Connecting to the internet whilst on the go has never been easier. Mobile broadband providers offer high speed internet access from almost anywhere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When deciding which mobile broadband provider to use there are several factors that should be considered. The technical jargon can often be intimidating, so here is a simple break down to help make your decision simpler:
1 – Coverage
Check to make sure the potential mobile broadband provider has coverage in your area, or areas that you frequent. At this time most of Europe has reasonably good coverage (EDGE speeds are available almost anywhere though full 3G is not as widespread) 3G coverage is the most desirable as it is the fastest – EDGE while not as fast as 3G is sufficient for simple browsing and email.
2 – Download Allowance
This is the most important factor to consider. A data allowance is the amount of data that you are allowed to download as part of your contract/plan. The download allowance typically ranges from 1GB to 5GB a month.
First you should determine how much you plan on using the mobile broadband connection. If you only intend using your mobile broadband connection to check emails a 1GB per month plan would most likely be suffice. If however you plan on browsing video websites or using social networks you should consider a plan with at least a 5GB per month limit – preferably more. The cost for exceeding your download limit can be expensive – please read this section of each potential providers plan carefully before making a decision.
3 – Connection Speeds
The two main connection “speeds” are 3G and EDGE. 3G offers download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, EDGE provides download speeds of approximately 400kbps. All modern mobile broadband adapters support both of these standards so your download speed is ultimately dependent on your Coverage (See 1.)
4 – Contract Length
There are long-term deals that can be signed for 12 to 24 months and they usually offer the best data allowance prices. Often these longer term subscriptions include a few laptop or netbook so they are well worth considering. The alternative is a pay-as-you-go plan for those who do not wish to enter into a contract -these plans are ideal for those who only intend using mobile broadband sparingly but heavy internet users should be aware that pay-as-you-go plans typically charge more per GB than subscription plans.
5 – The Modem/Adapter
The adapter is the hardware that allows you to connect to the internet from your laptop whilst on the go. There are two main types of mobile broadband adapter- USB and PCMCIA. A USB adapter (as the name suggests) simply plugs into any spare USB port on your laptop – the PCMCIA adapter slides into a spare PCMCIA slot on your laptop. The vast majority of mobile broadband providers use USB adapters. The broadband providers provide the adapter as part of your contract – some for free, others for a nominal fee.