Q: I use a Verizon Air Card; the mobility, thus far is great, but I am only able to use it on one computer. Recently heard that I could network the Air Card by using one of the CradlePoint 3G/4G Routers. Any pertinent information you can share? - Gloria
A: Mobile Internet is a fast evolving sector of the computer world and all the major wireless players are feverishly developing their offerings to get you to subscribe to their services.
The most common method of getting mobile broadband service is to plug in a special USB cellular network device and access the Internet via that company’s cellular network.
In it’s standard configuration (like yours) you are limited to a single computer, but many options have emerged to overcome that limitation.
The best solution depends upon how mobile you need the router to be, how far away you need to be able to connect and which data plan you are currently on.
Most of the cellular providers now offer an optional ‘mobile hotspot’ device that generally allow up to 5 devices to share the cellular data connection.
This solution is best for those that travel often and have a number of devices that they need to connect while on the road, but it can add an additional monthly charge.
Verizon offers a product they call MiFi and Sprint offers Overdrive to allow you to share your cellular data connection
Some providers allow you to combine the data modem and the router in a small external device (the size of a pack of cigarettes or smaller) so you don’t end up paying two data charges.
The range on most of these devices is fairly short (@100 feet) so to connect you need to be nearby and the battery only lasts for 3-4 hours before requiring a recharge.
Some units can’t be used while they are recharging, so be sure to do your homework.
If you only need to share while you are at home, just about every home networking provider (Linksys, Netgear, Dlink, etc.) has some sort of home router that works with various new and old cellular data cards.
Before any of the cellular providers offered options, CradlePoint (http://CradlePoint.com) was selling mobile broadband routers to address this need.
Today they have some of the most advanced offerings for stationary OR mobile sharing of your cellular data modem.
Stationary solutions like the MBR900 (http://bit.ly/alh23R) are larger, plug into the wall for power but offer greater range (@ 600 feet).
For those that are more interested in sharing the connection from the road, CradlePoint’s PHS300 (http://bit.ly/dwvGUG) works with virtual any USB mobile data device or tethered smartphone and can run off of a battery.
Cell-based data services are not currently as fast as wired options like cable or DSL but the gap is likely to narrow as 4G services rollout.
For now, sharing a cellular data connection between highly active users will likely result in slower performance for all especially during file downloads, streaming video, gaming & especially file uploads.
If you are sharing a connection for basic web surfing or checking email, than the additional load is likely to be less noticeable.
Before you do any connection sharing, however, make sure you understand your data plan as not all of them offer unlimited access and it could cost you big bucks!