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Mobile Broadband Basics

Mobile Broadband Made Easy
everything you need to know to get online!

USB551L, MBR95, and Booster Antenna
a common mobile broadband setup: a Verizon USB551L 3G/4G aircard in a Cradlepoint MBR95 router to share the connection, with a Booster Antenna to improve 3G and 4G signal

If you're new to mobile broadband (AKA 3G, 4G, EVDO, HSPA, LTE, XLTE or WiMAX), this is the right place for you to start! This page covers the basics of what you need to use mobile broadband and how 3Gstore can help get you online. If you're interested in learning more about how mobile broadband works, you may want to read this more in-depth article: What is Mobile Broadband?, but if you're ready to cut to the chase and find out what you need to get started, read on!

To get online with mobile broadband, you'll need a few things:

  • A carrier (like Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, etc) to provide service
  • A mobile broadband device (AKA "aircard" or "modem") to receive the service (cost varies - with 2-year contract many devices are very affordable or even FREE!)
  • A computer with the appropriate port to accept the device/aircard, or WiFi capability for a mobile hotspot (AKA "Jetpack" or "MiFi")
  • Optional: a high-gain antenna to help improve signal (recommended for mobile use or stationary applications where signal is weak)
  • Optional: A router to allow you to share the mobile broadband connection with multiple computers

1. The carrier & service:

The first and most important thing to do is check which carrier has the best mobile broadband coverage in the area(s) you're hoping to use the service. For 3G, Sprint and Verizon have very good nationwide networks, but no one has coverage "everywhere", so it is very important to research coverage! AT&T's 3G network is typically strong in most major cities but is not nearly as widespread in rural areas. 4G service is much faster than 3G, but it's not available in nearly as many locations. Verizon has the best 4G coverage of any of the carriers. You can compare Sprint's, Verizon's, T-Mobile's and AT&T's coverage at any address or zip code here:

The cost for the monthly service varies (please keep in mind that the below are just estimates. Carriers may change their plans and prices at any time):

  • Verizon:
    • Hotspots and 3G/4G devices: 5GB for $50/mo OR 10GB for $80/mo
    • 3G-only USB and Expresscards: 5GB for $59.99/mo
  • Sprint:
    • 3G/4G USB devices: 6GB for $49.99/mo OR 12GB for $79.99/mo
    • 3G-only USB and Expresscards: 5GB for $59.99/mo
  • Datajack Prepaid:
    • 200MB for $9.99/mo, 500MB for $19.99/mo, 1GB for $29.99/mo, or 5GB for $49.99/mo
  • AT&T:
    • 5GB for $50/mo

For most users, 5GB is plenty for emailing, surfing the web, and watching the occasional YouTube video. For a better idea of what you can do with 5GB of data, read this article: What Does 5GB Get Me?

Most major carriers require a 2-year contract, just like a cell phone. Some will allow you to go "month-to-month," but this has a downside: the cost of the modem/aircard itself is much higher. DataJack, for example, does NOT require a contract.

2. The mobile broadband device:

Verizon USB551L Verizon MiFi 4620L Sprint Overdrive Pro
The Verizon USB551L, Verizon MiFi 4510L, and Sprint Overdrive Pro are just a few of the 3G and 4G devices available

Mobile broadband devices come in several form factors including ExpressCards, USB modems, and all-in-one hotspots (like the MiFi, Overdrive, Elevate, etc). We have performed extensive tests and can confirm that there is NO performance difference between the different form factors - manufacturers simply offer different formats to accommodate the various computers on the market today and the preferences of users.

3. The antenna/amplifier/repeater

antennas and amplifier
Antennas like the 32" Omni External Antenna (far left), 6" Indoor/Portable Booster Antenna, and 18" Building Mount Antenna (far right) can help with weak signal; adding a Direct Connect Amplifier (center) can help even more.

Wireless carriers have greatly expanded their coverage over the past few years, but there are still many folks that have trouble getting a strong signal, whether it's because of trees, construction, mountains, interference, or simply distance from the tower. Luckily, in many cases you can improve your signal by using an antenna or amplifier!

An antenna is optional and not required to use mobile broadband, but many people (especially travelers) find that an antenna greatly improves the performance of their 3G or 4G service. Most currently available aircards have antenna ports, and there are many different types of antennas that can be directly connected to an aircard to help improve signal. If an antenna alone is not enough to improve signal or if you want to make sure you can get the best signal wherever you go, a powerful direct-connect amplifier can be used in conjunction with an antenna.

If you need to improve the signal to a device that does NOT have an antenna port (like the MiFi 2200 or many smartphones), or if you want to improve the signal to multiple cellular devices at the same time (for example, your cell phones and your aircard), you can use a wireless repeater.

4. The mobile broadband router

Cradlepoint MBR95 Cradlepoint MBR1400
Routers like the MBR95 and MBR1400 allow you to easily share your mobile broadband connection

When installed on a computer, a mobile broadband device provides connectivity to only that computer. If you want to share that connection with multiple computers, you can use a mobile broadband router. 3G/4G routers like the ones sold by 3Gstore work just like a typical cable/DSL router you might have used in the past for a home/office DSL or cable-modem connection, but mobile broadband routers have the unique ability to support cellular modems as their source of internet connectivity. With a router that supports your cellular device, you can connect your aircard to the router and instantly create your own WiFi network! Some routers also provide ethernet ports for wired connections (desktop computers, gaming consoles, DVRs, etc).

Why buy from 3Gstore?

Many customers describe their mobile broadband needs as being unique. They tell us the want to outfit a vehicle, or their house/office is in the middle of nowhere, or their company has unique network requirements. The 3G/4G Experts at have helped thousands of customers put together a solution that suits their exact needs - and we are ready to do the same for you! We can provide you with a complete mobile broadband solution, even if it requires external antennas, amplifiers, or routers. The MOST IMPORTANT factor is that after the sale, our 3G/4G Experts will also be there to support the solution we've sold you. We even provide an exclusive support portal that contains a plethora of helpful tip sheets, guides, manuals, and more that you'll have access to 24/7 after placing your order.

Most salespeople working in a carrier's store sell phones all day long, but many have never even used a mobile broadband device. They certainly are not likely to have experience with as many devices as we have, nor are they likely to be familiar with what their competition offers. And don't even bother asking them about external antennas, amplifiers or routers!

The bottom line is that we understand mobile broadband. We use EVDO, HSPA, LTE, and WiMAX devices and accessories every single day. Our expertise and dedication is unrivaled by any other retail store - just see what our customers have to say!

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