Using 3G in Netbooks

Each time you hear the term 3G (or Third Generation), it refers to a data access standard through cellular networks.

This is how it works:

If you ever use a newer cellular phone, you probably see the small 3G symbol near the signal strength indicator whenever you browse the Web and check e-mail from your phone. It is also possible to use a 3G modem (USB modem) on your netbook when accessing the Net.  Unlike WLAN, where you have to be near a Wi-Fi access point, with a 3G network as long as you are within cellular network’s data coverage, you can access the Internet. Speed is sufficiently fast (especially if you are stationary), but isn’t as reliable as a WLAN connection.  A few netbooks come with integrated 3G modems. If your netbook does not have a 3G modem, you can still get 3G connectivity in several different ways.

  • USB: It looks like a flash drive and plugs into a USB port.
  • ExpressCard: some netbooks have ExpressCard expansion slot – it is a smaller model of a PC Card. A few manufacturers offer netbooks with ExpressCard 3G modems.

You can usually get a 3G modem through the cellular provider. USB modems prices range is between $80 and $180 depending on the model and features. But hold onto your hats as many providers are now offering discounted modems or 3G cellphones when you subscribe to a data plan and perhaps, in the near future carriers will start giving away no-frills, subsidized netbooks for data plan subscription.

Check with your carrier to get more details about its 3G service packages and compatibility with netbooks. Before you choose a 3G service, try to get some user feedbacks about how the service quality is in your area -it could be useful to visit forums such as http://cellphoneforums[dot]net or www[dot]howardforums[dot]com. Although your cellular carrier may claim wide coverage area, some places may have better and faster connectivity than others.