Internet Connections via Cellular
If your day to day activities involve connecting to the Internet, then being deprived of this efficient communication method can be quite inconvenient. Generally, in developed areas, Internet access is not an issue. Sometimes, however, a hotel, B&B, Inn, or rental house that advertised Internet access, may not have their equipment set up correctly, it may be down, or you may be staying with family or friends who don't have a guest network. One of the easiest solutions to this situation is to use a cellular Internet connection.
A cellular Internet connection involves using a cellular "modem" or "card", an existing cell phone, or a PDA connected to a computer either physically or wirelessly. Once any of these devices are within cellular range and connected to a computer, then that computer can connect to the Internet. Using a cell phone or PDA to connect your computer to the Internet is generally the most flexible and easy option, however it does not guarantee that you will be able to be on the phone and on the Internet simultaneously. Unless you are connected to a 3G network (a 3G network enables the use of voice and data simultaneously), when you connect your computer to the Internet via your cell phone or PDA, voice communication will be disabled for the duration of your data connection, though you will be notified of voice calls (if you have a good phone or PDA) when they come in, giving you the option to take the call and disconnect your data connection, or let the call go to voice mail. If simultaneous voice and data communication is a high priority, then the best option is to use a dedicated cellular modem or card. These come in three options: built into a computer, a slide in card, or a USB adapter. These are as simple to use as using a PDA or cell phone and, because they are a separate device, simultaneous voice and data communication is possible. If you are purchasing a new computer, it is advisable not to opt for a built in cellular modem as, typically, this non-replaceable option will only work with a limited number of providers. Instead, opt for a USB or slide-in card configuration that is easily replaceable if you ever change cellular providers. Whichever option is chosen, it will work the most reliably if it can function without installing any software on the computer. Typically, only the most entry level devices require that you install software. In addition, make sure you never install any software that is provided by the cellular provider as that often allows advertisements and leads to computer slow down.
Cellular data service is generally offered as an add-on to existing service or can be purchased individually if you have voice service with another provider already and don't wish to change. It is advisable to always obtain an unlimited use data plan as certain background tasks on your computer may be using the data connection without your knowledge. Unlimited service plans are currently offered for a cost between $9 - $70 / month, depending on carrier and desired speed. Many people may be wondering if cellular data service would be an alternative to other Internet connection options such as DSL. If you have access to other high speed options, such as DSL, it will usually be best to use that connection since cellular latency (a critical component in determining connection speed) is much slower than most ground based options. Use cellular as a service to provide continued Internet access when ground options are not available or practical.
Cellular Internet access is easy to use and provides a great portable supplement to ground based communication. Many hotels, inns, etc. will advertise Internet access only to have visitors realize that the wireless coverage is not strong enough, the connection is sporadic, etc. Being able to fall back to a cell connection removes the frustration and time wasted attempting to gain Internet access associated with such environments.