People often confuse Mobile and WiFi wireless internet connections. As a result they pay twice where they could pay nothing all.
Both WiFi and Mobile 3G – 4G are wireless technologies which transmit data over the air. But 3G-4G connects directly to the internet while WiFi connects to your private home or business internet router which in turn connects to the internet via the modem. More often, modems are built in to the router. Such WiFi routers and modems in one device are confusingly called WiFi modems or WiFi routers while an actual WiFi router is a different device with no modem in it.
|WiFi via Mobile 3G or 4G connection|
|WiFi||Mobile 3G or 4G|
|Distance to a transmitter||1-30 meters||Few kilometres|
|Transmitter||WiFi router owned by you||Tower owned by mobile network provider|
|Maximum speed||150 Mb/s||3G-28Mb/s, 4G-100Mb/s|
It seems like WiFi can provide a better connection speed. But WiFi connects only from your computer/iPad to the router. The overall speed is limited by the link to the internet provider. In the case of ADSL connections, the link has to go further from the router to the internet and speed is limited by the phone line. A typical ADSL speed is only 10Mb/s. That is why even brand new expensive WiFi ADSL routers do not improve internet speed much.
Depending on the type of connection to the internet there are a few types of modems; fixed ADSL, Cable and mobile 3G or 4G. Again they call it mobile 3G-4G network – just “wireless network”, which is true but not precise because a local WiFi network is wireless as well. So the router with a WiFi connection to a computer and mobile 3G-4G connection to the internet can be called a Mobile 3G-4G WiFi router. Mobile 3G-4G WiFi routers can be fixed and connected to the main power or movable and work on battery. The former ones Big Pond calls “Pocket WiFi Modems” because you can literally have them in your pocket. Optus calls Mobile 3G-4G WiFi routers “Mini WiFi Modem”. Regular WiFi routers can connect up to 255 WiFi devices but Telstra’s mobile 3G-4G WiFi routers are limited to 5 and “Mini WiFi Modems” supplied by Optus are limited to 10 or 32 simultaneous devices.
Not everyone knows that they can use their smartphone as a mobile 3G-4G WiFi router – no additional internet account is necessary. I’ve seen people purchase more expensive iPads with 4G and pay monthly fees for an additional mobile 4G internet account while all they had to do is turn on tethering setting in their iPhone / Android phones or tablets to share internet connection with a non-4G iPad (WiFi only) or laptop. And versa-versa, if you have iPad with 3G already you can use it as a mobile 3G-4G WiFi router too. One thing to remember when tethering a device to your phone is the data limit. Most mobile accounts come with at least 1Gb of data which is enough for internet browsing and e-mails but may be run out fast if you download a lot. For example a movie download can exceed 4Gb.
|Cheapest mobile 3G-4G data plans and mobile modems price comparison, min contract 12 month.|
|3G-4G data only plans||Mobile Plans with 3G-4G data|
|Telstra 4G||1||< 40Mbps||$40||$40||$13||$15+$48upfront||$60 for 1GB data + $600 calls|
|Virgin||2||<20Mbs||$19||$9.5||0||$7||$49 for 2GB data + $450 calls|
|Optus 3G||5||$24.95||$4.99||$5||$8||$60 for 2GB data + unlimited calls|
|Optus 4G||10||< 40Mbps||$34.95||$3.495||$11||$15|
|retrieved on 1May 2013, *USB modem is for 1 computer only
Obviously Telstra mobile WiFi is the most expensive, yet they claim that their mobile network coverage is better. I agree that Telstra’s old (H+) mobile network coverage is better everywhere. But the new Telstra 4G is still patchy here in Sydney Northern Beaches. For an average mobile phone user, there’s is no difference between most generations of mobile networks until they start use mobile phone for the internet.