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Universal serial bus (USB) routers emit a broadband Internet stream, unlike USB adapters that only allow the computer to connect to the Internet. Instead of using a regular router, a USB router allows the computer to be completely mobile while still being connected to the Internet. Choosing the best USB router depends on the network protocol, bandwidth, operating system (OS) support, security features and number of connectable devices.
Network protocol is the type of wavelength the USB router sends out. There are three wavelengths popularly used as of 2011: 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n, in order of speed and workable area. The better the workable area, the farther away a device can be and still connect to the mobile router. Even if one does not plan to connect devices other than the main computer, having better speed means the router will be able to download files quicker.
The bandwidth, or the amount of transferable data, is the speed of the USB router. While the network protocol is indicative of potential speed, each network protocol has varying bandwidth amounts. For example, 802.11g can transfer from 6 megabytes per second (Mbps) up to 54 Mbps, depending on the model. One should check the mobile router’s packaging for the true bandwidth amount.
Most routers can connect to a computer regardless of OS, but because a USB router has to interface with a computer more than a regular router does, OS can become an issue. If the computer is running an OS that the mobile router does not support, then one will be unable to install the router. If the computer cannot recognize or work with the router, then it will be unable to connect to the broadband Internet the mobile router is streaming.
USB router units are much more susceptible to hacker attacks, because the connection stream is generally open and easy to sneak into. This means a mobile router needs to have security features to ward off such potential attacks. Some possible security features include being able to lock the Internet, an encryption code and password protection.
Routers, mobile or regular, are generally made to connect to several devices, not just one unit. Devices include mobile phones, laptops, desktops, some gaming devices and anything else that can use the Internet. If connecting to other devices is a priority, the USB router must be able to connect to a number of different units. There is a limit to the amount of units USB routers can support. One should count the number of units that need the Internet and see if the mobile router can accommodate them all.
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