There are many ways you can connect your PC or laptop to the internet. We explain the different ways to get yourself online on your computer
Another way to get online wirelessly is through what’s commonly known as ‘mobile broadband’. Lots of mobile phones can access the internet directly, using the same connection they use for voice calls and text messages. A ‘mobile broadband modem’ enables you to use the same connection with a standard computer.
This device is also known as a ‘3G modem’ or a ‘dongle’ (though in strict computing terms a dongle refers to another kind of device that permits access to a specific program). It plugs into the computer through a USB socket and, with appropriate software, connects the computer to the mobile phone network. You can’t normally make calls directly in this way, but it allows internet access and text messaging.
Some laptops have the mobile broadband modem built in, so all that’s required is the right SIM card, and Windows 7 has the software built in. You will need an appropriate contract or pay-as-you-go arrangement. One complaint about this kind of broadband is that it can be slow – in the middle of a big city it may be quite speedy but in other places where signal reception is poor, it will be much slower.
It also depends on having access to a signal from the appropriate network, and so in some areas there may be no connection at all. For that reason it is often not a good alternative to a satellite connection for people who can’t get a wired line – in some of those places there is no mobile coverage either. Most of the mobile networks have ‘coverage maps’ on their websites so you can check before signing up.
Some phones can be ‘tethered’ to a computer so it uses the phone’s internet connection for its own data. Bear in mind not all operators or handsets allow this and there may be an extra monthly charge.
It can be confusing when you are trying to figure out which broadband connection to get. By using our guide you can navigate through the options and the jargon. Bear in mind that advertised speeds can be considerably lower in real life depending on several factors such as how far your house is from the exchange. We have a speed test on the Computeractive website which can show you the actual speed on your line.
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