What is an EVDO Card?

John Lister

An EVDO card is a device used for mobile broadband. This is a way to access wireless Internet on a computer via the cellphone network rather than through a Wi-Fi connection. As with cellphones, users sometimes have the choice between choosing a card for use on a pre-paid basis and getting a card tied to a service subscription. The latter is usually cheaper because it is subsidized by a network provider.

International mobile wireless services may provide cheaper roaming fees than your local carrier.
International mobile wireless services may provide cheaper roaming fees than your local carrier.

EVDO can stand for either Evolution-Data Optimized or Evolution-Data Only. It is one of the main systems for mobile broadband and is developed from the CDMA systems for cellphone transmission. This means it is usually only offered by cellphone networks based on CDMA. In the United States, this includes Verizon, Sprint and Alltel.

EVDO cards offer a wireless connection using cellphone towers.
EVDO cards offer a wireless connection using cellphone towers.

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The main benefit of having an EVDO card is that you can get Internet access on a laptop anywhere that you can get a cellphone signal from the relevant network. For most users, this will mean access is available in more locations than if they rely on wireless networks such as Wi-Fi. Speeds through an EVDO card vary, but are generally comparable to that available on basic broadband packages for home users through fixed-line connection such as a phone line or cable.

While the phrase EVDO card is often used, most devices are not strictly cards in the sense of being permanently installed in a computer. Instead the most common form is as a USB device similar in design to a memory stick. The device combines an antenna and a modem. Because the device is self-contained and removable, a user can get broadband access on any computer.

Some EVDO cards include GPS functionality. As with a mobile phone, this looks at how close you are to nearby phone masts — usually the three closest — to work out your location. Associated software that comes with the card can then offer services such as mapping, directions, or tools for finding nearby services such as a restaurant or a business center.

The most notable difference when subscribing to mobile broadband through an EVDO card is that there are almost always limits on how much data you can download each month. This limit will usually be considerably lower than that which applies to a comparable fixed-line service and rarely exceeds 5GB per month. This should easily be enough for general Internet browsing, but can be exceeded by users who download or stream a lot of audio or video content or play online games. It is very important to check a network’s policy on exceeding the monthly limit as there are often extremely costly penalties for doing so.

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