Internet Service Via Your Cell Phone
Our world is one that increasingly demands we be connected. While some folks can get away without an Internet service at home, the fact of the matter is that many peoples’ professions require them to be able to access the Internet on a moment’s notice. There are a couple of different ways you can get Internet service via your cell phone, each with its own benefits and problems.
Native Internet access
If you have a smartphone like a Blackberry, iPhone or Android, you have a built-in way to access the Internet. You can probably use a web browser, as well as email and maybe even some other applications. This is a good option for folks that need access to a limited amount of Internet services, and don’t need to do things like create files and share them via the Internet from their cell phone.
If you need to be able to do more than just sort of basic email and web browsing, however, you need another option. You need to be able to connect your laptop to the Internet via your cell phone, for those instances in which WiFi is unavailable. This is known as “tethering.”
Tethering lets you use your cell phone as a modem for your laptop, and taps into the broadband service on your cell phone. This lets you do a number of things that you can’t do with the smartphone alone. It allows you, for example, to be able to share documents, send files and run other applications that you can’t on your smartphone.
Tethering can also be more secure than when you’re using a WiFi connection. WiFi connections, if they are unsecured connections, can create a situation in which someone could, in theory, hack into your laptop. With tethering, you’re connected right to your phone provider’s network.
Depending on whether you have 3G or 4G network access, you may find that the tethered application is slower than WiFi, however. If you need to use streaming video or if you need to use some other application that’s data-intensive, you might consider not using tethering.
Usually, your cell phone carrier will charge you an additional monthly fee if you choose to use Internet service via tethering.
5 Awesome Mobile Internet Providers
As smartphones and netbooks became more prevalent, there came a need for broader access to the internet. WiFi hotspots filled that need to some degree, but we wanted access, well, everywhere. Fortunately, technology developed that could fill those voids between coffee shop, campus, and corporate hotspots. Leading the way in the march toward universal on-the-go internet access are these five awesome mobile internet providers:
- CLEAR® – Initially known as Clearwire, this provider is the result of a joint venture between them, Sprint, Time Warner Cable and Comcast. Marketing their service as Super fast take-it-with-you internet, CLEAR® offers 4G and 3G mobile internet as well as 4G home wireless internet services. There are no data caps on CLEAR® unlimited internet plans and no overage charges. The CLEAR® Spot and Rover Puck create a personal hotspot for you anywhere within their 4G coverage area. They are a leader in 4G WiMax wireless. The CLEAR® company mission, according to their official website, is To fulfill the great big awesome promise of the internet. With the largest spectrum among mobile internet providers, and the financial backing of companies like Google, Comcast, and Intel, CLEAR® seems poised to do just that.
- Sprint – Sprint is also a major provider of WiMax wireless, as well as in customer satisfaction. Combining theirs with the Nextel network under the Sprint logo, their mobile network is the third largest in the U.S. Sprint’s inventory of mobile devices include the Android-powered HTC EVO series, a hugely popular and powerful line of smartphones. Mixing 3G with unlimited 4G service, Sprint offers a robust and extensive network of mobile internet coverage. How reliable is their internet coverage? The Amazon Kindle uses Sprint exclusively for connecting to their online store.
- Verizon – Consistently rated tops in customer satisfaction and reliability, Verizon is a leader in the 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) internet standard. Coupled with one of the largest 3G networks in the country, Verizon’s got more web surfers covered in more places than any other mobile internet provider. They also boast the widest selection of mobile broadband options from which to choose. Starting with their Day-Pass basic pre-paid plan on up to 5G of EVDO + Unlimited hotspot usage, they’ve got a plan for all but the heaviest users’ needs. The addition to Apple’s hugely popular iPhone promises to fuel the growth of their already sizable network.
- AT&T – Anchored by sales of the iPhone and strategic acquisitions – not to mention a proposed merger with T-Mobile pending FCC approval – AT&T has built the “nation’s fastest 3G network”. A staple of their mobile internet offerings is the inclusion of free access to over 17,000 partnered WiFi locations for all of their mobile customers. AT&T also offers monthly Data Connect plans with no contract required for iPad, tablet and laptop users.
- T-Mobile – Once known as VoiceStream Wireless, T-Mobile has grown by leaps and bounds in a short time, poised to have the nation’s fastest 3G, if not 4G, network. And that’s without the pending merger with AT&T. Like AT&T, they offer free WiFi hotspot access as part of their mobile internet plans. Their lineup of mobile devices includes BlackBerry, HTC, and LG smartphones. One innovative approach in their plans is what is known as “throttling” bandwidth in lieu of overage charges when caps are exceeded, one of which allows as much as 10GB.
10 Important Things to Know Before Ordering Mobile Internet
Sorting through your options when ordering mobile internet can really tax your brain. In addition to choosing a service plan, you’re also deciding between varying technologies, browsers and coverage. So you’ll want to do some research first. The following are ten important things to know before ordering your mobile internet.
- WiMax – WiMax technology (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) can turn an entire city into one big hotspot for you. It offers you the ability to connect at broadband speeds at home or anywhere across town, on multiple devices. Check with ISP’s about their roll-out plans for this technology, and its availability to you. Clear® and Sprint are leaders in WiMax 4G.
- LTE – Long Term Evolution Another recent technology similar to WiMax, it’s capable of broadband speeds up to 30Mbps, but not yet widely available. If your mobile needs are heavy, and long term, it may be worth looking into where and when LTE will be available in your area.vVerizon and AT&T are the major players here.
- Can I take it for a test drive? – A mobile internet can have all the features, bandwidth and download speed in the world, but if you can’t get a connection where you plan to go with it, then it’s all for naught. Check with your ISP to see if you can try out their service before committing to any contract.
- Device Compatibility – You’ll also want to make sure that the mobile plan you choose is fully compatible with your mobile phone. You don’t want to pay for bandwidth that the phone can’t use. Make sure your device’s native browser will work with your ISP.
- Additional Hardware– Depending on the device you’re using and the service you choose for mobile internet, getting connected to your network may involve purchasing additional equipment, such as a wireless card or USB dongle. Some carriers offer MiFi’s, devices with built-in wireless cards that will allow you to connect as many as 5 devices at once.
- Buy for your needs and location. In other words, consider how you plan to use the internet, and which technologies are available where you plan to connect most often. You may be paying too much for speed you don’t really need, and your device may not be able to take advantage of WiMax 4G if you spend a lot of time outside of its range.
- Data Allowance – If you tend to use a lot of bandwidth, as with streaming video or frequent downloading of large files, you’ll want to know about any cap limits placed on your service. Going beyond those limits can get expensive in a big hurry.
- Tech Support Availability – Does the ISP provide 24/7 technical support? If you’re ordering service for your business, is there any training provided?
- Roaming – Find out where, and at what cost, roaming charges take effect. This is especially significant if you plan to use your service abroad. Roaming charges tend to be very expensive.
- Let’s Make a Deal – You can often broker deals with carriers when shopping for mobile internet. You don’t necessarily have to accept the cookie cutter approach when choosing a plan. Talk to a rep about tailoring something that more closely suits your needs.
10 Frequently Asked Questions About Mobile Internet
There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to mobile internet service, and the features and services vary with each choice. So it’s no surprise that there are a lot of questions involved when considering those options. We’re going to deal with some FAQ’s in this article.
Here are 10 frequently asked questions about mobile internet:
- What do 3G and 4G mean? These stand for 3rd and 4th generation internet service, each of which involves different technologies among the different providers. Currently, 3G is the more common, and provides speeds that are adequate for light to medium internet use. 4G broadband is becoming more prevalent, however, and is capable of speeds up to 4x that of 3G.
- Which carrier should I choose? The primary factors to consider when choosing the right carrier for you are: how you plan to use the internet; where you plan to use it; and, of course, cost. Then you can determine what kind of speed and how much bandwidth your service should have, what coverage area you need to have, and which plan that meets those needs will give you the best bang for your buck.
- Is mobile internet secure? Data transmitted over wireless networks is encrypted with one of two types of protocols: WPA (Wireless Protected Access) or WPA2. This encryption makes hacking your device extremely difficult. In addition to other WIPS (Wireless Intrusion Prevention Solutions) that are available, there is an assortment of AV and firewall that you can download to your mobile device.
- What kind of speeds can I expect? Mobile internet speeds will vary according to the technology being used by the provider and other factors, such as the amount of internet traffic on your network. WiMax and LTE, for instance, are capable of speeds up to 100Mbps.
- What equipment do I need? Any equipment you need for mobile internet is available through your ISP; such as wireless cards or USB dongles for connecting your mobile devices, if they are not already so equipped. You may also opt to purchase a MiFi if you want to connect multiple devices simultaneously.
- Can I choose a different browser? On most mobile devices, you can download alternative browsers to replace the stock browser, such as Dolphin, Skyfire and Opera Mini 5. Make sure to choose one that is compatible with your device’s installed OS.
- Will it work on my PC at home? If your laptop is equipped with a mobile wireless card, yes. A desktop will likely need to have a card or USB dongle connected in order to gain access. To avoid having to transfer a single card from one device to another, consider buying the MiFi.
- What restrictions are there? The only limitations you may encounter would be in the form of imposed caps on bandwidth, for the sake of fair use policies instituted by the providers. It should be plainly stated in the mobile internet plan if there is a cap, and what cost there is to you for exceeding it.
- Do I need to use the same carrier for mobile internet as I use for mobile phone? No, not if your mobile device is compatible with the carrier’s mobile internet standard (ie. WiMax, LTE, EDGE, etc.).
- Which internet standard is best? There is no pat answer for this question, really. There are standards like WiMax and LTE that are faster than others, yes,but they may not be available for some time where you are. Plus, depending on how you plan to use the internet, you may not need the fastest network. Again, the best choice for you is the one that meets your needs where you are and how you use your device.