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Mobile internet access

Internet access on the moveWhether it’s to check email on your mobile phone in between meetings or to update the company website while you’re on the train, a mobile internet connection can help you keep in touch and work efficiently.

Why mobile internet access?

Having a mobile internet connection makes it easier to work when you’re on the move. For instance:

  • If you set up your mobile phone so it checks for email automatically, you can respond to enquiries faster – no matter where you are.
  • Your mobile internet connection helps you use dead time. Each train journey becomes an opportunity to catch up on email.
  • The versatility of mobile broadband helps you take a flexible approach to work. Go to the park or a cafe without losing connectivity.
  • It’s a handy backup. If your company’s main internet connection goes down, you’ll be glad to have a mobile internet connection to fall back on.

As the world becomes more connected, mobile internet access is spreading rapidly. The emergence of advanced smart phones and tablet computers means it’s becoming an essential to work effectively.

What you can do with a mobile internet connection depends largely on the equipment you use to get online. Mobile phones are great for checking email and web browsing, but a piece of mobile hardware like an ultrabook (a powerful, light laptop with excellent battery life) or tablet computer will give you much more flexibility.

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Getting online with mobile broadband

Mobile broadband uses a mobile phone network to connect to the internet. Most mobile broadband relies on a 3G mobile network to provide reasonably fasted connection speeds.

However, the next generation of mobile connection – 4G broadband – is spreading rapidly. Its speeds can be much faster than even the average home broadband connection. As coverage grows, 4G will become a popular option for internet access.

Most mobile phones can connect to the internet and will allow you to check email and browse the web on your handset.

You may also be able to share your mobile phone’s internet connection with your laptop or tablet computer. This is called ‘tethering’ and involves creating a wireless Bluetooth connection between your phone and computer.

Tethering can be fiddly to set up, so a popular alternative is to use a mobile broadband dongle. They plug into the side of your laptop and contain a SIM card (like in a mobile phone). They connect directly to a mobile phone network, giving you mobile broadband on your laptop.

Some mobile devices – particularly tablet computers – incorporate space for a SIM card, so they can connect without requiring any additional hardware.

The connection speed of 3G mobile broadband can be surprisingly good – certainly more than adequate to check emails and browse the internet. If you already have a 4G connection, your mobile speeds could even be faster than in the office!

However, maintaining a good connection depends on you remaining in a good signal area.

Mobile broadband providers usually charge depending on how much data you send and receive. £5 per gigabyte is typical – that corresponds to thousands and thousands of emails, but only an hour or so of high-quality video. The cost of using your mobile broadband abroad can be painfully high.

Wireless hotspots

Wireless hotspots are the other main source of mobile internet access. These provide a connection through a wireless network and can often be found in cafes, bars and pubs. Some hotspots charge by the hour, day or month (£5 – £10 a day is typical), but many are free.

All you need to use a wireless hotspot is a piece of equipment that can connect to a wireless network. All laptops, smart phones and tablet computers can do this. A hotspot connection should be fast and reliable, although the speed may drop if lots of other people are using it.

The biggest drawback of wireless hotspots is you can’t be sure of being near one when you need to get online. It can therefore be best to rely on a combination of access methods.

For instance, you can take your laptop to a hotspot when you have something specific to do, but manage email on your mobile phone and carry a dongle in case you need to get online in a pinch.

There are also some security risks in connecting to a wireless hotspot. Be wary of hotspots that don’t require you to input any kind of password to connect. This means your connection isn’t encrypted, so it’s easy for hackers to intercept what you’re sending and receiving.

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