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There are five key elements to look for when comparing wireless internet providers. Choosing the best provider is as simple as finding a plan that matches your budget and data transfer needs, and then checking to see if their service covers the area you need. Let’s take a quick look at the 5 points you should keep in mind.
The most important point of comparison for most is the monthly cost of the plan. With monthly plans ranging from $30 to $90 a month, there is a plan for every budget. Besides the monthly price don’t forget to factor in other costs like activation fees, cost of equipment to get started and wether or not there are additional fees for going over your data allotment.
When evaluating the price of the plan be sure to compare how much data you are allowed to transfer on each. If you intend to only casually access the internet (like checking email and light web surfing) then you should be good to go with a smaller plan around 3 GB per month. However if you are a heavy internet user or if you plan on using your mobile broadband connection as your primary internet connection then you’ll want to consider a plan that offers closer to 10 GB of transfer a month. Remember to login to your account and keep an eye on your usage regularly so that you don’t get surprised with a hefty bill full of overage fees at the end of the month.
When comparing the the data transfer you’ll notice that some wireless internet providers break up the data differently for their 3G and 4G networks. 3G typically delivers a connection with speeds ranging from 1.4 Mbps to 7.2 Mbps. Many people find the speed to be on the lower end of this range. While this is fast enough for many uses, it can make some applications like video conferencing difficult or impossible. 4G networks are much faster and more robust than 3G, but as the technology is still new, the coverage areas for 4G is rather small and currently limited to specific, major metropolitan areas. Most 4G devices will automatically switch to the 3G network if 4Gis not available but that switch may not be instantaneous. If you plan on using the 4G network exclusively be sure to get all of the facts on 3G vs 4G.
Once you find a plan that gives you the data transfer at a speed and price that match your needs, the last thing you must do is check to see if there is adequate data coverage in the areas you intend to use the service. All of the mobile broadband providers are actively expanding their networks that already cover an impressive footprint within the US. Still, each networks data coverage varies quite a bit and you may find that one provider offers better coverage in your area. Since the speed of your connection is directly dependent on the signal strength, it’s critical that you carefully evaluate your options.
The last point you may want to consider is the customer service reputation of the provider. Is there a 800 number you can call to talk to someone? What’s the wait time? How about online chat or email support? Most providers have all three options available, but it’s still something to consider when evaluation wireless internet providers.
When you have a mobile internet connection, you can get work done from any location—on the bus, from a train, at the park, in a bookstore, at a remote location, or even at the beach. If you are travelling you can use a mobile broadband signal to get online at a hotel without having to pay for wi-fi access.
For those that live in rural areas without traditional broadband access, a high-speed wireless internet connection is worlds above archaic dial-up access. At 30 to 200 times the speed of dial-up, a 3g or 4g mobile broadbandconnection allows rural users to surf more efficiently and get more done online than was ever possible before. From watching videos to just being able to quickly catch up with friends and view photos on Facebook, having a broadband connection makes all the difference.
Depending on the type of wireless internet connection you are using it may be a good idea to be concerned about the security of your information. Public wi-fi hotspots are not secure and in fact there have been several well-publicized cases of hacking taking place on these networks. Mobile broadband on the other hand uses the same high-level of internet encryption that banks and government agencies use and is much more secure than public wi-fi. Since you can’t say that about the connection at Starbucks, if protecting your information is a concern of yours, you should look for a mobile broadband connection that will keep your information safe.
Wireless internet refers to any internet connection that is not dependent on a wired landline to access the web. There are three types of wireless internet connections.
Wi-fi hotspots are becoming more commonplace around the country. No matter where you are you can almost always find a wi-fi signal at a local library, coffee shop or hotel. In big cities like San Francisco its almost impossible to be in town and not have access to this type of wireless broadband signal. Wi-fi connects to your wireless network adapter in your computer, phone, or wireless internet device and will only work within a few hundred feet of the wireless internet base station or hub. Since wi-fi still relies on having a wired landline connection to the local hub it is not a truly wireless set-up and is limited to locations that have free wi-fi setup for public use.
If you want a more portable wireless internet signal so that you can get online when you are on the go or in places where there is no wi-fi connection then you need a mobile broadband plan. Originally mobile broadband was just for smartphones but now you can also use it with tablets, netbooks, and even laptops and desktops with a USB modem or a PC card modem. Use the comparison chart above to find the best mobile broadband provider for your needs. You may also want to compare only prepaid wireless internet plans.
The third type of wireless internet is satellite internet. This is a popular wireless broadband connection that can be used at home for people who live in rural areas that don’t have access to wired broadband signals through the local cable or phone companies. The costs are similar to mobile broadband and depending on which provider and plan you choose, satellite internet may offer more data transfer. The two largest satellite internet providers are HughesNet and WildBlue. Since this connection relies on a stationary satellite installed at the users home or office it is not a solution for those who wish to take their wireless internet connection with them.
The major mobile broadband providers are Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Clear, Alltel, Virgin, US Cellular, CricKet, DataJack, Millenicom, Time Warner, and Cox. And the two primary satellite internet providers are HughesNet and WildBlue. Use the comparison chart at the top of this page to find the best wireless internet provider for you.