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Wireless mobile broadband is cellular technology that provides Internet access via cell towers, allowing the connected user to be “on the go” or mobile within the region of coverage. This differs from traditional wireless cable and DSL networks which create “hotspots” of a comparatively limited radius, the average being 300-600 feet (91.4-182.8m), depending on the wireless protocol being used, the hardware, the environment, and many additional factors. If one leaves the immediate area, the signal is lost. Not so with wireless mobile broadband.
Wireless mobile broadband allows one to work or play whenever and wherever the need arises. Have a few minutes sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office? Check your stocks using your smartphone, Internet-ready cell phone, netbook or notebook. Long taxi ride ahead? No need to waste it staring at snarled traffic. Lunching in the park or local café? See what’s happening at your favorite Web forum or gaming site.
Enjoying unlimited access anywhere you might find yourself is especially useful for field representatives. Need to access your company’s VPN from a client’s site? No need to ask the client for permission to join the local network – just pull out your notebook and get instant access to cloud resources, online presentations, data reports, real time inventory, VOIP conferencing, virtual offices and more.
To utilize wireless mobile broadband technology, the Internet-enabled device must either have a cellular modem installed internally, or it must be equipped with an aftermarket mobile broadband adapter. Handheld electronics including smartphones and cell phones come with a built-in ability to connect to cellular Internet. The service is typically extra and requires a separate contract with the carrier in addition to standard cell phone service. Carriers commonly offer a bundle package, giving a discount to those who already use the carrier for cellular phone service, or are willing to switch.
A cellular modem must be branded to a carrier to work with that carrier, so mobile computers generally do not come with a built-in cellular modem. A few models do, but the buyer of the machine is “stuck” using the cellular company the manufacturer chose to market, unless he or she wishes to buy an additional external cellular modem. Hence, if purchasing a computer with a built-in cellular modem, be sure the modem is branded for the carrier you wish to use.
Most computers do not come with a cellular modem, so one can research cellular carriers, then purchase an aftermarket modem for the carrier of choice. There are two basic types of modem adapters that can be used for wireless mobile broadband: the card style modem or the USB style modem.
Some laptops come with an ExpressCard® slot, formerly called a PC Card® or PCMCIA slot. This port is designed to expand the features of the machine by accommodating adapters or “cards” that would normally be installed internally. Some cards are made to add Bluetooth® capability, others to control a wireless mouse, and so on. Cellular carriers brand card modems that accommodate this slot, allowing the user to connect to wireless mobile broadband.
Another option is to buy a cellular modem made to use the USB port of the laptop. This type of modem resembles any other USB dongle. The disadvantage of this type of device is that it sticks out from the machine and can be bumped or knocked.
When shopping for a wireless mobile broadband carrier, be sure to ask about coverage, roaming charges and any discounts that might apply for having the service bundled with standard cell service. Also, note the bandwidth caps that apply to each plan type, as cellular carriers generally impose caps to prevent data hogs from slowing the network. Plans with lower caps might be cheaper, and if you will only be using the network for checking email and surfing, a lower cap will likely suffice.