For a long time the iPad™ was the only way to access the Internet over a 3G connection. Those days are gone. You can now have a 3G/4G access card built into your new Dell™ laptop.

People want to be able to access the Internet while they are on the move. There are two options available, wi-fi and 3G/4G.

On the Move Internet Options

Public wi-fi networks in restaurants and trains are not secured and by using them you expose your computer to the attentions of malicious hackers all around you. These networks are free, but at a cost in terms of risk that is unacceptable to many people, especially when there is an alternative available.

3G and 4G Internet access depends on your computer having a sim card inside it that connects to your preferred cell phone network. There is a cost involved because you either need to buy a sim card that is pre-loaded with a data allowance or to take out a monthly data package with a network. Anything you send or receive via your 3G network is encrypted and secure, from anyone except government agencies anyway.

Installing 3G on a Laptop

Dell’s Solution

Dell™ now offers a customisation option on some of their laptops that allows you to have a network card of your choice installed at the build stage. This is a very neat solution and allows your Dell™ laptop to compete with high-end iPads in terms of Internet access. (Only the extra expensive 4G iPads have this feature, the cheaper wi-fi only models need a wi-fi network just the same as your laptop does.)

Dell’s solution is neat and permanent, which could be a problem if you decide that you want to use a different network at some point in the future. You would need to have a Dell-certified engineer change the 3G/4G network card for one from your new preferred network.

The DIY Solution

Up to recently the only way to attach your laptop to a 3G network was to stick a 3in long dongle in the back of it. This was easily bent and made the laptop very awkward to handle.

There is now an alternative, the mifi adapter. This is a box about the size of a matchbox that you insert a sim card into. The sim card connects to the 3G or 4G cell phone network of your choice and then establishes your own private and secured wi-fi network to which you can connect your laptop and up to four other devices. The mifi box just sits in your bag or pocket, totally unseen.

The sim card can either be pre-loaded with a data allowance or you can take out a  data-only monthly contract.

This has one massive advantage over the Dell™ solution. You can change 3G networks at any time, just by buying a new pre-loaded sim card.

If you go to a different country all you need to do is to buy a pre-paid sim card with a few Mb of data allowance included and plug that into your mifi adapter instead of your usual sim card while you are away. This prevents your computer racking up massive roaming charges which it would do if it had your home network sim card inside the mifi box.

But Which Network?

Network capabilities change all the time and it is better to be able to change networks if a better one becomes available. I test my broadband speed at regular intervals and you should do the same using any of the sites that allow you to do so without charge.

If you find your network has slowed down, perhaps because it has run out of spare capacity then all it takes is to get a new sim card with a different network, slot it into your mifi dongle and your laptop is connected at full speed again.