Mobile Broadband is the preferred description by many of the mobile phone companies to describe the type of wireless internet access they offer. It makes good marketing sense seeing these companies have made the phone ‘mobile’ and they are now making broadband ‘mobile’!
Whether you want prepaid mobile broadband, a month-by-month account or a longer contract, you can have access to the internet in far more places than ever before. You can access the internet at the park, at the beach or wherever you need to be that is within mobile coverage areas. Just like a mobile phone means you don’t have to be sitting at home with the phone plugged in, likewise mobile broadband let’s you access the internet when you’re out and about.
The major mobile broadband suppliers are the large telecommunications companies with 3G networks like:
Other telecommunications companies like Virgin, Dodo and AAPT have released mobile broadband services by utilising the networks of the leading 3G network providers as part of a wholesale relationship. Their broadband products – especially the USB modems – have been branded as their own, but the service comes from the 3G network supplier.
In recent years, some of the specialist Internet Service Providers have also started offering mobile broadband. Some of the more notable ISPs in this category are:
Many consumers trust their ISP to deliver broadband to them – whether fixed or mobile – and it also makes sense when they can combine services on one account. In some cases ISPs offer a bundle discount for taking mobile broadband as well as a landline or fixed broadband connection (eg iinet has a $5 discount). These ISPs tend not to offer prepaid mobile broadband.
When looking for a mobile broadband supplier, price is usually where most people start looking. We recommend a slightly different approach and that you start by looking at your projected wireless internet usage. Get an idea for how much data you might use and how often, when and where you’ll use it. If you know your usage will be sporadic, high or low, you are in a far better position to compare prices and available mobile broadband deals rather than just looking for the cheapest price. If you know where you’ll mainly use your mobile broadband service, you’ll also be able to compare 3G coverage and pick a provider that is suitable for your needs.
One of the big decisions is whether to get a prepaid mobile broadband service, a month-by-month account or a mobile broadband contract. Prepaid mobile broadband is great if you are an inconsistent user or prefer the flexibility of recharging your credit when you need it. Just be aware of the credit expiry period when you sign up for prepaid mobile broadband, as most of the lower recharge amounts have short expiry periods.
A month-by-month service will charge you a set amount for a certain data limit each month, but has no lock in contract. This will suit you if you don’t like to be bothered with recharging or running out of credit. You also retain some flexibility as you are not locked into a contract. A 12 or 24 month contract is a popular option for many wireless users as the cost of getting a USB modem is usually either heavily reduced or included in a deal for $0 upfront.
If you are on a monthly plan or contract it is important to note that some wireless broadband providers charge excess fees when you exceed your data limit and some simply slow your speed down (also known as shaping or throttling). If you are on an excess fees plan, you’ll want to keep a tight view on your data limit so as not to incur extra unnecessary expenses.