A Beginner’s Guide To Mobile Broadband
Mobile broadband is the latest technology that allows devices to connect to the internet. Although it was originally made for mobile phones, it can now be used to provide a web connection to home PCs, laptops, netbooks, and any other device that that allows the connection of a data card or mobile dongle.
A mobile dongle is a USB stick that acts as a mobile broadband modem, while data cards are made to fit in the express port of a laptop. Mobile phones do not require a separate modem to connect. Additionally, some laptops and netbooks come with mobile broadband technology built-in.
Once a connection is made, you can do anything you normally would on the internet, including sending and receiving email, watch streaming video, open websites through a browser, and download files.
Mobile Broadband is Perfect for Students and Business
Students, business people, and anyone who travels frequently can benefit greatly from mobile internet. As long as there is mobile phone coverage, mobile internet will work, also. Business people benefit by being able to maintain productivity during otherwise useless travel time during a daily commute.
Travelling salespeople and others who need to spend time away from home on business will also benefit because they won’t have to rely on Wi-Fi hotspots at the hotel or café.
Mobile broadband is perfect for students living away from home and other people who do not have a permanent residence. It can be a real hassle to have to set up a fixed broadband internet connection each time a move has to be made.
In many cases, broadband services may not even be available. It is also an affordable option for those who need use of the internet only intermittently because pay-as-you-go options are available.
Mobile broadband is also a great solution for an internet connection when travelling in groups. Through the use of a mobile router (Mi-Fi), you can share one mobile broadband connection with multiple users.
Mobile Broadband Equipment
For some laptops, netbooks, and mobile devices, no added equipment is needed. Most laptop computers, however, will require either a simple express card or a USB dongle. If your computer has a valid operating system such as Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux then all that is needed is to connect the card or USB stick.
The operating system may already have the necessary software to connect. If it doesn’t, the software may be included on the dongle. It will install the first time the dongle is connected.
It is also important to note that not all mobile broadband hardware will work with every operating system, so it is important to know which OS you are using and check for compatibility. The best bet is to be running Windows XP, Vista, or 7 to avoid most compatibility issues.
International Mobile Broadband
Most standard Mobile Broadband providers put a block on their devices so they are not usable outside of the country. However, the specific restrictions vary from provider to provider. Some have agreements with other countries nearby throughout the rest of Europe. Some providers do not block the signal but charge high roaming tariffs outside of the UK, making international connections possible but not practical. Some newer companies have now sprung up to deal with this limitation.
They specialize in providing international mobile broadband and Wi-Fi that works in up to 180 foreign countries. If International capabilities will be required, always ask the provider before settling.
Mobile Broadband Plans
Mobile broadband plans are available in a variety of types. It will take some thought and analysis of your situation and needs to discover which plan is right for you. Deciding on a mobile broadband service is very similar to choosing a mobile phone service. Plans are available by contract or on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis. Also, each provider will have a different range of coverage, so it will be necessary to determine if the coverage is present and reliable in the areas you will most likely be in.
Another factor that must be decided upon is how you will connect to the mobile internet service and which type of hardware you prefer to use – the dongle or the data card.
A few other factors must also be considered before accepting an agreement. Different providers offer different top speeds. Speed is not always directly related to the price, so comparisons are recommended. Plans may also have a data limit. If you choose a limited plan, you should make sure that your plan will cover your usage, or you will suffer from unexpected cut-offs or high overage fees.
Just like mobile phones, mobile broadband dongles have gone from plain black and grey to highly personalized designs. Dongle personalization is not only about fashion. It is a good way to easily recognize your dongle from someone else’s. Accidents do happen, and it could be disastrous to get your mobile broadband dongle mixed up with that of another person.
Customization can be done before you buy the dongle or after. Many come in a variety of preprinted designs, and you can choose which one you like best when you purchase it. It can also be customized after purchase through the use of replaceable skins. This provides endless opportunities for personalizing your device as you see fit.
Cancelling Mobile Broadband Service
The terms and conditions of service vary with each provider. It is a good idea to understand any mobile broadband contract before you accept it. Some providers allow you to cancel at any time. This is true of most Pay As You Go (PAYG) services. Some contracts specify a fixed number of months that you must agree to keep service. If you end service before the duration of the contract is up, you will either have to pay a penalty fee or the remaining monthly fees on the contract.
In some instances, a provider may waive the fee, but usually circumstances must be exceptional, such as moving out of the country.
If you are tempted to sign a contract for service but not sure if you like it, check to see if the provider offers a test-period. Sometimes, they allow you to cancel without a penalty as long as it is within the first week or two. If the provider doesn’t offer this cooling down period, it is recommended to use a PAYG service first, to see if mobile broadband is right for you, then switch to a contract service later.
Pros and Cons of Mobile Broadband
Mobile broadband may not be right for everyone. The service has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantages of mobile internet include the following:
- Portable – Mobile broadband can be taken with you wherever you go. As long as there is a signal and your device has battery power, you can log in to the internet.
- Convenient – Mobile broadband can be turned on in seconds from any location with a signal.
- No land lines – Unlike other types of broadband service, mobile broadband requires no land line to tie you down to a single location or range.
- SMS texting – Mobile broadband has the advantage of being compatible with SMS messaging protocol, so you can send and receive text messages just as you would from a mobile phone. Most services provide an on-screen inbox just for text messages.
- Changeable – Mobile broadband modems are not attached to a specific device. It can be switched out and used on any device with the proper ports.
- Backup – When home internet goes down, it can cause a terribly inconvenient interruption. There’s no need to wait for service to resume when you have mobile broadband.
- Traveller-friendly – With mobile broadband there is never a need to search for a Wi-fi hotspot in unfamiliar locations. Your internet connection travels with you.
There are also a few disadvantages to mobile broadband. For some, these can make or break the deal. For others, they are not important. Here are the disadvantages of mobile internet:
- New technology – Mobile broadband is still relatively new technology. Although it is always improving, it is still in its infancy. As with all new technology it does not work perfectly in every situation at all times.
- Speed – While speed is improving with 3G and 4G networks in the near future, mobile broadband cannot reach anywhere near the speeds of wired internet service or even wireless N technology. Speeds are currently in the range of 3.5 Mb to 7.2 Mb. However, advertised speeds are never as high as actual speeds. Most mobile broadband users experience speeds of 1 to 2 Mb.
- Reception – Just like cell phones, mobile broadband can experience a lack of reception and dropped connections.
- Cost – Mobile broadband is more costly than home broadband. Prices, however, continue to come down with time.