WiFi

Tethering vs. Broadband Cards: Which is Better?

by Brian Dykhuizen

June 20th, 2012 @ 8:48 AM

No matter where they go, today’s mobile device user is able to enjoy the speed and reliability that they have come to expect from their desktop computers. Even with the proliferation of mobile devices, sometimes work just needs to be done on a laptop. When there is no WiFi in range, or none that can be securely accessed, which is the best way to get online using a 3G or 4G network – tethering or a broadband card?

Tethering enables you to share the Internet connection of a phone or tablet with other mobile devices, such as laptops, via cable (USB), Bluetooth, or WiFi.

A mobile broadband card simply connects with your laptop and enables you to access the Internet from anywhere (within range of cell towers).

To better understand which method is most effective for your individual need, let’s explore the pros and cons of each.

Mobile Broadband Cards

Advantages

  • Provides increased mobility, you can access high speed Internet from any location in the world that your provider covers.
  • Enables access to multiple devices (printers, faxes, copiers) while eliminating the need for extra wires and connectors.
  • Gives you faster internet speeds with wireless broadband technology that can match the speed of a hard-wired connection – from 600kb/s to 10mb/s, depending on the needs of the customer.
  • Preserves your phone battery charge.

Disadvantages

  • Mobile broadband cards connect to the Internet using the same radio waves as your cell phone, so the connection is subject to the same weak signals, ‘dead zones’, and cell tower availability as your cell phone.
  • Inconsistent service reception means you could receive fantastic high-speed Internet service from your provider in one area, dial-up quality in another.
  • From a security standpoint, a mobile broadband card is just another piece of mobile inventory to track and another piece of equipment that can be lost.
  • Broadband cards are sold the way that cell phones are sold.  You buy the equipment itself starting at approximately $50, pay a monthly fee for unlimited Internet access, which chains you to a lengthy service contract, and early termination fees.  It all adds up.

Tethering

Advantages

  • Since you only need to utilize your mobile device, which you carry with you anyway, the need for an adapter or mobile router is eliminated.
  • Tethering carries economic benefit, as typical costs run about $10-$15 per month extra.  This avoids the need to purchase a costly second data plan or broadband card device.
  • Tethering cuts down on the quantity of devices necessary to gain access to the Internet.
  • Tethering allows for flexibility in the way you connect – you can use your Bluetooth, WiFi, or USB cable.

Disadvantages

  • Since tethering utilizes the connection from your phone, this puts a significant strain on the battery and ends up draining its power more rapidly, especially if you decide to use your Bluetooth.
  • Tethering, like broadband, also depends on the service delivered by your cell phone provider and the model of your device.
  • Having a shared Internet connection will likely impede your Internet speed, thereby providing slower-than-normal surfing.
  • While your mobile phone is tethered to another device, you may not be able to utilize the phone capabilities until you disconnect.  Unless you have AT&T or TMobile, your mobile phone’s voice service will be disabled while you surf.
  • Some mobile devices, such as the Android, require an additional app for tethering, and some service providers charge monthly fees for tethering.

The issue of choosing broadband cards or tethering is a small, but important nuance to your company’s telecom environment.  Thorough analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each are essential to determining which option will provide the most benefit to your users balanced against the cost factors involved.  If you are investigating your mobility capabilities, you may benefit from a strategic approach to identify which solutions are most appropriate for your users and your budget. Feel free to Contact Us to help you weigh the pros and cons of each.

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