3G Mobile Broadband enables you to connect computers or laptops by either wired or wireless connections to the internet, anywhere, anytime. Working in a very similar way to a conventional broadband except that the internet is accessed over the 3G network. Most 3G routers use a 3G USB modem, often provided by a mobile network provider, so please ensure your 3G USB modem is compatible.
3G USB modems are available from 3 Mobile, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile.
The industry is seeing an increasing uptake of 3G USB dongles and sticks and even the stalwart 3G PCMCIA/PC Card is being used to take advantage of the improving performance of the 3G networks. Most networks are headlining up to 7.2 Mbps for their mobile broadband and the infrastructure will eventually allow speeds of 14.4 Mbps. However the reality is a little different, and is very much dependant on the coverage in your particular area. London and other major cities are offering the best 3G coverage, with download speeds reported in the 2 Mbps - 3 Mbps bracket and with HSUPA, upload speeds increase to 1 Mbps, comparing reasonably favourably with the fixed line performance of ADSL and cable.
Coverage and speed is only set to improve as the 3G operators turn up the wick on their networks, although as more users sign up 'contention' (the amount of users sharing the same bandwidth) will be an issue, just as it is for fixed line connectivity.
The introduction of 3G routers into the UK market is an exciting trend, as this allows users to create their own portable hotspot, in effect sharing their 3G connection wirelessly - ideal for applications with either expensive internet access or no fixed line internet access at all, such as an exhibition or show, a hotel room or holiday let, or even out on the road.
Many businesses are taking advantage of routers that integrate Autofailover technology. If the fixed line ADSL goes down, the device will automatically fail over to the 3G network, and switch back to ADSL when the line is back up. This gives effective network redundancy allowing 24/7 uptime for internet and email, crucial for any business that need to be always online.
As 3G products penetrate the business market, so SLAs and managed services for 3G connectivity become increasingly important. Most operators now offer fixed IP options on a 3G SIM, which allows for bandwidth management, diagnostic tools and even secure private networking (VPN).
In many countries around the world, especially in Scandanavia, 3G connectivity is available in the home and office at a price and at a speed that matches many standard UK fixed line packages. As the 3G operators remain committed to improving the performance of their networks, the trend towards 3G connectivity in the UK is only set to continue.