While most people might think of the public wireless "hotspot" at their local coffee shop or airport as "wireless internet service", true wireless internet services a wide coverage area in a dedicated private frequency range - similar to how cellular phone networks operate. Also like cellular service, you can be anywhere within that coverage area in order to receive this type of service.
Wireless broadband performance and coverage has improved dramatically in recent years. Peak download speeds of up to 3.0 Mbps or more can be acheived in areas with 3G (3rd generation) network coverage. In 4G (4th generation) coverage areas, downloads can reach or exceed 10 Mbps.
Of course, real world download speeds are rarely "peak" speeds. Network traffic, location and the capability of the computer or mobile device can dramatically effect performance. In the real world, speeds of 2.0-6.0 Mbps can be expected on a 4G coverage zone while a 3G user can typically expect speeds from 600 kbps to 1.4 Mbps. Uploads are usually one half to one third of download speeds.
INSTALLATION AND OPTIONS
While 3G and 4G capable mobile devices are built for these networks, your notebook (laptop) computer is likely not. There are a few options for equipping your computer. Most wireless broadband provders provide a large variety of devices and options for use.
A tethered modem or wireless bluetooth "dongle" may be available to physically connect your computer to your mobile 3G/4G equipped mobile device. These allow you to use your mobile device as a wireless broadband modem. Alternatively, your wireless plan provider may provide you with a small USB modem or card that will allow access to the provider's wireless network. Lastly, many providers are offering "wireless hotspots" that act as a both wireless router and a wireless modem. These "hotspots" are small portable devices that act as a 3G/4G wireless modem for all of your wireless enabled technology within range.
Generally $45.00 to $65.00 per month.
Pricing may depend on the length of the contract with the provider and devices may or may not be included. Data download restrictions may apply and activation fees may also factor into your plan. Be sure to read the fine print and fully understand your total cost.
Wireless internet performance, much like cell phone service
is dependent on a "clean signal"
from the broadband provider. If the signal
is weak or distorted, broadband performance
will be reduced or it simply will not work.
The signal can be weakened by local geography and the location of the wireless modem or device in your home or office. Again, like cellular service, dead spots can be found even within a coverage area. If your signal is weak, try moving the modem to a different location. Signal boosters or standard wireless routers and home networking can extend the service range within your home if the modem's ideal location is away from your computer. If a good location cannot be found, contact your wireless service provider for assistance. Your wireless internet service is mobile only within the providers service area.
Need more info? Read our more in-depth article on Wireless Service.
Be sure to evaluate all options
before choosing a High Speed Internet or Wireless Service Provider.