Mobile broadband refers to wireless internet service delivered via a mobile network, such as a portable modem or mobile device. These mobile networks are the same ones used by your smartphone or tablet. Mobile internet first became available during the 2G era of mobile phone technology, and it later became faster and more advanced during the 3G and 4G eras. Initially, mobile broadband service used dongles, or USB modems, but these days you can achieve mobile connections with a mobile hotspot, data SIM cards, and more.
As network technology and infrastructure evolves, new generations of mobile service become available. Typically, each new generation brings higher data peaks, better download speed, new frequency bands, and greater bandwidth. We’re currently in a transition period between 4G/LTE and 5G technology. Here’s what you need to know about mobile broadband.
Naturally, the biggest pro of mobile broadband technology is portability. It’s convenient for those who don’t have a fixed address or who have to travel frequently. You can access the internet on the move and never have to worry about plugging into a wall like with a fixed-line internet connection (cable, DSL, etc.). Mobile broadband is also extremely easy to set up and can be done the same day you select a plan.
Mobile broadband technology is also great for areas where typical broadband service isn’t available or if you don’t like the fixed-line plans in your area. Some may even use mobile internet as an alternative to the NBN. As long as you have a compatible device, you can set up a mobile hotspot anywhere. With multiple payment options, including pay as you go plans, you may even find that mobile broadband technology is cheaper for you than a traditional internet plan, especially if you limit your data usage. Some people even keep a mobile plan as a backup in case their fixed-line modem goes down or if they need temporary broadband outside the home.
Connecting a mobile device to the internet will require a 3G or 4G signal. While most people these days use the 4G LTE network, mobile internet is only as good as its signal. If the cell towers can’t reach your location, your plan is essentially useless. There’s also a good chance that mobile broadband will offer inferior speeds (both download speeds and upload) compared to fixed-line plans in your area. For example, the average 4G LTE download speed in the U.S. is 13.5 Mbps. Typically, even the cheapest fixed-line broadband plans will offer at least 15 Mbps.
You’re also more likely to experience latency issues over a mobile network, which may be problematic for video streaming and gaming. In addition to slower data speeds, a mobile data plan may also limit your high-speed data usage. Those who need to download frequently may have to pay extra for a plan with unlimited data.
Currently, mobile broadband is generally considered more convenient than its alternatives but less reliable. This opinion may change, however, with the roll-out of 5G. Due to the increased bandwidth, it’s believed that the 5G network can be a reliable alternative to fixed-line internet connections and may change the way ISPs offer their services to customers. As incredible as it may seem, 5G is expected to offer download speeds of up to 10 GB per second.
5G is also expected to play a major role in the digital transformations of many industries. The increased bandwidth offered by these networks will allow virtual and augmented reality applications to take off like never before, and entire cities will be able to connect to the Internet of Things to help automate tasks and may even pave the way for safer autonomous vehicles.
For now, while most people are still limited to 4G, think carefully about how much data you need to use before you select a mobile plan. Mobile broadband can offer everything you need along with reasonable bill cycles, but you have to tailor the plan to your habits.