Mobile Broadband Buying Guide

What Is Mobile Broadband?

Mobile broadband is high-speed wireless Internet access that allows you to connect almost anywhere. Instead of connecting through a fixed land line, this portable Internet option utilises devices like a USB modem (sometimes referred to as a dongle), PC card or Internet Stick Modem (connected through a USB 2.0 port).

How Does It Work?

Mobile broadband works by using the same technology as mobile phones. However, instead of a phone sending and receiving packets of digital information to and from the mobile phone towers, it's the USB modem sending and receiving the information.

What Do I Need To Connect?

Most mobile broadband providers offer prepaid, plug-and-play solutions. Simply plug the USB modem (Internet Stick Modem) provided into your computer's USB 2.0 port and the software will load automatically. Once the software is loaded onto your computer, all you need to do is hit 'Connect' and start surfing.

What Is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of information that can be transmitted over a connection. The bandwidth of an Internet connection directly impacts the speed of the connection; it's measured in 'bits per second' and generally displayed as "megabits per second" (Mbit/s). Approximate examples of maximum bandwidths:

  • Dial-up: 56 kbit/s
  • Mobile broadband: 3Mbits/s

The Speed Limiters

Maximum bandwidth figures are generally theoretical because many factors can limit the speed of your connection. Variables — such as how many other people are online (which is why the Net can be slow during peak times); bad weather; and poor reception areas — can affect the speed of your connection.

How Much Can I Download?

Most mobile broadband carriers offer access to the network through monthly plans, which come with monthly data transfer limits. The data transfer limits (commonly referred to as "caps") refer to the amount of data you are allowed to download and upload, for a set monthly fee. Generally, the more data your plan allows, the more expensive it is.

  • Every time you visit a web page or send and receive an email you're transferring data.
  • Data transfer caps range from 1GB/month to unlimited.
  • A 5GB data limit will allow roughly 35,000 web page visits, or one two-hour movie download.
  • Extra data use is charged per MB, which can become expensive.

Coverage Areas

The great thing about mobile broadband is that wherever you find mobile phone reception for your carrier, you'll find mobile broadband reception. Whether you're driving interstate, or off for a family holiday on the other side of the country, you'll most likely get coverage.

  • If you are likely to use your mobile broadband in remote and country areas, it's important to check that your carrier offers coverage there.
  • Some carriers will let you take your connection overseas with you, just like mobile phone international roaming.
  • Which Carrier Should I Choose?

    You should choose your carrier based on a number of criteria:

    • Ensure the carrier has good coverage in your area.
    • Look for the most bandwidth possible.
    • Weigh up how much data you will use each month (1GB for occasional use, 5GB for regular use, unlimited for frequent use).
    • Look for a carrier that offers good levels of support.

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