Mobile Internet – 5 ways to get online

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It is important to choose the right provider and the right package in order to get online with 3G mobile internet. There are a number of aspects to take into account such as speeds, usage limits, contract length and the all important cost.

Currently packages are available from O2, Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Three. Each provider has different packages with different features – for a comprehensive review click here.

  1. Dongle / USB Stick
    One of the most popular ways to get online is using dongles/USB sticks – in January 2009 nearly 60,000 dongles were sold in the UK. They are very easy to use and set-up as they simply connect through the USB connection on your laptop and an automatic set-up takes place. With a USB dongle you can literally be up and surfing the internet within 5 minutes.
    Dongles are roughly the same size of a standard mobile phone while a USB stick is the same size of a USB memory stick/pen. Their small size allows for easy transportation alongside your laptop or even just in your pocket! An added advantage of using this method is that the ‘3G account’ resides with the dongle rather than a specific laptop, so you can share a single dongle amongst friends or colleagues. This can be particularly cost effective in an office environment where different colleagues will at different times need to go out to business meetings. By sharing a dongle each colleague can get 3G mobile broadband accesses on their own laptop as and when they need.
  2. Embedded in laptop
    When looking for a new laptop, you might be able to get an embedded 3G modem built within it. This is probably going to be in the future however as an extremely small number of laptops currently have such technology built within them. Given the successes of dongles and their benefits, it seems that they are here to stay - definitely for a number of years anyway.
  3. Internet on the mobile phone
    Whilst mobile phones have been able to get internet access through WAP and GPRS for a number of years, the release of Apple’s iPhone with 3G technology has caused a huge development in this market.
    Using 3G, users can access the internet almost anywhere which has contributed to the phenomenal successes of the iPhone and other devices such as Blackberry, Google Android, Palm Pre etc. The iPhone is the current best selling device in the UK for provider O2 having topped over 1 million sales since it’s inception in mid-2007. There are countless scenarios where it is highly beneficial accessing the internet via a handheld device such as being able to use Google Maps when travelling around an unfamiliar city, or finding out what other nightclubs are close by and open when you’re waiting in the queue of one!
  4. Wifi internet access
    WiFi has been around for a number of years now and it is fast becoming a major selling point in the hospitality industry. Lots of cafes and hotels are offering free Wi-Fi on their premises to influence your decision on where eat or stay, for example McDonalds have rolled out free wi-fi in the vast majority of their UK restaurants over the last yer. Also a lot of payphones now allow you to access through their Wi-Fi although you will generally have to pay to use their service.
  5. Satellite
    For truly ‘mobile’ broadband internet access, Satellite is not really a feasible option for normal consumers (apart from the cost, there is the impracticality of having to transport a satellite dish around!) It is more suited to larger business such as TV companies who use satellite broadband to stream live footage back to the studio. Although satellite broadband is not really a ‘mobile’ broadband option for consumers, it is listed here as a viable alternative to landline broadband for users who are too far from their exchange to get an ADSL signal.

As we write this review in Summer 09, these are our ‘top 5’ ways to get online without using the traditional landline method. However this is a very fast moving industry and if we come to revisit this article in even one year time, we would full expect to make substantial changes. Whether its WIMAX or cloud computing is hard to say, but you can be sure that this industry is not going to sit still!

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What is Mobile Broadband?

Mobile Broadband gives you internet access, without wires, over the air. You do not need a telephone line, or to be in a Wi-Fi area to get mobile broadband - using only a USB Modem with your Laptop or PC you can have access to fast broadband.