Australia Wireless Internet Broadband Buying Guide

When shopping for mobile broadband Wireless internet there are many variables and options to take into consideration before you make your purchase. Internet providers (ISP’s) aren’t always upfront with the finer details or small print in relation to their broadband plans, and as contracts can be up to two years in length, making a mistake can cost you a lot of money. After extensive research and experience in the field, Compare Broadband has collated all the vital information to help make your decision-making process an easier one.

Wireless internet: Pros – You can use your laptop outside your house wherever there is mobile phone coverage, often very cheap prices, prepaid plans available, and no phone line required.
: Cons – Can have more ‘drop-outs’ as mobile phone reception is less stable, lag-time when processing data, not much data allowance for downloads, speed can be slow when compared to ADSL, there are black spots where the Wireless internet doesn’t work, not good for multiple network use.
On the Go:

The main advantage of Mobile Broadband Wireless internet is that you can have an internet connection without a physical connection via cable, copper telephone line (ADSL) or fibre-optic. This means you can access broadband internet all over Australia wherever your Wireless internet provider’s mobile phone towers’ coverage exists. Wireless internet is one of the main four means of connecting to the Internet here, the others being via the telephone line (dial-up, ADSL, ADSL2+ and VDSL), coaxial (cable) and fibre-optic (as in the fibre-to-the-home system planned for the National Broadband Network). Wireless internet can often be added as a supplementary service on your mobile phone plan, and with some companies you can share the same bill between the two accounts.
Note: You can have Wireless internet at home using a (Wi-Fi) wirelessly enabled modem and router and an ADSL connection, which can be more stable than true mobile Wireless internet, but as soon as you leave your house, so does the internet connection on your laptop.

To use mobile broadband Wireless internet you have to get a small USB modem (it looks like a Flash drive) or notebook expansion card (for example, an ExpressCard or PCMCIA) from one of the various providers like Bigpond, Vodafone, Optus, Exetel, Dodo, iPrimus or 3 Mobile. Mobile Wireless internet is more portable than Fixed Wireless Broadband, which although used via the mobile phone network, like an ADSL wireless modem it is limited to use within the home or business.

Fixed Wireless vs. Mobile Wireless internet
To explain the difference, Fixed Wireless Broadband services use slightly different technologies to those of Mobile Broadband Wireless internet, and require an external modem, which is connected to the computer via a Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB connection. The main reason for getting Fixed Wireless Broadband is so you can share the connection between multiple computers at the same time, whereas Mobile Wireless connected via a USB modem is limited to the single computer it’s plugged into.

Note: Some Mobile Wireless internet operators can provide multi-user access by using additional modems and routers.
Essentially you could use a Fixed Wireless Broadband device in a portable sense, but you would need both to be within your service provider's coverage area, as well as having an available power point for the modem. This isn’t too practical for people who are always on the go and want to use their laptops around town with as little trouble as possible. It’s best for this type of user to go with a Mobile Broadband Wireless internet plan.

Coverage for your Mobile Wireless internet connection works in the same way as your mobile phone does. If you are in range of a mobile phone tower, you will have internet. When there’s no reception, you won’t. Sometimes you may be just in range, so the reception is sporadic, often resulting in slow speeds and drop-outs.
Note: you do not need line-of-sight with the mobile tower to get reception.

With mobile wireless internet you have to deal with black spots, even in cities. The reception and reliability of your connection will solely depend on who your carrier is, and where you are located in relation to their mobile towers. Currently, Telstra's Next G service easily provides the best coverage, but other companies may be more competitive in terms of price.

Check each potential mobile wireless internet provider to see whether they have coverage in all of the specific areas you are going to use the internet. If you're in an area with marginal reception, like the outer suburbs of major cities, the connection could drop out occasionally because of weather patterns and other interference. Be careful, as you don't want to sign up to a plan that only works intermittently.

If you look at it practically, Mobile Wireless internet is simply a mobile phone for your computer; they use exactly the same technology. Wireless broadband devices require SIM cards with linked mobile numbers to determine your identity and charge your account accordingly.

Mobile wireless internet data is delivered over 3G and more recently 3.5G (a.k.a. HSPA), which can transfer at speeds between 3.6Mbps and a supposed 42Mbps. For the time being, most wireless broadband modems work between 3.6Mbps and 7.2Mbps, though Telstra offers a maximum speed of 21Mbps over its Next G network, if you have the right modem.

Landline ADSL vs. Mobile Wireless:
If you’re weighing up whether to go with a landline or wireless service, there’s no one true answer for everyone. One obvious negative for wireless internet is that it comes from a shared source; there's a limited amount of radio spectrum, and you have to share it with everyone in the same area, including mobile phones. As the number of wireless subscribers increases, theoretically there will be less bandwidth available per person, especially at peak times. Of course this can also be true of landlines, but an internet provider can then increase the bandwidth capacity of their network. A wireless internet provider can increase its number of receiving stations or purchase more radio spectrum, but it remains to be seen how wireless services are to supply hundreds of thousands of users at high speeds.

Latency or lag-time:
The second issue is latency. Latency or lag-time is the amount of time it takes for the network to respond to your actions on the internet, and is usually measured in milliseconds. With basic internet use like Web-surfing and email this won’t be an issue. However, this can be a big problem when you need to be on right ‘now’, as with online gaming, video conferencing and Voice over IP (VoIP). In these contexts, transmission lag-time is extremely frustrating. Hook up a fixed line broadband service if you are an online gamer or plan on using VoIP telephone calls.

Wi-Fi Hotspots:
Wi-Fi hotspots are a great way to access the internet outside of your home without having to use your Mobile Wireless internet connection. These are public wireless networks set up by an internet provider or venue operator, which allow you to get on the Internet using your Wi-Fi compatible computer or mobile phone. Some hotspots provide internet for free, while many require you to pay a small fee, or to have a prior account with that ISP. One bonus with Wi-Fi hotspots is they often provide faster broadband speeds than normal Mobile Wireless internet, as the connection is being received via a fixed broadband line like ADSL2+.

Mobile Wireless Price:
The cost of Mobile Wireless internet has decreased a lot in recent years, with prices often similar or cheaper than ADSL or ADSL2+ plans. Consider speed, coverage and equipment costs when comparing wireless internet and ADSL, but if you need mobile internet, the cost is surprisingly competitive. You can get both post-paid and prepaid mobile wireless internet plans with many of the providers in Australia. Premium deals with better speed and coverage for heavier users are available too, but make sure your modem can handle the extra pace, as not all of them do.

Mobile Wireless Data Downloads:
Download limits aren't as relevant for Mobile Wireless broadband plans as they are with ADSL. Though you might need a lot of data at home to download TV shows or movies (tens of gigabytes), when using Wireless internet, checking your email and Web-surfing while outside doesn’t require much data. 1GB can enough for a light user.

Excess Charges:
As with ADSL plans, many Wireless internet services either charge excess usage costs or slow down (shape) download speeds if you go over your allotted limit. Choosing a plan that slows down the speed will make sure you never get a huge bill. Make sure to look at each carrier and their equipment, speeds, coverage and any potential hidden costs before making your decision.

To get more depth of knowledge, check out these Wireless internet articles from Compare Broadband’s own article directory:

‘Mobile Broadband in Australia’
‘Why Choose Mobile Broadband?’
‘Mobile Broadband Installation’
‘HSDPA or mobile Broadband’
‘Beginners guide to broadband’