Mobile wireless coverage and service issues

Before signing up for mobile wireless broadband - the small USB dongle that sticks into your computer and works off of a SIM card connected to the mobile phone towers - you’ll need to consider potential coverage and service issues.

Unlike ADSL, ADSL2+, cable, fibre optic and even satellite broadband, mobile wireless signals can be very fickle. These broadband signals are travelling through the air from the mobile phone tower to where you stand, be it at home or on the move (the main advantage of mobile wireless broadband is you can take it with you and use it wherever your carrier has a signal). There are numerous challenges you may encounter when using this form of broadband internet.

Black spots

Mobile wireless broadband signals can be impeded by geographical landforms. This means if you are in a valley, or if there is a hill or mountain nearby, the signal may not be able to travel clearly to your location. Some places have thus been deemed as being ‘black spots’, or areas in which mobile wireless is essentially rendered useless.


Like a mobile phone, mobile wireless internet connections can quickly and inexplicably drop out. This is especially a problem if you are on the move in a car, train, or on a tram. If your internet connection suddenly drops out, the consequences can often be very frustrating. There is a much lower chance of dropouts occurring on an ADSL connection that runs on a copper wire landline in the ground.

Too far from the mobile phone tower

You may simply be too far away from the nearest mobile phone tower to get the quality reception necessary for a good internet connection. To remedy this problem, in some instances you can buy reception-enhancing antennae. These devices can make your signal stronger or your connection faster, and are either attached to your computer or to the roof of your home. However, sometimes you will simply be too far away for a worthwhile service.

Contention ratio: Too many people online at the same time

Another big challenge with mobile wireless broadband is the issue of too many people simultaneously being online at the same mobile phone tower. This problem can be compounded if several different Internet Service Providers are using the same tower.

For example, Vodafone, Virgin, Exetel, iPrimus, Dodo, iiNet, Westnet and Optus all use Optus phone towers. You can imagine in densely populated areas at peak times during the day, like just after work around 5pm, broadband speeds can be extremely slow. This is because customers from each provider are all downloading data from the Optus tower at the same time. This is a very common factor that frustrates mobile wireless users Australia-wide.

Seriously consider all of your options before signing up to a mobile wireless broadband plan. If you travel a lot, work in different locations around the city, or don’t live at one single address for a considerable length of time, mobile wireless is a great choice.

However, if you are at a specific location, like home or the office, and need a stable, fast and cheap broadband connection with large amounts of data, your best bet will be to go for an ADSL or ADSL2+ broadband service.