Use Your 4G Mobile Data on Your Computer, Laptop, or Tablet: All About USB Modems
USB modems (also known as USB dongles) are dedicated devices that supply portable Internet to one other device. USB dongles provide a faster connection than the alternative, mobile hotspots, and are also smaller and, therefore, more portable.
A USB modem is compatible with devices that have a standard USB port – so any computer, laptop, or e-reader, but only some tablets (and never iPads). Some USB modems require a software installation to run.
USB Modems provide a faster connection than mobile hotspots.
Every carrier offers its own USB modem models, here are some of the most popular:
– The Verizon 4G LTE USB Modem is compact and does not require software to use. It costs $199.99 retail but is free from Verizon with a two-year contract.
– The AT&T Beam is AT&T’s most popular USB modem. It costs $169.99 retail but can be purchased from AT&T for $19.99 with a two-year contract.
– The Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem 250U is a Sierra Wireless modem that can roam both Sprint’s 3G and 4G LTE network. It costs $249.99 retail but is free from Sprint with a two-year contract.
USB modems are the current gold standard of mobile data, but their design is limiting because they connect only one device at a time. Alone, they are not viable stationary home Internet devices.
For Stationary Service: EVDO Modem + Wireless Router
Wireless Routers provide long-range Wi-Fi access.
Neither a mobile hotspot nor a USB modem is a viable home Internet network on its own, but combining one of these modems with a wireless router can create a local network akin to DSL or cable Wi-Fi.
EVDO (Evolution-Data Optimized) Internet is named for the EVDO modems that facilitate Internet access in smartphones, hotspots, USB modems, and other devices that connect directly to a mobile network. EVDO Internet requires two basic components: an air card (most air cards for EVDO 4G wireless Internet are USB modems) and a wireless router. It operates just like DSL: users pay a monthly fee to have Wi-Fi in their home or office.
There are a number of local providers, like DigitalPath in Northern California, who offer EVDO to regional areas. National carriers, too, offer data plans for EVDO. Here are the big three:
- Mobile broadband through Verizon costs between $60.00 (for 10 GB) and $120.00 (for 30 GB) per month.
- Mobile broadband through AT&T costs between $20.00 (for 300 MB) and $375.00 (for 50 GB) per month.
- Mobile broadband through Sprint costs between $10.00 (for 100 MB) and $110.00 (for 30 GB) per month.
Because wireless networks cover a more expansive area than wireline networks, EVDO 4G wireless Internet is ideal for users in remote locations without access to DSL or cable.
The downside of EVDO is, of course, the fixed price of mobile data. While an increasing number of Americans rely on mobile networks for Internet access, the price of data has yet to reflect the growing demand. Consumers may have to wait for the next generation of mobile network before data becomes more affordable