show an acquaintance something she had never seen before: wireless internet
While she watched in amazement, I downloaded my e-mail.
I pulled up the Gadgeteer web page and showed that to her,
amidst exclamations of, "Cool!", and "That is sooo neat!"
Now granted, for surfing the internet, the V.34 modem is
slow…you are supposed to get up to 21600 Baud over the cell phone
system. Which, even by 56K modem standards is just c-r-e-e-p-i-n-g along. It is
slow. There’s no other way to put it, but…It works!
I tested the cellular modem in San Angelo and Eldorado, both
towns that usually don’t have very congested cellular systems. I was was able to
connect on the first try, most every time. Since I didn’t have a software
indicator of signal strength, I suspect that the few times I was not able to
connect on the first try had more to do with signal strength, than anything
Dallas was another story, altogether…
I was in Dallas for
almost a week to work in a booth at Market for my husband’s employer. Knowing
that this would be a great time to try several wireless options, Julie sent me a
Palm VII to play with, and I also brought my z50 with the cellular modem
While the Palm VII was able to connect every time to it’s network in a
flawless manner; because the cellular modem was having to compete with every
other cell phone on the network in Dallas, I had plenty of trouble getting
You know what, though – that did not lower my opinion of this
modem in the least. Reason? It is not necessarily a wireless solution for someone that lives
In Dallas, you can use CDPD, you can use RIM devices, you can use GSM.
Why would you even think to mess with Cellular?
Obviously, the cellular modem was made for people like me.
People who need a cellular solution to their wireless-ness problem, if you will.
Making Cellular Calls:
As I mentioned earlier, I wrote to Robert, my CYNET contact, and asked if
there was any WinCE software that I could install in order to see items such as
a dial pad for voice calls, cellular signal strength indicator, or the
programming screen for the setting up of cellular service. Unfortunately, the
fix that he asked me to try did not work, and I was not able to download even a
screen dialer for voice calls.
He did say, "This issue is being addressed as we speak.
We do have a version specifically written for the iPAQ. We hope to have the
generic CE dialer for CE devices very soon!"
I didn’t get a software fix in time for my review, but I did
receive a further e-mail from Robert stating, "Unfortunately there are a
variety of versions of Windows CE and the version we wrote our dialer for is
iPAQ specific. We will address the need for other CE versions immediately as a
result of this communication."
Honestly, the lack of a dialer wasn’t too big of a deal – I
never really intended to replace my cell phone with the cellular modem while it
was inserted in my z50 anyway. It is a neat
feature to be able to use the modem in such a manner; but since at this time,
with this CE unit, in
order to make a phone call you would have to set up a "session" for each
individual number, I didn’t use this feature, other than to test it.
This is how the test went:
I had to go into Programs/Communication/Terminal to make a new
"session". Evidently, when you plug the Jabra EarSet™ (or any other
headset, I’m guessing) into the cellular modem, it switches something inside the
modem to where it knows that you are now in voice mode; and if the software was
working properly (which of course, mine wasn’t), this is when you would see the
dial-pad pop up.
So, understanding that there is some kind of internal action
going on inside the modem that tells it what type of call (voice or data) you
are about to make; I was able to make the cellular modem dial my house when I had
the Jabra EarSet™ out of the plug. But, when it was inserted – all I could get was a
"Disconnected: Unknown reason" error message.
So needless to say, I didn’t get to make any voice calls. I
believe that this is some sort of software/PC vs. CE issue, and I trust that with
the iPAQ/CYPAQ combo in late March, it will no longer be a problem.
Land-line Modem Use:
Before I left for Dallas – and once I was at home again – I gave the land-line connection part
of the cellular modem a workout. When using the modem in this manner, you can get
speeds up to 33600 Baud. Once again, nothing to write home about – but
better than nothing, or "mejor que nada", as we say here in Texas.
Robert has informed me that this land line modem will be "software
upgradeable soon to 56k". That will
certainly be a great feature!
For those of you that are interested, the V.32 bis
fax/modem transfer rate is up to 14400 Baud. I have to tell you, seeing a
like that reminds me of when 9600 Baud was a big deal – do you remember those
Here is what the cellular modem looks like with the land-line
attachment in place:
Cellular Service Questions:
There is an excellent FAQ
located at CYNET’s site, that will answer just about all of your questions
involving the use of cellular service for this modem.
Reading this is what really got my hopes up about using this
product. Remember, I am used to reading about wireless technology, and then
sighing as I further read that it will be based on GSM, or CDPD networks.
Unfortunately, these are networks that don’t seem to give
a flip about servicing people living in the "Largest city in the United
States without an interstate running through it." :0)
Is this a solution for you? Maybe…
Do you live somewhere that has cellular service, but none of
the new advanced wireless technologies?
Do you want/need wireless access to your e-mail and to the
Can you accept paying a separate cellular bill charge for service
for your modem?
Can you accept that all of the software kinks haven’t yet been
If you can answer these questions with a "Yes", like
I can; then you should "Go for it!"
Until wireless service is equalized across all of the United
States, (and honestly, do you think that that day will ever arrive?) it will be
up to innovative companies that are willing to provide services like this, for
people like me, and perhaps…you, too.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Robert Litzler,
and the folks at CYNET for loaning me CYNET’s Complete Cellular Modem.
Robert went out of his way to answer all of the "off the
wall" questions that I came up with. If their customer support is anything
like the service I received from Robert, this should prove to be a company worth
doing business with.
Price: $575 MSRP,
plus the price of your monthly cellular service bill.
did mention that "We are also extremely close to a national
analog data rate plan to go along with our cellular modem." – this
might me something worth checking into, once it is available!
anywhere that has analog cellular coverage
by WinCe devices, even though it is not designed for them
theoretically make cellular voice calls with included Jabra EarSet
land-line modem capability
have a dedicated cellular connection, can’t share with a cell phone
Can take a long time to connect in urban areas with high cellular congestion
for surfing the web, but better than nothing
of the standard PC software features are not available on CE – at this time
use a Windows95/98 or NT computer with a type III PC card slot to set up service
not make any cellular voice calls – probably a software issue