WiFi Hotspots vs. Mobile Broadband

Posted on December 6, 2012 by Nikhil P Naik

Should you use a Wi-Fi hotspot or sign up for a mobile broadband service? Read on to find out how they stack up against each other.


In terms of speed, Wi-Fi network connection speeds are often faster than what mobile broadband network providers can deliver. Mobile broadband relies on the carefully controlled 3G network, which has an associated high cost of data transfer. Thus, mobile broadband network speed and usage limitations are set in place.



In terms of range, mobile broadband wins because Wi-Fi access is only limited to a specific location. When you venture out of the Wi-Fi hotspot, you also lose the network connection.

Wi-Fi networks are normally set up by business establishments to provide signal coverage in their buildings. They offer it free to their customers as part of their marketing campaigns. Wi-Fi networks that generate hotspots are configured according to the topology of the location, meaning they can be installed to cater to a small group of people or to entire infrastructures of thousands of users connecting through the network at the same time.

Mobile broadband services, on the other hand, need signal coverage from the service provider. Physical obstructions can pose a problem, resulting in spotty internet connection in some cases.

mobile Broadband


When you need to access a Wi-Fi network, you can do so anytime because almost all modern laptops have built in Wi-Fi capabilities.

With mobile broadband, you need PC cards (or PC data cards), USB modems, USB flash drives called dongles, or other portable devices. Plus, you may encounter the occasional incompatibility issue while using these devices.


If you use a public Wi-Fi hotspot, then the cost is essentially free apart from the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, for instance, to connect to its network. Just be wary of the security risks involved when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks where your data becomes easy prey for hackers.

Setting up Wi-Fi in your home can cost as much as getting a wired connection because you basically pay for a wireless network access that is limited by the “boundaries” of your home. You can tweak the network limitations, of course, for an additional cost.

The pricing of mobile broadband, on the other hand, can range from affordable monthly subscriptions to prepaid plans. The downside: you have a download limit because service providers need to control the exorbitant cost of data transfer across the 3G network. The restriction also prevents the network from overloading. So, when you pay for mobile broadband access, you need to monitor your usage, most especially if you do heavy downloading.

Mobile broadband access is, literally, “mobile.” But when you travel to other countries, steer clear of international roaming because its per minute cost can skyrocket. You are better off using the Wi-Fi options available to you at certain locations.

To properly decide between these two types of broadband service, ask yourself when and where you need access to the internet. If you only need it occasionally, then the extra subscription or prepaid plan to use mobile broadband is impractical. Go to a mall then browse there. Or better yet, set up a wireless network connection in your home.

About the Author: Sam Jones is an author for uswitch.com

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About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has a Master's Degree in Information Systems, and is currently working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft. He also loves playing cricket, listening to music, and traveling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.

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