4G Mobile Broadband Reviews

The Reviews.com research team gathered a list of 15 4G mobile broadband providers and reviewed 7 of the best companies based on 32 unique features.

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Internet Service Providers Features That We Reviewed

What 4G Mobile Broadband Features Matter and Why?

Contract

Very Important
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Contract discusses factors common in Internet service provider contracts, including fees and contract length. Many of the top Internet service providers charge activation or early termination fees and increase the monthly rate over time. The best Internet service providers don't charge these fees and guarantee steady prices throughout the terms of the contract. Some Internet service providers require customers to sign lengthy contracts, while others allow customers to get service without a contract. Contract is an important category because it identifies many of the important factors to consider when signing up with an Internet service provider.

  • Money-Back Guarantee - The Internet service provider offers some form of money back guarantee within an allotted time period.
  • No Activation Fees - The Internet service provider doesn't charge any activation fees.
  • No Contract - You can get Internet service without signing any contract.
  • No Early Termination Fees - The Internet service provider does not charge a termination fee if you cancel your contract early.
  • No Long-Term Contract - You can get Internet service without signing a contract that is longer than one year.
  • No Price Increases - The Internet service provider does not automatically increase prices at certain time periods.
  • Short-Term Contract - You can get Internet service without signing a contract that is longer than six months.

Equipment

Very Important
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Equipment discusses the various components of the Internet service that are provided by the company. In most cases, this includes an Ethernet cable and a modem. For those who go with a satellite Internet provider, this also includes any mounting and cable equipment necessary to the system. Some Internet service providers give customers the modem for free, which is great because otherwise there is usually a monthly lease fee for this equipment. Obviously these things are crucial to any Internet service, but the category itself shouldn't be overly important since almost all companies already provide these items.

  • Free Shipping - The Internet provider will ship any equipment needed for free.
  • Internet Modem - The Internet service provider offers an Internet modem or device to rent or buy.
  • Mobile Hotspot - The Internet service provider offers access to a mobile hotspot device to rent or buy.
  • Mobile Router - The Internet service provider offers access to a mobile router to rent or buy.
  • Wireless Stick - The Internet service provider offers a wireless stick to rent or buy.

Performance and Speed

Very Important
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Performance and Speed deals with the speeds offered by the Internet service providers as well as any limitations on data usage, which only come into play for satellite and 4G Internet service. Available speeds vary dramatically based on the type of Internet service, as do the data restrictions. Some companies allow unlimited data usage, while others slow the Internet speed or charge users extra once they have exceeded a certain point. Certain companies enable customers to purchase additional data if they surpass this limit. This category is one of the most important to think about when choosing an Internet service provider, as it has the largest effect on the overall performance of the Internet.

  • Extensive Data - The Internet service offers more than 20 GB of data per month.
  • High Speed Plus - The Internet service offers download speeds between 11 and 25 Mbps.
  • Moderate Data - The Internet service offers 10 to 20 GB of data per month.
  • No Bandwidth Throttling - The internet service provider will not throttle your bandwidth, regardless of usage.
  • Standard High Speed - The Internet service offers download speeds up to 10 Mbps.
  • Unlimited Data - The Internet service allows unlimited data usage.

Account

Fairly Important
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Account explains how consumers can manage their Internet service through an online account. Through this account, users can update their contact and payment information, and even view and pay their bills online. Those with satellite Internet can also monitor their available bandwidth online. All of these features are extremely important, but the category as a whole shouldn't play a big part in the decision-making process, simply because almost all companies score highly in this area.

  • Make Payment - You can make a payment online.
  • Monitor Data Usage - You can monitor your monthly data usage online.
  • Update Contact Information - You can update your contact information online.
  • Update Payment Method - You can update your payment method online.
  • View Bill - You can view your bill online.

Support

Fairly Important
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Support has to do with the different ways that customers can reach an Internet service provider with questions or concerns, and how frequently the company's support channels are available. The main types of support offered are email, phone, live chat, and social media support. The best Internet service providers have one or more methods of support available 24/7, as well as knowledgeable technical support staff to assist users in case problems arise. This category may not affect a consumer's day-to-day usage of the Internet service, but if an issue occurs, it is very important.

  • 24-Hour Support - You can receive customer service or support 24 hours a day through a dedicated support line.
  • Email/Ticket - The Internet service provider has an email or ticket system dedicated to support.
  • Live Chat - The Internet service provider offers live chat support.
  • Phone - You can contact the Internet service provider by phone to get support.
  • Social Media - You can contact the Internet service provider with questions through social media websites.
  • Tech Support - The Internet service provider offers technical support.

Learning Materials

Less Important
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Learning Materials are the resources found on the Internet service provider's website that introduce customers to their products and services and walk them through solutions to technical problems. An FAQ is provided on almost every company's website, and a knowledge base provides more detailed explanations. User guides are useful for learning how to set up the Internet service and troubleshoot basic issues. For those answers that can't be found anywhere else, the top Internet providers have a forum where users can talk to each other and members of the company about the service. These features can be very useful, but probably do not have a large impact on most people's purchasing decision.

  • FAQ - The Internet provider has a list of answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Forum - The Internet provider has an interactive forum where users can post questions and answers.
  • Knowledge Base - The Internet provider has a knowledge base of detailed help articles.
  • User Guide - A user guide or training manual is offered by the Internet provider.

Signing Up

Less Important
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Signing Up encompasses the various different ways that new customers can sign up for the Internet service and the tools offered by the Internet provider to simplify the process. Most Internet providers allow people to sign up with them online, over the phone, or through an authorized dealer. One resource provided by many of the best Internet service providers is an online plan selector tool that guides customers to the plan best suited for their needs. An online tool to help locate a local dealer is also useful to those who prefer to sign up with an authorized dealer at a retail location. Signing Up is not the most important category, but it is something that Internet service providers should get right.

  • Authorized Dealers - You can sign up for Internet service in person through an authorized dealer at a retail location.
  • Find a Dealer - The Internet service provider's website has a feature that helps you find a dealer closest to you.
  • No Credit Check - You can get Internet service without going through a credit check.
  • Online - You can sign up for Internet service online.
  • Phone - You can sign up for Internet service by phone.
  • Plan Selector - The Internet service provider's website provides a plan selector tool to help you pick the right plan for your needs.

What Are the Different Types of 4G Internet Service?


4G Internet is essentially the next and current generation of wireless data technology. Identifying a true 4G network can be difficult because service providers implement different technology standards in their networks, yet they all operate under the same banner. 4G differentiates itself by providing stronger connectivity and having the capability to transfer data much faster than the older 3G networks. Although the speeds offered by different providers vary, a true connection should be about 10 times faster than 3G.

4G LTE

4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the fastest and most modern type of 4G network. In fact, it is almost good enough to be a replacement for a wired Internet connection. In many cases, the speeds delivered on these network run more than 10 times faster than 3G. Verizon's network is arguably the most well-established, providing service to hundreds of cities across the U.S. Other major service providers like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are all investing billions to upgrade and expand their current service, making LTE the probable mobile broadband technology of the future.

WiMAX

WiMAX was introduced by Sprint in 2008 and was the first technology standard to be labeled 4G. WiMAX is a noticeable improvement over 3G networks, as data can delivered about three times faster. However, despite the improvement in speeds, WiMAX was not adapted by multiple service providers, and coverage has been mostly limited to major cities. Over the past few years, WiMAX has suffered as an increasing number of service providers around the world have moved to LTE technology.

HSPA+

HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access) is another technical standard for wireless and is considered by some as a viable 4G option. HSPA+ offers speeds that are similar to WiMAX, but because HSPA+ is essentially a faster 3G network, many in the technology industry don't consider it to be true 4G. HSPA+ is offered by major service providers like T-Mobile and AT&T, but most other providers are moving towards other technologies.


How Does 4G Mobile Broadband Service Work?


Coverage

4G mobile broadband is primarily offered through major wireless service providers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and others. Verizon's 4G LTE network is arguably the most well-established, providing service in hundreds of cities across the nation. Over the past several years, companies like Sprint and T-Mobile have invested billions of dollars in an attempt to upgrade and expand their existing networks. Larger networks help ensure that customers can expect the same mobile broadband service, regardless of where they live and travel. Researching the coverage area is an important factor when selecting an Internet provider, as some smaller companies only offer service in select major cities.

Data Usage

The 4G Internet offered by most major wireless carriers comes with strict monthly data caps. If more than a certain amount of data is used by a single Internet user, there are overage penalties. The carrier can either slow down the speed of Internet that flows to a user's device, or they can charge overage fees or require that an extra set amount of data be purchased during the same month. Power users should keep data limits in mind when looking at Internet plans.

Equipment

Wireless Stick

Wireless sticks are a convenient way to get instant Internet whether at home or out on the go. A wireless Internet stick is a USB modem that plugs into any laptop via a USB port. The wireless stick delivers mobile broadband Internet directly to a device at speeds that are comparable to normal home or work Internet speeds. A wireless stick device is powered by the laptop's battery, and most are compatible with both Macs and PCs. Wireless sticks are ideal for those who travel often or for households that only need to connect one device at a time.

Hotspot

Hotspots are small, pocket-size wireless routers that provide Internet access for a multiple number of Wi-Fi enabled devices on a single mobile broadband connection. Hotspots can be set up either at home or while on the go, and can reach about 30 feet in range. Hotspots can be useful for households or businesses with multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, or any combination of these. Keep in mind that only up to a certain number of devices can be supported at one time, but a hotspot can be shared anywhere away from home within a carrier's coverage area.

Home Modem

Unlike wireless sticks and hotspots that are often used to provide supplemental access to the Internet while away from home or office networks, home modems are for those who use 4G service as the primary source of Internet. The best modems can support between 15 and 20 simultaneously connected devices, and can achieve reasonably competitive download and upload speeds. A home modem accessing a 4G network is a viable high-speed Internet alternative for those with limited broadband options, and is especially appealing to households with multiple Internet users.


Who is 4G Mobile Broadband Good For?


4G mobile broadband is ideal for the Internet user on the go, especially business people, those who frequently travel, and anyone else who wants to be constantly connected to the Internet on on their mobile phone, tablet, and other devices. The always-on mobile connectivity lets anyone work remotely and does not confine work to a desktop or stationary environment. The cost may lure bargain hunters, too, since pricing can run significantly lower than any other type of Internet service, especially cable Internet.

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