With the advent of 3G, and now especially now with 4G technology, wireless broadband connections can reach speeds in excess of some wired internet connections. But what is it exactly, and is it suitable for everyone?
How it works
Networks are generally owned and operated by the main mobile phone providers; O2, Three, Vodafone and EE. To gain access to their networks (in the same way you would for a mobile phone), you'll need to sign up to a contract, or purchase a relevant pay-as-you-go deal. Prices and tariffs vary by providers, so make sure you shop around for the best deal.
Once signed up, you'll be provided with a wireless dongle, or portable router which will act as an internet gateway, allowing you to connect multiple devices to the internet.
Who is it for?
Assuming that the 3G or 4G connection is strong enough in your area it can be great for a number of situations. Students and those with temporary addresses may find it of use, as would someone who can't get access to a decent wired connection to their home or extension. It's also pretty affordable, meaning it's suitable for those who work on the move or whilst commuting, not to mention handy for providing a reliable connection when you're off on your holidays. If you're someone who just casually uses the internet at home, you might even find it a good cheap alternative to home broadband.
Advantages of Mobile Broadband
- Cost You can get 3G access for less than £10. The cost makes is an affordable 'luxury' for access away from home, or a realistic cheaper alternative to home broadband
- Portability Devices are tiny, and will easily fit in your bag and most pockets. This also saves space and cable clutter if you're using it at home
- Versatility Due to the portability, it's feasible that you could just have one 'universal' internet connection, to have with you at all times
- Speed 3G can have download speeds of up to 21mb, which can be faster and more reliable than some old-fashioned copper connections at home. 4G reaches around 5 times this speed
Disadvantages of Mobile Broadband
- Coverage As with mobile phones, the reliability of your service depends on the signal strength you can receive. Therefore your access may be restricted by the area, or even building in which you live. Providers have functionality to check the strength of the signal in our area on their website, so be sure to look into this before committing.
- Speed Depending on your usage habits and needs, it may not be suitable for you compared to a home broadband fibre optic connection.
- Download Caps Like with home broadband, it took a while before access was not metered and considered 'unlimited'. Unfortunately, the same is currently true with mobile broadband at the moment, although it could be about to change in the near future with provider 'Three' now offering unlimited data on some tariffs
- Cost Whilst access to the actual networks is cheap, if you're a heavy user in terms of data- or go over your allowance, the charges for additional data can be quite costly