What Is Mobile Broadband?

Wireless technology signal from smart phone
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The term mobile broadband refers to high-speed wireless Internet connections and services designed to be used from arbitrary locations.

Fixed vs. Mobile Broadband

Broadband Internet services like DSL, cable modem, and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) are wired to specific buildings. Traditional Wi-Fi hotspots also provide connectivity over a limited radius around fixed wireless access points.

By contrast, mobile broadband utilizes wireless technologies are designed to broadcast signals everywhere.

Key Mobile Broadband Technologies

Cellular networks normally provide broadband connections suitable for mobile access. The technologies in use today fall into two categories - 3G (third generation cell networks) and 4G (fourth generation).

Types of 3G broadband include: Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE), EV-DO, and High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSPA). WiMax and LTE represent 4G broadband.

Beside phones, Internet and network access using these technologies is increasingly being incorporated into laptop computers, automobiles and public transportation.

Limitations of Mobile Broadband

Along with the obvious advantage of Internet access from anywhere, consider these common limitations of mobile broadband:

  • monthly service plans can cost significantly more than for traditional broadband, sometimes including extra fees for larger volumes of data usage
  • "high speed" can mean significantly slower than for traditional broadband, sometimes less than 1 Mbps depending on the service provider's network capability
  • network outages occur when roaming, caused by limits of the service provider coverage area or obstructions from geography, and service may also be disrupted inside larger buildings due to interference