How to Find the Best Wireless Air Card for You

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Aircards are everywhere these days. People buy them because they connect your computer to the internet at 3G or broadband speeds from almost anywhere. All the wireless providers, like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and Alltel, have their own versions. So, the question is, which one is best for you?

Things You'll Need

  • $60 per month for data service plan
  • First, you need to realize that most aircards are really about the same. Sure, some may be a little faster, and some may come with built-in memory, like a thumb drive.

    Still yet, all wireless aircards do basically the same thing. They connect your laptop (or desktop) to the internet at high speeds through a 3G cellular network. Therefore, the most important thing about an air card is which network it connects to and whether or not that is the best network in your area.

  • Also, most monthly data plans are about the same when it comes to cost. The aircard itself is usually free if you sign a contract for monthly service, and the data plan is almost always $60 per month. Sometimes their is a connection fee when you first buy your broadband card. This fee is usually only 25 to 35 dollars.

  • So, the next step is to decide which 3G network is best for you. This can be the tricky part of buying an aircard. It's tricky because the most extensive wireless network in my part of the country or world may not be the best in your area.

  • You can visit your cell phone provider and see what their 3G coverage is like in your area. If you live in a city or suburb, all the major service providers probably have good service. But, if you live in a rural area or a small town, you will need to do a little research.

  • Look at the maps of 3G aircard services displayed on the websites of wireless providers. Compare each companies 3G service area in relation to where you live and where you travel. This is a good starting point.

    However, I would not rely completely on those maps. Some cellular companies seem to excaggerate their service areas or they don't take into account the local topography. The lay of the land is important for aircard reception. Also, you need to look at each companies 3G area and not just their cellular coverage area. Cellular coverage is more widespread than high-speed internet (3G) coverage.

  • After you have a general idea of which companies offer 3G service in the general proximity, ask your friends and neighbors if they use an aircard to get high-speed internet. If so, which ones have the best connections at the best speeds?

  • Also, consider your own cellular provider. If your cell phone has a good powerful connection where you live, and the companies map shows 3G aircard service in your area, that company is probably a safe bet for broadband wireless service.

  • If you're not sure which company has the best 3G service, pick the one you have the most confidence in, and give them a try. They will probably give you an aircard and let you try it for 15 to 30 days without a commitment to a contract.

  • Try to find a company that offers unlimited data downloads and uploads. Most wireless companies put a cap on the number of megabytes you can transfer with your aircard. I know of one company that allows unlimited data transfers, but you may need to hurry because they are getting ready to merge with another wireless company.

  • Remember, the important consideration when choosing an aircard is finding the network that works best for you.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't pay for an aircard. Most wireless companies will give you a free aircard when you sign up for a monthly data plan.
  • Remember, some networks are stronger in certain regions and some are stronger in others.
  • If you get an aircard with a cap on the amount of data you can transfer, be careful not to go over the monthly allowance or you will have to pay anywhere from 5 to 50 cents per megabyte. That can get expensive.

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