3 ways to add broadband to your mobile devices

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Using mobile broadband requires service -- carrier towers in your area -- and devices that support the carrier's technology. And service rollouts are city by city. The main protocols in use in the U.S. currently are HSPA, HSPA+, LTE and EV-DO, plus some WiMax.

Don't be misled by ads proclaiming 3G and 4G. "3G and 4G is all marketing talk," says ABI's Jeff Orr; the terms don't correspond to specific offerings, specs or standards. "All the protocols will provide very adequate performance," says Orr. "You'll see faster speeds on the faster networks. But don't worry about using a lower-speed protocol -- getting service where you need it matters more."

Early adopters in areas where new networks provide HSPA+ or LTE service may get good performance, Orr notes, "because these coverage areas won't have as many users. It's like High-Occupancy-Vehicle lanes on a highway." Of course, as more users hop on, service may suffer.

As mobile carrier speeds and protocols evolve, users will need new devices or adapters with the appropriate chipsets to take advantage of them -- which requires vendors to offer the new tech. "Our first USB broadband adapter solution was EV-DO Rev. A," says Novatel's Ross. "The USB adapters we launched six to twelve months ago were LTE-class devices. In general, we now support the major air interfaces in the industry, which are currently dual-carrier HSPA+ and LTE."

But it's not just about vendor offerings, but also about what the carriers are prepared to support and offer to customers. For example, says Ross, "In some cases, like Verizon, vendors will support data-only devices first, and smartphones later."

In terms of service pricing, the carriers continue to tweak their offerings. Unlimited "all-you-can-eat" data service plans are going away or having rules added. Carriers like AT&T have discontinued unlimited fixed-price plans, and are implementing "throttling" on existing grandfathered accounts, meaning that after you've used a certain amount of data during the billing month, you may find your connection slowed down significantly. (T-Mobile's "overage-free" plans similarly throttle down.) And if you buy a new phone but want to hang onto a legacy plan, you now may have to pay full price for the phone.

Meanwhile, Verizon will be rolling out shared data plans, similar to shared call minutes, later this year, and AT&T has announced it's doing the same. Whether activation fees and other aspects of multi-device or multi-user accounting will make these plans a wash in terms of real savings remains to be seen.

This story, "3 ways to add broadband to your mobile devices" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022