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What Exactly Is A Wireless Modem Then?
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What Exactly is A Wireless Modem Then?

Have you heard the term 'wireless modem', 'mobile wi-fi' or 'mi-fi' being bandied about and wondered what people were referring to?

I'm sure you’ve heard of wireless or wi-fi and I’m sure you have heard of a modem but what is a wireless modem and more importantly how can it help you?

Ok to get straight to the point, a wireless modem is essentially a device that allows you to create your own mobile wi-fi connection that can be shared across multiple wi-fi enabled devices.

At home you have broadband and a modem which your home PC will be connected to. Your modem will also likely be connected to a wireless router and it is this that allows your laptops, tablets, e-readers, smartphones and other wireless enabled devices to be connected to the internet via your home broadband connection.

This is great whilst you are at home but when you are away from home you either have to rely on an available wi-fi connection that will be either be free or paid for in order to connect or if there isn’t wi-fi available you need your mobile device to have a 3G/4G capability to allow you to connect to the internet via a mobile carrier.

Of course on modern mobile phones 3G/4G capability is a given these days so this isn’t an issue but on tablets and laptops you will have to pay significantly more for a 3G enabled version of the tablet device or in the case of a laptop buy a 3G dongle which connects to the laptop via a USB port. These are additional costs per device so across several devices within a household the costs do escalate.

So how can a wireless modem help?

These days there will be a number of mobile devices owned by various members of a family and having to have multiple 3G/4G data connections to each of these whilst away from home can prove costly. This is where the wireless modem comes in. This stand-alone device allows you to create your own mobile wi-fi (also known as mi-fi) connection and connect multiple devices to it. So your laptops, tablets and e readers can connect to the internet wirelessly all at the same time just like at home. The difference being that the wireless modem is connected to the internet via a mobile data sim card rather than home broadband, meaning you can have this setup whereever there is a 3G/4G signal. Not just in a building but outdoors in the car or wherever too.

So the money savings are twofold:

1. You don't need to purchase a 3G enabled device, a wi-fi only version will suffice and usually at a significantly less cost.

2. You don't need to purchase multiple data SIM cards or dongles to allow connections for all the devices in your household. You can buy just one SIM card for the wireless modem with all devices sharing the connection.

There is also added flexibility with a wireless modem when compared with a plug in dongle as you can buy them unlocked so that they are not tied down to specific mobile network. This allows you to choose the best network for the area you will be using the wireless modem in and purchase the appropriate data SIM card to insert into it.

When abroad this flexibility can be taken a step further and also contribute even more savings. How so? Well being able to use any data SIM card in the modem means you can purchase such a card for a mobile network local to the country you are in. You can do some investigation before you go and then pick up the data card in one of the local stores once you are there. You can be pretty sure the costs of using a local network will be far better value than the costs of your home country's carrier being used abroad.

So all in all these are great little devices:

  • - They are extremely flexible, particularly when unlocked.
  • - They are very cost effective for the reasons already given.
  • - They can be used outdoors as well as indoors so can be used in greater variety of situations.
  • - They are great for using abroad.

Depending on the signal strength of a particular mobile carrier in your home area they are a viable alternative to using home fixed line broadband and could prove cheaper also, especially if you can make do without a land line phone as you can avoid fixed line rental costs.

Any downsides?

Well nothings perfect and so it’s worth pointing out the downsides. Firstly although they can allow multiple devices to connect simultaneously, clearly the more that connect the weaker the shared link will be as the connection has to be shared. Usually a maximum of 5 devices is specified depending on the model so if you were to go over this then there would be a significant drop off in network performance.

When determining how much data you wish to purchase with the mobile data SIM card you need to bear in mind how many devices will likely be connecting as obviously the more there are the faster that data allowance will get used up. Still if it is mainly web browsing and email that is mainly being used across the devices it will still be significantly cheaper to purchase one card with an appropriate amount of data and top up as you need to, rather than purchasing separate connections for each device.

Despite the above, I think the positives do outweigh the negatives and a wireless modem can prove to be a great investment for multiple device connections, even a single device, as at least you aren't tied down to a single network.

Street Talk

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