We are perhaps the most connected generation to have worked the face of the planet. We have computers, mobile phones, tablets and even household appliances that connect to the internet. And if service providers have their way, each device would have its own connection, delivering them plenty of revenue.
The problem with that approach is that each device gets its own service. That means that you need to pay several bills, each for basically the same thing.
While this problem has been solved in the home and office for some time using a router, mobile services, until now, have been more difficult to share.
With the advent of the iPhone and iPad, as well as our MacBooks and MacBook Pros, there’s an increasing need to reduce costs by sharing a single, mobile internet connection between all of our devices.
Mobile routers are now easily available. These take a 3G or Next G wireless internet connection and broadcast it over Wi-Fi so that one service can be used by many devices at the same time.
What that means is that a single 3G mobile data connection can be used by your iPhone and iPad at the same time.
For business users, it means that colleagues can work together, creating a mobile office network. This is especially useful when travelling or setting up trade-show displays.
This month, we’re focusing on mobile routers that can run off a battery, creating a truly mobile network.
It’s worth noting that many units only support 802.11g connections rather than the newer and faster 802.11n wireless standard, although this will only cause significant impact if you’re planning to use the mobile router for shifting files between computers.
Given that most 3G connections are slower than 802.11g, this isn’t likely to be a substantial bottleneck.
Unlike home routers that support hundreds of concurrent connections, most mobile routers limit the number of connected systems. This makes sense when you consider that the real throughput of 3G is less than a typical home or office broadband connection. Having more than a few simultaneous connections will choke a 3G connection into submission in quick time.
Finally, when looking at a mobile router, it’s worth considering the size, weight and battery life. These routers are meant to be thrown into your travel bag and need to last most of a working day.
When shopping around, make sure that the battery life is reasonable and that it can be easily charged.
Units that can be charged from a USB port are handy as you can use a computer to give them a boost.
This Lab Test originally appeared in the September issue of Australian Macworld magazine.