Mobile Broadband – Time To Change?

A phone news item provided by…3G
The Number 1 Homepage Download into 3G Mobile/Cell Phones


When mobile broadband first hit the UK it became an overnight success. People began using the service as a way to finally make their portable devices truly ‘connected’. In recent years as speed and reliability has increased, some people are even deciding to save money and take the plunge into getting rid of their landline net access altogether. With experts warning that Mobile Broadband isn’t a replacement for fixed line connections should you stay with your old provider or can you actually save money swapping over?

How does mobile broadband work?
Mobile broadband connects using a similar wireless data network to your phone. It’s often confused with wireless internet (WiFi) because neither requires cables in order to function. Wireless however is actually just fixed line internet that has been passed through a wireless router, making it accessible to anyone in close vicinity. Although useful in large cities and coffee shops around the world, it’s not strictly a form of consumer broadband by itself.

Mobile Internet providers send out a ‘USB Dongle’ – a modem on a USB stick or data card that allows you to connect to the internet anywhere you are in range of your providers 3G signal. This means that like Wireless you can move around your house and enjoy your connection but unlike Wireless you can visit friends on the other side of the country – even the world – and still be able to access your ISP.

Who can provide Mobile Broadband?
Most major mobile companies that give you access to mobile phones can also supply you with mobile net access. This includes Orange, Vodaphone, T-Mobile, 3 and O2. Not all of them offer a similar service, however. One of the biggest differences between packages is length of the contract. Unlike fixed line ADSL where common contracts last 12 months, you’ll find many mobile providers offering 18 month or even two year contracts. Two years is a very long time to be tied into a deal especially in today’s economic climate, so it’s even more vital to shop around.

The other major difference with providers of mobile broadband is the price of the hardware. Competition has meant that most ADSL providers will send you the hardware needed for free. This isn’t always the case with mobile providers who can sometimes charge up to £80 for the USB dongle itself. It may be worth considering slightly more expensive monthly packages in order to obtain the best long term deal, especially if you can find a shorter, 12 month contract.

How well does Mobile Broadband work?
Speed of the package depends on the provider and your price range but can rarely quite widely from the 7.2 Mbps offered by Videophone’s more expensive packages to the much slower but still respectable 1.8 Mbps of T-Mobile’s budget offerings. Of course, these are the advertised speeds. As with any internet connection there are a number of factors determining how fast your connection will actually go. Most important for mobile broadband is the strength of the 3G network in your area. If it’s quite poor, you’ll get considerably slower speed than what has been advertised. In general, cities and towns should have good coverage but you could run into problems if you live in a valley or another area well known for poor mobile coverage.

The problem for many net users isn’t speed, its bandwidth. Bandwidth describes how much data goes through your connection, usually measured in gigabytes. To put it in context, one gigabyte is around the size of a single downloaded film, or around 10 decent quality music albums. Most ADSL providers offer an ‘unlimited’ service, although ‘fair use’ policies to apply for heavy downloaders. Some have been known to have monthly caps of around 20-40GB in the budget end of the market. This limit is far harsher for anyone on mobile broadband, however.

Some of the budget options provide you with just 1GB of net usage for an entire month. That’s just about enough for a casual user who is on the net for a few hours a day. It’s nowhere near good enough for people who like to stream large amounts of content like iPlayer and other on demand services. The high end of the spectrum allows users around 30GB of data per month which is a far more comfortable limit, although you’ll be paying a premium price of around £30 a month for such a service. Not all services stick rigidly to their limits but check all of your options because some charge a heavy fee for running over.

Should I switch to Mobile Broadband?

Mobile broadband is an amazing technology that’s likely to get even better in the future. Right now however, most users will find it to be a useful addition to the way they use the net as opposed to a viable replacement for their ADSL or cable services. Most fixed lines offer far superior value for money even with the price of line rental simply because you don’t have a limit to how much you can use your connection. A 1GB monthly limit simply isn’t enough for most net users anymore and for a similar price you can find unlimited options from ADSL providers.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs ADSL however. If you travel a lot or have a business that requires you to be away from home but remain connected, mobile broadband can give you a massive advantage. Students have also been some of the highest users of the service as they often don’t stay in one place for long enough to want to be roped into a long contract at a fixed address.

So the decision lies with your own personal situation. The same advice that applies to ADSL also applies here: Do research, shop around and choose the deal that makes the most sense for you.

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The Number 1 Homepage Download into 3G Mobile/Cell Phones


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