Over recent years broadband has become the benchmark standard for internet access at home and at work and the days of dial-up speeds of 56k are a thing of the past. If you have been using the internet for long enough to remember how painfully slow this was, youâ€™ll be pleasantly surprised at what mobile broadband has to offer.
Mobile broadband relies on 3G technology, which makes it possible to access the internet using a laptop (or PC) anywhere that has mobile phone coverage. You donâ€™t even have to be in a wireless hotspot area as your broadband coverage and connection quality depends on how close you are to a mobile phone mast. The closer you are, the faster the connection speed you will be able to achieve.
Who is Mobile Broadband for?
Mobile broadband is an attractive solution for students or those living in temporary accommodation as it doesnâ€™t require a land line. In fact in most cases it doesnâ€™t require a mobile phone contract either. This has many advantages over conventional broadband access.
It is an essential tool for businessman and entrepreneurs, as it gives them the flexibility to complete their work on the move. It enables them to keep in touch with their latest emails and access important documents in a reliable way.
Hardware (3G Modems)
Setting up mobile broadband is extremely easy. Firstly you will need a 3G modem, which comes in three forms; USB Dongle, USB Key or Data card (laptop only).
- Dongles are about the size of a mobile phone and plug into your USB port.
- USB sticks are much smaller and are geared towards users who want a more portable option.
- Data cards are more discrete but are less popular as they require a laptop with a plug and play software/expansion slot.
The five main mobile broadband providers are:
- 3 Mobile
Each company offers various packages and uses their extensive mobile coverage to deliver a high quality internet connection.
Mobile broadband is made possible via 3G services, which are made possible via HSDPA (high speed download packet access) and HSUPA (high speed upload packet access). These enable broadband speeds of up to 7.2 MBPS download and 1.76MBPS upload.
3G functionality is also becoming a standard feature in modern laptops. This means users donâ€™t have to worry about using dongles, making it easy to switch from wireless broadband at home to 3G broadband on the move; all with a few mouse clicks.
Whatâ€™s the catch?
Mobile broadband is a new service and because of this there are still some limitations. Many of the current packages have quite restrictive monthly download limits depending on the package you are on. Another downside is that the higher your download requirements the longer your contract length will tend to be. Contracts lengths range from 0, 12, 18 and 24 months, which allow download limits of between 1-15GBs.
These limits have been imposed as the cost of transferring data across 3G networks is more expensive than transmitting data across home broadband networks. Providers also have to make sure that heavy users do not overload the network causing lost connections and slow services for others.
It is estimated that mobile broadband account will grow by as much as 50% by 2010. By 2009 mobile broadband can be expected by companies like BT, Virgin Media, Tiscali and AOL.
The addition of Femtocell base stations will help to boost mobile reception and advances in technologies like 4G will also bring faster connections. This will lower the cost to mobile operators, which can be passed back to the consumer.