Mobile broadband offers the wonderful convenience of accessing the internet on your laptop wherever you have cell phone service. No more hunting for wi-fi hotspots. With an "air card", or another wireless interface for your computer, you can be surfing the net, hotspot or no. But not all cell phone-based internet service is created equal. Which mobile broadband service is best for you? Depends! Here's how to make the call.
Get Some Background
The options available for mobile broadband access to the internet are varied, and confusing. There are a host of plans at different prices, differing speeds, and possible limits to internet access, such as monthly usage caps. There are difference technologies in play like 3G, 4G, and WiMAX. And of course, coverage and service availability change depending on your location.
Talk to your friends, family and colleagues about their plans. Find out what they use, and what they like and don't like about their service. Real world, up-to-date feedback from actual users can be a good guide.
Also check the Mobile Broadband Reviews at consumersearch.com. ConsumerSearch is a terrific website that 'reviews the reviews'. They pull out the latest info from sites and magazines like Gizmodo, ComputerWorld.com, Mobile-Broadband-Reviews, Consumer Reports, and many others, in order to bring you an easy-to-digest summary of the plans and services.
The ConsumerSearch.com "Full Report" provides an excellent overview of mobile broadband technologies and services, while other features allow a quick comparison of the top services.
Consider AT&T DataConnect as a Low Cost, Light Weight Plan
Unlike most other providers, AT&T offers a budget plan starting at around $20 per month, with a monthly usage cap of 10MB. This will do for checking email, and some occasional web surfing. AT&T's 3G coverage generally gets high marks for speed in most major cities, but coverage is more limited in rural areas.
Look to Clearwire Wireless for Top Speed
Clearwire's 4G network wireless internet service is about as fast as your DSL... which is pretty fast for cell phone-based service. However, geographic coverage is still fairly limited for Clearwire, so this is not the service for travellers. Make sure Clearwire coverage is active in your area before diving in.
Check Out Sprint Mobile for Broad Geographic Coverage
Sprint's mobile broadband service gets high marks from reviewers as a travel-friendly service, with good connection access and speed in many different areas of the US. Not everyone was enamored with Sprint's customer service, but hey, sometimes sacrifices have to be made.
- Photo Credit usdoj.gov