4G mobile broadband now means you can get blazingly fast speeds on any mobile device so long as you are in an area with 4G coverage. Speeds are regularly in the 8-12 Mbps range with 4G LTE providers.
With this service users can access the Internet via a high speed connection in any location that offers a cell phone signal, and this is done through plugging a USB modem (sometimes called a dongle) into a laptop or computer.
This type of broadband service is ideal for all sorts of people, from business users and students that need to access the Internet whilst on the go to general users that want to be able get online no matter where they are.
What is a Mobile Broadband Card
A mobile broadband card works in exactly the same was as a mobile broadband USB modem. The cards simply plug into your computer or laptop.
Can my USB dongle, modem card be used on different computers or laptops? Yes, your mobile broadband USB modem, dongle, or broadband card can be plugged into any laptop or computer. You may need a mobile hotspot if you want to use mobile broadband on your iPad or with your tablet.
What sort of coverage will I get with mobile broadband? You will find that coverage is generally good, and in particular you should be able to get coverage in urban areas. However, access and speed varies based on the signal strength in different areas and the type of coverage available. Areas with 4G or 3G coverage tend to have much faster speeds than areas with standard cell network coverage.
Can mobile broadband be used abroad? You can use your mobile broadband abroad in most countries, but do bear in mind that there are additional charges, and the fees can increase if you exceed your download limits.
Will I be able to get online whilst travelling on a train? You can access internet on trains, but remember that the signal strength will determine access and speeds.
If I have mobile broadband will I also have to have a landline? No you do not have to have a landline at all in order to get a mobile broadband connection.
Can it be used for online gaming? If you are interested in online gaming then you are probably better off opting for a specialist gaming broadband or high speed internet package. This is because the speeds and download limits with mobile broadband are not currently adequate for gaming unless you have a strong, reliable 4G connection.
The technology behind 3G and 4G broadband
We have all become used to the fixed line broadband access that is provided through copper telephone wires or fiber optic networks over the years, but mobile broadband is brought to us in a very different way. With 3G and 4G the access to the Internet is provided through cell phone networks, and this is why the technology will only work in areas where you have cell phone signals.
The modem, dongle or card that you receive when you take out the service allows you to access the Internet whilst on the go, so there is no need to be tied to a particular place, such as the home or office, in order to get online.
Whilst you should have no problem getting online with mobile broadband in many areas, especially urban areas, you need to remember that speed and access is affected by the signal strength in the area. You can only access the internet in areas where there is cell phone coverage, because access is through cell phone networks.
Dongles, modems, and data cards
In order to connect to the Internet via mobile broadband you will need a modem, and there are a number of options depending on your needs. These devices are very small and compact, and are therefore ideal for those using the Internet whilst on the go. The options include:
USB Dongle: Around the same size as a cell phone the USB dongle connects to the computer via the USB connection. You can even get these dongles in different designs, making them something of a fashion accessory! Alternatively these devices are called internet sticks or sometimes referred to as internet laptop sticks.
USB Modem: The USB modem is even smaller than the dongle or a laptop stick, and again can be easily carried around by those on the move. They also connect to your laptop via the USB connection. Modems that can share a connection between multiple devices are called MiFi hotspots.
Mobile Data Card: With the mobile data card, sometimes advertised as a laptop cellular card, you will have to have a laptop that has plug and go software installed. This device may, therefore, not be suited to all mobile consumers.
Mobile Broadband Card: Mobile, data cards are often referred to as mobile broadband cards or as an air card but are exactly the same thing.
It is important that you take the time to compare different deals before you make any commitment, as you will find that a number of factors can vary, from the cost of the package to the speeds and restrictions that come with the package. Although cost is a factor for most people it is worth considering that cheap mobile broadband plans are not always the most suitable plans depending on your needs. The best mobile broadband deal for each individual will often depend on a number of factors. Before you decide on a particular provider or package you should compare different areas such as:
- Monthly costs
- Connection fees
- Download limits
- Contract length
You can do this with ease and speed using the mobile broadband comparison facility provided on the site.
Who are the providers?
There are a number of main providers in the United States, including:
Verizon: Communications giant Verizon offers a range of solutions to both residential homes and businesses. This includes phone, Internet, television, and now mobile broadband, with a range of different packages on offer to suit different needs.
Sprint: Well-known communications company, Sprint prides itself on offering business and residential users with a range of wireless communication services, giving consumers the freedom and mobility that they need. Sprint offers a range of netbooks with mobile broadband which are very popular.
AT&T: Another of America’s leading communications giants, AT&T offers a host of communications solutions for business and private customers, and offers Internet access for both those looking to get online at home and whilst on the go.
Alltel: Part of America’s largest network Alltel offers convenience, ease, and flexibility for its residential and business consumers with different packages and deals on offer to suit a range of needs and budgets.
US Cellular: Founded in 1983 US Cellular is an award winning communications company that offers a variety of communications and Internet access solutions for its business and residential customers.
T Mobile: T-Mobile is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telecom, one of the largest communications companies in the world serving over 120 million customers worldwide.
CricKet: CricKet is a subsidiary of Telecoms company Leap Wireless International. Wireless International currently operate in 29 states and has been building its business around unlimited wireless services.
Millenicom: An internet service provider offering mobile wireless broadband, DSL broadband access and dial up internet access. Millenicom was founded in June 1998 and bills itself as the world’s largest fastest easiest internet service provider.
Choosing the right package
With mobile broadband becoming more and more popular amongst those with busy lifestyles who want to access the Internet whilst on the go, an increasing number of people are likely to want to join this revolution. However, before you take the plunge be sure to consider some important factors to help you make the right decision with regards to which package and provider you opt for. This includes:
- Thinking about what speeds you will need based on what you will be using the service for
- Checking on the download limits implemented by different providers
- Deciding which modem option is going to prove most suitable for you
- Finding out what the signal strength and coverage is likely to be in the areas where you will most likely use the service
- Considering how much you want to spend each month on the service
- Deciding whether you want to be tied into what could be a long term contract, if you don’t want to commit to this then a pay as you go mobile broadband deal may be a better choice, please note this is sometimes called prepaid mobile broadband but both describe deals with no contract commitment.
- Finding out about the reliability and service levels offered by different providers based on consumer reviews
Pros and cons
You should also look at the pros and cons before buying in order to better determine whether this technology is going to fit in with your needs. Some of these include:
With this technology users can enjoy accessing the Internet via a high speed internet connection whilst on the go providing that they are in an area with cell phone coverage
As these services continue to become more popular, competitiveness will also increase amongst providers and this will help to reduce the cost of connecting.
Mobile broadband can suit those that do not want an expensive landline installed in the home but do want to have access to the Internet via broadband
The high cost of transferring data across 3G networks means that download limits can be quite restricted
There are currently very few packages that offer truly unlimited mobile broadband access – beware some that claim to be unlimited actually have data caps! The operators claim this is due to the possibility of increased traffic, which could affect the networks and slow down speeds for other customers.
You are not guaranteed connection since the service will only work in areas where there is cell phone coverage, and may be slow in areas with weak signals.
4G is already available in many US cities and coverage will continue to grow meaning faster connections for more and more people. 4G currently uses a technology called LTE, the next stage in the evolution of this technology is LTE Advanced which can offer superfast speeds comparable to the fastest fixed line connections. Sprint makes use of a different technology called WiMAX although they are in the process of moving over to LTE.