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Friday, March 26, 2010

Wireless Broadband or Mobile Broadband ?

We are living in the era where dialup is viewed as taboo even though not too long ago it used to be the only means of connecting to the Internet. Modern KL-nites especially the younger generation are infatuated by the term “WIRELESS” or “MOBILE”; simply because it means the freedom to work or play at anytime, anywhere.

Many of us may already know the difference between Broadband, Wireless Broadband and Mobile Broadband. But because of frustration using existing service and also the compelling advertisement from famous brand name, a lot of us will change their service provider. And we may later exclaim disappointment because the service experience will be a mismatch to our expectation.


The modem at home/office still requires to be connected using a telephone line

Wireless Broadband

User connect to internet through a nearby tower and therefore can freely move about within the coverage area.

Mobile Broadband

The tongle that plugs into your laptop basically has the same access like your mobile phone to the mobile operators network coverage, therefore as long as there is sufficient bandwidth, you will be able to access to internet

The biggest misconception about wireless broadband* is that we can connect from anywhere. That simply isn't the case. Technically, Wireless Internet service providers (or WISPs, for short) will have to operate a series of cell sites that transmit their Internet signals in a fashion similar to how mobile phone cell site operate. This is a costly endeavor that takes time to establish. It also means that once you are out of the cell site coverage area, you will not be able to connect.

In Malaysia, or at least in Selangor, the setup of signal sites is contracted to State Back Companies. Coupled with the slow revenue turnover (or is it loss?), it is not hard to imagine the multitude of delay for WISPs to roll out their sites; which directly impact their subscriptions take up rate. It is indeed, unfortunately, like the chicken-and-egg scenario.

If you need Internet access while moving about, then you should go for Mobile Broadband.

Mobile broadband is the term used to describe various types of “high speed" internet access through a portable modem and/or mobile phone. Various network standards may be used, such as EDGE, GPRS 3G, UMTS/HSPA and etc. All of these “high speed” access piggyback on a mobile network infrastructure (EDGE, HSPA etc actually share spectrum with mobile voice calls). While it allows you to access to internet anywhere where there is mobile coverage with 2.5G signal or above, the data (internet) user will have to compete with voice user for the limited bandwidth. Usually the voice user will have priority over data user.

However, it is the same group of voice user who is subsidizing for the growing bandwidth capacity and enhanced infrastructure that mobile operators are offering to data user. Until recently, most mobile operators that offer Unlimited Mobile Broadband are still struggling to recover the cost of expanding bandwidth.

So, before we decide to subscribe to internet access package, we ought to be clear about our requirement; i.e. extend of mobility required by you when accessing internet and more importantly check with the provider the exact location of the nearest signal site. If you are subscribing to mobile broadband, check that the nearest base station that you frequently logon to supports high speed internet access, e.g. 3G and HSPA. When a signal site serves too many users, the user experience is different for Wireless Broadband and Mobile Broadband.


Some mobile operators do advertise their Mobile Broadband service as Wireless Broadband.

Contributor: Stella

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