Caravan internet guide – phone network
No wi-fi or fancy devices? You can still get online but beware of potential pitfalls...
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The cellphone network can be a very convenient way of getting online but you really need a 3G signal (or better) for a workable connection.
A 3G connection should give you download speeds in the range 1-4 Mbps (megabits per second). 4G is much faster – the author has seen 40Mbps, albeit on brand new networks with probably very little loading.
Various devices can be used to connect to the internet via the cellphone network. A smartphone can be a very convenient way to keep a check on emails but not necessarily so good if detailed responses are required. For that, a laptop or tablet is much better. There are a number of ways in which these can be connected to the cellphone network.
How can I connect my device?Tablets may come with 3G connectivity built-in but, of course, you will need to take out a contract with one of the network operators as you would do with a smartphone. As with any device when accessing the internet, be aware of security measures and stay safe online.
Without in-built 3G, you may be able to use a wi-fi connection, Bluetooth or a USB connection to connect the device to your smartphone and use that as a modem – a process known as tethering.
This can be really useful but some network operators disable the phone's in-built tethering software to prevent it being connected to another device, presumably to reduce the load on their networks.
As an alternative to using a mobile phone to access the internet you can use a USB dongle or Mi-Fi device. These connect directly to the phone network using an internal SIM card. If the card is on a different network to that of your mobile phone you will have a better chance of getting a good signal than with a single device.
What about when I go abroad?If you regularly travel to different countries it can be worth investing in an International SIM card. You will of course need an unlocked GSM (Global System for Mobile) device but you could reap huge savings when compared to using a UK SIM card in Europe.
Ensure you get one with a decent data allowance if you want internet access. For a tablet or Mi-Fi device you can get data-only SIMS. Speak to your service provider or nearest phone shop for more details.