In the last several years, we have grown more and more dependent on the Internet. The ideal way to access all of these tools and resources is with a broadband (high-speed) Internet connection, something we've come to expect at home and at the office.
But what about when we're on the move? There are many choices for mobile access to the Internet. This article by Tim Ferrill for Maximum PC gives a thorough review of the pros and cons of each method:
- Free Wi-Fi: This type of connection is offered at many restaurants, hotels, airports, and public places. Some may require registration, while others let you simply connect with a single click (like Starbucks). Try a website like wififreespot.com and openwifispots.com to track down free Wi-Fi hotspots near you.
- Paid Wi-Fi: A paid Wi-Fi subscription service is useful if you are traveling in an area with few free Wi-Fi hotspots, or if you need constant Internet access wherever you are. Be sure to investigate whether the provider uses a cap, coverage fees, roaming fees, or activation fees, and whether you will need to buy a network card.
- Wireless Broadband: The short-range nature of Wi-Fi technology sometimes affects coverage. For the best coverage you will want a cellular-based option using 3G or 4G technology. The hardware may be built right into a laptop or other device, or added using a plug-and-play USB modem. For ultimate flexibility, try a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that can provide a network connection to several devices at once. Again, you must figure out which service provider will give you the best service for the cost involved.
Some factors to consider when making your decision:
- Wi-Fi vs. 3G/4G: Consider where you will be traveling and connecting to the Internet. Will free Wi-Fi hotspots meet your needs? Or do you truly need a constant high-speed connection?
- Phone vs. Dedicated Hardware: You may already have a smartphone for basic access to the Internet. However, consider whether you might exceed the data cap on your smartphone plan if you start sharing it among several devices, and whether your smartphone carrier supports simultaneous voice and data. These issues might be good reasons to consider a USB modem or dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Which Service or Carrier: How much are you willing to pay for your always-available connection? And what kind of coverage area do you usually find yourself in?
- Prepaid or Contract? A pay-as-you-go plan may save you money in the months when you don't need access. However, signing a two-year contract may be cheaper in the long run.
You can read the entire article from Maximum PC here.
For an in-depth article about how mobile broadband services work and their features, terms, and fees, see this article by Dave Roos for HowStuffWorks.
Try TopTenREVIEWS for reviews and side-by-side comparisons of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and other popular service providers.
You may also try the WirelessInternetReviews website for a variety of articles, including "16 Places You Shouldn’t Use Wireless Broadband Internet Just Because You Can".