How to Get 5G or 4G Internet Access on Your Laptop

Access high-speed wireless internet on your laptop

What to Know

  • If you have a 5G or 4G card chipset installed on your laptop, all you need to do is sign up for mobile broadband service.
  • Plug in an external 5G or 4G USB modem (laptop stick), or connect wirelessly to a mobile hotspot.
  • Install a tethering app on your phone so that your laptop can share your phone's mobile data.

This article explains how to get 5G or 4G internet access on any laptop regardless of the operating system.

Built-in 5G or 4G Mobile Broadband

Most of the latest laptops, netbooks, and tablets offer a mobile broadband option, where you can have a 5G or 4G card or chipset built into the laptop when you order it (for an additional cost). You'll have to choose a mobile broadband service, but often you'll be able to select the wireless service provider.

  • Pros: Convenience of having mobile wireless connectivity already set up as soon as you get your laptop (no need to install your own mobile broadband device); less obtrusive than a USB 5G or 4G laptop stick.
  • Cons: Not transferable to other laptops or devices.
Computer next to phone with illustrations of wifi, settings over it being used as a hotspot
Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images

5G or 4G Laptop Stick

If you don't already have a mobile broadband card built-in or want a separate device that you can use with more than one laptop, a 5G USB modem (a.k.a. laptop stick or mobile modem) is easy to install. It's plug-and-play like most USB sticks. You can buy the laptop stick and sign up for the mobile broadband plan directly from the wireless provider or retailers like Best Buy.

  • Pros: Can be used on different devices (e.g., switched from one laptop to another). Some laptop sticks also function as flash drives for portable storage and other useful purposes.
  • Cons: Sticks out of your laptop's USB port; easy to misplace or lose.

5G or 4G Mobile Hotspot Device

Mobile hotspots are hardware devices that offer portable Wi-Fi. You connect your laptop wirelessly to the 5G or 4G mobile hotspot, much as you connect to a Wi-Fi network or Wi-Fi hotspot. As with the other options, you'll need to subscribe to a mobile data plan for your mobile hotspot device. However, one major advantage of a mobile hotspot is that you can typically connect more than one device to it for shared mobile internet access.

  • Pros: Usually can connect five or more mobile devices at once.
  • Cons: Have to carry around a separate device (though mobile hotspots tend to be pretty thin and small, about the size and width of a credit card).

Use Your Smartphone as a Hotspot

Tethering is when you connect your cellphone to your laptop to use your cellphone's data service on the laptop. Many tethering apps enable tethering via USB cable or Bluetooth, including the popular PdaNet app. Some wireless providers are charging extra for the privilege of connecting your phone to your laptop.

  • Pros: You might be able to use the data plan you're already paying for on your smartphone without extra charges.
  • Cons: Tethering can be slow and drain your phone's battery more quickly.

Learn how to use your iPhone as a hotspot and use your Android phone as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot to turn on Wi-Fi internet sharing.

Satellite Internet Terminals

If you're a heavy-duty traveler on the road in an RV, consider investing in a satellite internet terminal. While expensive and not particularly convenient, these solutions don't rely on any type of mobile network coverage. Instead, you're internet access is coming from a satellite, so you only need clear skies.

You'll need a modem and an antenna to use a satellite internet terminal, so the setup isn't easy. However, this option can potentially give you unrestricted internet access anywhere you roam.

Which Mobile Internet Option Is Best?

Which option is best for you? Besides heading to a Wi-Fi hotspot or internet café for free internet access, tethering is the least expensive option for getting internet access on your laptop when you're not at home. If you have multiple devices or want to share a mobile broadband connection, a mobile hotspot makes the most sense, while 5G or 4G laptop sticks are also convenient and easy to use.

  • How do I watch TV on a laptop with internet?

    Using an IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) service is the most straightforward way to watch TV with premium channels via the internet on a laptop. IPTV requires a wireless internet connection, a router, a set-top box or USB dongle that converts IPTV signals, and an IPTV content provider.

  • How do I check the internet speed on a laptop?

    To check the Wi-Fi speed on a laptop, go to the Wi-Fi indicator on the Windows Taskbar and select Open Network & Internet settings > Wi-Fi > Change adapter options and choose your network connection. Select Speed to see your internet speed.

  • Why does the internet keep disconnecting on my laptop?

    Some common reasons Wi-Fi connections drop include being out of the range of your wireless access point, experiencing Wi-Fi radio interference from other devices, and having an overloaded Wi-Fi network. Also, check that you've connected to the right network, and ensure drivers are up to date.

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