Mobile Broadband - How Fast is Yours?

Mobile broadband is going through a revolution. Many of us have noticed over the last year that we can do more and more things on our smartphones. You only have to look at the apps that have been developed on smartphones to see this. You now even have Face Time on the iPhone, which provides the opportunity to get online and talk to other people with video chat.

Of course, much of what we do on our smartphones is still done on fixed line connections - wirelessly. Estimates suggest that 55% of data that's transferred on our smartphones is actually done wirelessly; but things are changing.

The Smartphone Revolution

Over the last five years, we really have seen a revolution in the smartphone market. We now have phones such as the Sony Xperia Z, the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone5 and the HTC One, which are simply incredible. These phones have high definition screens that have pixel numbers comparable to £1000 TVs of 5 years ago.

Technologies are moving so fast, and, as consumers, we're becoming more and more hungry for the latest gadget, the latest upgrade and the latest technology in general.

These phones retail at £500 or £600 when you get the MonoSim free basis. When we get contracts with data, talk and text, we tend to pay approaching £30, £40 or even £50 for these premium phones. Indeed, this is a large cake to be sliced up, especially considering the phones often only actually cost around £130 or £140 to manufacture, and even less with some of the devices.

Network operators have jumped on to the bandwagon and have seen opportunities to grab the biggest slice of the cake through data.

When I check my broadband speed on my smartphone connection, I find it is upwards of  15 mbps.

4G has really arrived.

What is 4G?

The best way to answer what is 4G is probably to look at what 3G was. When I used to check my broadband speed on 3G connectivity, I used to see results of around 0.92mbps or 0.93mbps at the maximum. The top speeds on 3G were 1.4mbps - you tended to get a lot less than this and the stability wasn't great. The network covered around 99% of the country and provided some of level of internet, but not enough to do the kinds of activities many of us want to do on our new smartphones.

The fourth generation of mobile broadband has now arrived and offers speed 10 times as fast, much better stability, and indoors performance that is also superior.

Everything and Everywhere have been the first to jump into the market, having had the technology in place already, before the Ofcom auction.

Ofcom gave them permission and they've already delivered 4G to around half the UK.

Vodafone, 3 and O2 are rolling out their own versions of this network and, by the end of 2013, we’re likely to see a significant proportion of the country covered by all networks.

The speed of 4G connectivity really is going to be revolutionised. In fact, if you check your broadband speed on your fixed broadband and on your mobile broadband, they may well be comparable. Average speeds on fixed broadband these days are 10mbps, and that's the speed easily achieved nowadays on mobile broadband.

Devices for Mobile Broadband

Those considering mobile broadband as a main internet choice now have a lot more options. One of the primary ones to come to the market is the MiFi device.

A MiFi device is essentially a mobile broadband router that provides the opportunity for up to five devices to jump on the same connection simultaneously.

These MiFi routers tend to be very small and compact, often the size of a credit card. They can have battery lives of up to 6 hours when connected and, therefore, are a really good option for when you are out and about, as well as plugged in at home. They are true flexible internet that can be taken with you and used in the home.

Coverage Is the Key

If you can think to yourself “I want to check my broadband speed on my MiFi device, “then the optimal speed will be where you can get the best coverage. Of course, coverage is patchy and if you move just a few meters, your coverage may deteriorate.

When you are looking to get a device and you use mobile broadband either as a primary or secondary broadband connection, it's important that you do your research as to the coverage you'll receive where you want to use your connections. If it's going to be a primary connection, then you'll need to know that you can get decent coverage in your home.

“How do you this?” I hear you say.

The best ways to check coverage are:

  • Find out what other people can do on their smartphones in your home.
  • Buy a sim card from a target provider and try it out on mobile broadband
  • Check provider websites for the level of connectivity that they offer in your area, whether it’s 2G, 3G or 4G.
  • Go with the provider that has a coverage guarantee, so that you can return the device and get your money back if you don't get what you were promised.

What can Affect Mobile Broadband Speed?

Where you are can really make an impact on your mobile broadband speed. It used to be the case that you had to perch up against the window in many places in order to get mobile broadband speed of any sort of decent level. The good thing is that you now have a Wi-Fi device, which you can perch on the window (instead of yourself!), and then you can roam around the house to your heart's content while staying connected on your devices.

Also, the 4G mobile broadband spectrum has a range that is suited for indoors, and a separate range for outdoors. This will mean you will get better connectivity in your home through 4G than you probably did with 3G. The speeds are so much faster, the performance is so better and, frankly, the technology is so far advanced over 3G that mobile broadband is really becoming a solution that can cater to people in their homes.

Limitations to Mobile Broadband

If you are considering a home broadband solution through mobile broadband, you should understand that data is still expensive. The 4G auction cost billions of pounds for providers such as O2, Vodafone, 3 and Everything Everywhere and, therefore, this investment must be recouped.

4G is still limited, however, and it tends to be the case that top data allowance limits are around 20 GB per month. Unlimited connections on fixed line broadband tend to have fair usage policies starting from 40 GB per month and, so, mobile broadband certainly has lower allowances.

If you were to stream high definition television for 8 hours, you could well consume 20 GB of data. Therefore, you need to understand whether you are a heavy user and will be getting enough of a data allowance if you go for a mobile broadband connection type.

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