Accessing the internet from a mobile device is an incredibly useful tool but trying to understand what all the various acronyms and words mean leads to confusion
There are times when we need information or reference material while away from our computer and its connection to the web.
Perhaps you would like to book tickets for the cinema or theatre? How about getting updated travel information when a connection has been missed?
How about the ability to check the price of an item on a comparison website, to prevent over-priced impulse buys in the high street? There’s no doubt the mobile internet has many handy uses.
It’s a pity, then, that the companies selling mobile broadband services make the information so difficult to understand.
As you might expect, the two key considerations are the technology and the cost. For the former, you need to decide whether a smartphone or laptop will best suit your mobile needs (or both), how fast you want you to browse, and how far and wide you want to do it.
But if that wasn’t complicated enough, just wait until you look at mobile internet prices. A mix of baffling tariffs and technical mumbo-jumbo, confusing marketing speak and less-than-obvious extra charges can make signing up for a particular deal a difficult business – not to mention a costly one, if you don’t choose wisely.
So, that’s where Computeractive comes in with our jargon-busting guide to all things related to mobile internet.
Several years ago, the term ‘mobile internet’ meant a subset of the internet proper that was designed specifically for access from a handheld device such as a mobile phone. Slow wireless data transfer speeds and limited hardware meant such devices couldn’t handle internet pages with lots of images and video.
So, instead they were restricted to browsing simplified text-based sites that usually ran alongside the ‘real’ thing and anyone who remembers Wap will know how disappointing this experience was.
The development of smartphones such as the iPhone and ever-faster wireless technology, however, means this two-tier system is now obsolete and ‘mobile internet’ has evolved to mean internet access we enjoy at home but on a handheld device.
There are two ways to connect to mobile broadband – let’s take a look at them.
Hotspot, or not?
A laptop with Wifi is perhaps the simplest way to get internet access from anywhere, although ‘anywhere’ in this context means somewhere with the public equivalent of the wireless networks many people have at home, and the two work in much the same way.
Cafes, airports, hotels and even caravan campsites often have their own Wifi hotspots as a way to attract customers – which is why you will often see people sitting in Starbucks with an open laptop and a coffee.
Hotspot access in such places is sometimes free, but there’s usually an hourly or daily charge. BT, for example, runs its own Wifi hotspot networks called Openzone and The Cloud, and charges start from £6 a month for 500 minutes’ access (although BT Broadband and O2 mobile phone subscribers get free, unlimited access).
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