ictQATAR, the Supreme Council for Information & Communication Technology, continues its series of consumer tips, on a variety of telecom issues.
Mobile broadband is the name used to describe various types of wireless high-speed internet access through a portable modem, telephone or other device such as a PC data card, USB modem, USB sticks, dongles, phones with data modems and other portable devices with built-in support for Mobile Broadband.
Various network standards may be used to do this, such as GPRS, 3G, WiMAX, LTE UMTS/HSPA, EV-DO and some portable satellite-based systems.
Mobile broadband allows you to connect to the world wide web wherever you are, regardless of whether you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot or near a phone line.
When you sign-up to a mobile internet service, your provider will usually supply you with the USB dongle including a SIM card, data card or other device that does the same job.
Some criteria to keep in mind before you buy include:
• Usage/download limits - Are there such limits? What are they? Will you be a heavy or light user?
• Speeds - what will be your average? Will your location affect that?
• What is better for you - a monthly contract or pay as you go (based on usage and capacity) ?
• If there is equipment (eg. a laptop or other device) included in the plan - Is this good value for you? Add up the total contract cost and check if it is cheaper to buy the laptop or device yourself independently.
• Price vs length of contract - it may be cheaper if it's for longer but you may want to change plans or providers before the end of a 2-year contract.
Usage and download limits
Some plans state a total amount you are allowed to download per month. It can be seen as the equivalent of how many minutes and texts you get with your mobile phone package, but is usually measured in gigabytes (GBs). Service providers offering 'Unlimited' packages may still apply a 'fair usage policy' (see below) so that there is some sort of maximum limit to prevent abuse.
For many users, a lower limit (perhaps 3GB?) is usually sufficient for their needs. It is worth bearing in mind that 1GB could get you 250-1,000 songs, but just one grainy film or a few fuzzy TV episodes. You will need more if you plan on legal file sharing, downloading lots of music, or streaming content such as YouTube. You may wish to consider using your fixed-line home broadband instead, keeping your mobile broadband connection for lighter usage while on the move.
As the Internet promises to bring more and more to us such as TV Programming, movies, games and integrated broadband services, telecommunications service providers are marketing their services to you by claiming faster and faster broadband speeds.
Many customers are already using available bandwidth, and applications that require more bandwidth are being deployed and sold. This has led to demand for an increase in the overall level of the bandwidth available with increased capacity and speed. Service providers achieve this by upgrading the overall telecommunications network, migrating to improved network and facilities.
Different service providers will advertise different speeds but location will impact upon available speed due to the availability of wireless network.
You may find that your broadband speed is a lot slower at certain times of the day. Like roads, internet speed also depends on how much people are using it. At peak times, often in the afternoons and evenings, your broadband speed may be slower.
Your speed might also be cut or controlled by your service provider, if you have breached their fair usage policy. If your speed has been cut in this way then you may want to contact your service provider and ask them why and how you can avoid being affected in this way in the future.
In choosing a mobile broadband plan, it is best to look at all aspects and not just the speeds on offer.
Your broadband speed
Although your mobile broadband package will have a maximum speed (eg. "up to 8MB per second" or "up to 15 GB for data allowances") - you as the consumer are unlikely to be able to get this speed all the time.
Please note that service providers are required by law to fully inform you, and not mislead you, about the services you buy before you buy.
Information you may want to know about your broadband speeds before you sign-up to a mobile broadband service could be:
• An estimate of the maximum speed you will be able to achieve when using the service;
• An indication of the average speed available from your service provider;
• An explanation of how technical factors (such as your distance from the exchange or towers) may slow the speeds that you can achieve and what you can do to improve any technical limitations you may have;
• What other alternative packages might be available, without any penalties, if the actual speed is a lot lower than the original estimate.
Fair Usage Policy
Service providers sometimes have a 'fair usage policy' that applies to customers using internet services, including mobile services. This allows the service provider to manage traffic on their network and ensure users can achieve the usage and speeds promised under their broadband plans.
A fair usage policy can state:
• A monthly usage allowance that applies to you;
• How you will be notified if you exceed your monthly usage allowance;
• Charges that may apply after exceeding your monthly usage allowance (a download cap?);
• Charges or limits that may apply for broadband roaming if you travel overseas;
• How to upgrade to a higher usage allowance or downgrade if you use the service less frequently.
Some customers can experience a sudden drop in speeds or temporary interruption of service if they have been using the Internet heavily. If this occurs, check the fair usage policy that applies to your subscription.
Remember, financial penalties such as a higher rate of charges often apply for exceeding your usage limit.
Broadband roaming charges
You should be aware that roaming rates will apply when using mobile broadband while you are out of Qatar (broadband roaming charges). Check with your service provider if it has a price/per/MB for using broadband mobile in the country in which you will be travelling.
If you intend to download a movie to your laptop while laying on the beach in Tahiti, it will probably cost you a lot more than at home.
If you regularly travel overseas, it is worth looking for broadband plans that include a monthly bundled overseas data allowance.
When you're searching for a mobile broadband service provider, the chances are these words will pop up now and again. Here's what they mean...
3G mobile broadband - 3G is a name for the service that allows fast, mobile access to the internet via the mobile phone networks. It's what makes fast browsing possible when you're away from home. With a 3G service, you should be able to carry out quite demanding tasks like downloading videos and music.
HSPA - This stands for 'high speed packet access'. All you need to know is that this allows you to upload and download large files to your device like email attachments at something like the speeds you would do so with your home broadband. You may also see HSUPA and HSDPA - with the extra letter standing for 'upload' and 'download' respectively.
Dongle - This is the name given to the USB modem that plugs into your laptop. It bears a resemblance to a USB memory stick, but enables you to get a connection for your mobile broadband via a SIM card inside. Dongles are 'plug and play', so once you slot it into one of your laptop's USB slots it will automatically install so you can surf the web within minutes.
You are entitled to have your complaints to your service provider dealt with promptly and fairly. The contact details for QTel and Vodafone for this purpose are:
QTel Call Centre: 111
QTel Overseas Enquiries: +974 438 0000
QTel Customer Service email: customer.service/-a-t-/qtel.com.qa
Vodafone Customer Call Centre: +974 800 7111
If your concerns are not resolved to your satisfaction within 30 calendar days, you may contact ictQATAR by:
• Calling the ictQATAR Consumer Voice Hotline: +974 4995353
• Emailing us at consumervoice/-a-t-/ict.gov.qa
• Send us a Fax to: +974 4995515
For more consumer tips, visit ictQATAR's website: http://www.ictqatar.qa/output/page32.asp
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