Mobile broadband is a great way to get connected to the internet – it’s portable, affordable and easy to use. However, like all relatively new technologies, it is not perfect.
That's especially the case in rural areas, where 3G and 4G internet connections aren't always as good as they might be.
Here, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most common mobile broadband problems and providing an easy-to-follow guide to solving them.
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Problems with mobile broadband coverage
Mobile broadband is delivered over 3G and 4G mobile phone networks. Unfortunately, around ten per cent of the UK doesn’t even have access to older 3G technology, let alone a super-fast 4G service.
Areas that are particularly affected are deep rural parts of Scotland, Wales and the South West. If you live in one of these areas, it’s likely you’ll suffer from reception and speed problems.
If you live in a city, you’re likely to suffer at peak times. This is because although there are lots of mobile phone masts, there are also lots of people using the service at the same time.
Before committing to a mobile contract, it’s worth checking the coverage of the provider that you plan to use. Here's where you'll find coverage checkers for the UK's mobile broadband networks:
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Problems with mobile broadband speeds
3G mobile broadband providers claim that you can expect a maximum connection speed of up to 21Mb. However, even in an area with excellent coverage you are unlikely to enjoy that. Ofcom figures reveal that the average 3G speed is 1.5Mbps.
Of course, 4G is faster. Much faster, in fact, with users able to access speeds up to five times the 3G average. However, 4G is solely available in select locations and from a much more limited range of providers than 3G.
There are three main factors that affect the speed of a 3G or 4G connection:
- Location - how close you are to mobile phone masts
- Time - what time of day you use it
- Electrical interference - large pylons, power stations, cabling etc.
Installation problems with mobile broadband
Software is pre-installed on dongles, so installation is easy. No separate driver discs are needed – just insert the USB drive and follow the onscreen instructions.
If nothing happens when you insert the USB device, the first thing to do is try another USB port. If this works, you’ll know that the problem lies with the port rather than your mobile broadband dongle.
If you've still got no joy after using all your USB ports, then try another USB device (like an iPod, Blackberry, drive etc.) to test the USB port.
Windows users can browse (through My Computer in Windows XP, or Computer in Windows Vista and 7) to see if the USB drive is showing up there. If it is, you can right-click and choose “install.” If it is still not shown, it is likely that it is faulty, so call the provider for advice.
If you use Windows Vista or Windows 7, the My Computer icon has been renamed Computer, and the icon is located in the same place - the start menu.