Mobile Broadband Modem
Mobile Broadband modem is a device which helps to access the internet using a mobile network. It is directly plugged in to the computer and works without any external power source. It is completely wireless and offer average speed of above 3.6Mbps in UK. These modems are compact and can be used from anywhere if the mobile broadband coverage is available. It is also known as USB modem, USB dongle, USB sticks, mobile broadband dongle etc.
How does a Mobile Broadband modem work?
Mobile Broadband modem uses the similar networks and technologies used by a mobile phone, but consume more bandwidth. The shape, size and color of the modems might vary based on the mobile broadband providers, but they all work almost the same way.
All the mobile broadband modems introduced in the market till date work only through a USB port, since the USB ports are available in every computer and it’s easy to plug and play. These modems work using the power received from the USB port; hence they do not require an external power source.
The modem has a circuit board which is pre-installed with a Firmware and LED indicators. This circuit board in cased using a plastic or thin metal case, which can only be broke open. The modem has a SIM card slot and also sometimes it has a card reader to access memory cards.
Once the Mobile Broadband modem is plugged in to the USB port of the computer, the modem receives power and the firmware gets recognized in the computer. The firmware installs an user friendly software in the computer only for the first time. From the second time, the modem is detected automatically and the software is ready to connect to the network.
User has to click on the ‘connect’ button in the software, which instructs the SIM card to establish a connection with the concerned mobile network. Once the modem is connected, the user can access the internet.
Types of Mobile Broadband modems
The mobile broadband modems are available in different designs, styles and colors so as to meet the requirement of different users.
- Mobile Broadband USB Stick
This is one of the most compact and widely used modem, which looks exactly like a USB flash drive. It’s not more than half the size of a fountain pen. It can easily slide in to the pocket and can be connected directly to the computer. It looks perfect for laptop and notebook users.
- Mobile Broadband USB dongle
The USB dongle is similar to a mobile phone, but of much lesser weight. It cannot be plugged in to the computer directly instead it uses a USB cable. This would be best for desktop computers.
- Mobile Broadband Data Cards
The data cards are offered by few providers especially for laptops. Many laptops or notebooks will have a provision either in the side or back of it to insert a data card. These data cards can directly access the mobile network without a SIM card.
- Mobile Broadband Mi-Fi Router
Mi-Fi routers are wireless enabled mobile broadband modems. These routers can receive the signal from the mobile network and can share the connection among multiple wireless enabled devices like laptops, I-pod, I-pad, I-phones and etc.
- Laptops with Built in Mobile Broadband Modem
Mobile Broadband providers in UK provide free laptops like Hp, Dell, Compaq and Asus with a built in mobile broadband modem. These laptops will have the modem software pre-installed in the computer. Some might also have a soft switch to activate the connection.
Mobile Broadband modems offered by different providers
Mobile Broadband modems are offered in different styles and packages by every provider. The modems offered by one provider cannot be used to connect to a different network. They are identified using the IMEI (International mobile equipment identifier) number. Almost all the mobile broadband providers offer the USB stick and inbuilt laptop modems, since they are most compact and easy to use devices. The Mi-Fi router is a multi-purpose modem that is offered only by 3 mobile broadband.
Important facts about mobile broadband modems
- Mobile Broadband modems can work based on 2G as well as 3G technologies based on the network availability. Even in areas where there are no 3G networks, the modems can still get us connected to the internet, but the speed will be less than 1Mbps.
- All the modems have the capability of auto-installing the connection software. They support almost all the latest operating systems like windows XP, Vista, 7, Ubuntu, MAC X OS etc.
- These modems also have a unique IMEI number like the mobile phones, to identify the user’s location. This number can be used to identify the modem if it’s lost. IMEI number of the modem is shown in the modem properties in the control panel of a windows based computer.
- Mobile broadband modems are offered for free in a Pay monthly service, while the modem is purchase in a PAYG service.
- Except for the built in modems and the data cards, all other modems will be provided with an extra USB cable.
- These modems also have an inbuilt USB card reader which can be used to access micro-SD memory cards.
- Mi-Fi routers can connect multiple devices to access the same network but does not allow file sharing.
- Mobile Broadband Abroad facility is available in almost all the modems, while some might require activation.
- Future mobile broadband modems are expected to deliver a minimum speed of 100Mbps using the 4G mobile broadband network.
Tips before using the mobile broadband modem
A connection can be established only if the SIM card is able to access the network. The SIM card cannot connect to a network from a no coverage area. Sometimes the SIM card might have difficulty in accessing the network from a completely closed room or glass rooms or underground rooms. Please check the modem software to know the signal strength.
Signal strength can be improved by using the USB cable to extend the modem and help escape distractions. Signal boosters can be used to improve the signal strength.
The mobile broadband modem is capable of running in different modes. The speed is not depending upon the modem; it’s based on what type of network is available in the area. A 2G network is capable of delivering speeds less than 1Mbps, while a 3G network can offer speed up to 14.4Mbps. However, the mobile providers in UK have not completely boosted their speed to the fullest.
The mobile broadband modems will not function if the roaming facility is not activated by the provider. PAYG mobile broadband modems should be topped up before roaming.
Mi-Fi routers have to be charged for 12 hours, so as to browse conveniently for 5 hours. Wireless 802.11N access is unavailable, so file sharing is not possible using Mi-Fi.
Mobile Broadband Insurance
Customers who are frequent travelers might be afraid of losing their laptops and mobile broadband devices since they are very compact and easy to carry equipments. Some of the mobile broadband providers provide insurance both for the modems and laptops which at a monthly premium of less than £5. They do not have any long time contract, so the customers can apply or cancel it anytime. It provides insurance against theft or loss within UK as well as outside UK.
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