Mobile broadband helping to bridge the connectivity divide
BT Wholesale's website famously likes to remind us all that 99% of UK homes and businesses can already get broadband. It's a figure that has been thrown about for the best part of over two years, though it still leaves out 1% from a 60,943,912 (July 2007 est.) strong population.
That single percentage typically includes people from remote parts of the country, where land-line broadband services have been unable to reach. Until recently many of these consumers had little choice but to use a slow dialup connection or adopt an expensive and inflexible satellite service.
Happily the increasingly fast paced rollout of newer Mobile Broadband services, which can reach further with its wireless coverage than Wi-Fi and is relatively cheap for operators to install, may finally provide a solution to the problem.
During the past few months we've heard from a growing number of readers whom could not previously access a land-line broadband link, yet have now found themselves able to connect via Mobile Broadband using one of the UK's five main mobile operators (most commonly 'Three', 'Vodafone' and 'T-Mobile').
It's fast becoming clear that Mobile Broadband could prove to be an effective solution to this age old "last mile" problem, which even future fibre optic (FTTx) services will be unable to solve. However, Mobile Broadband is not perfect and does still suffer from a number of problems.
Firstly, while it may now be affordable, Mobile Broadband still lacks the flexibility (bigger data usage allowances etc.) of comparable land-line products. Some have also been known to restrict access to certain services, such as Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and Instant Messaging.
Performance (speed) can also fluctuate a lot, especially if you try using the connection from deep inside your home, though this will improve as the technology evolves. In addition, some connections often use aggressive image compression on webpages to save bandwidth, which is useful but can make some sites look extremely ugly and may also damage useful data.
There's also the problem of value-added services; most land-line providers offer everything from e-mail access to domain hosting, although to be fair it's now quite possible to get most of these for free from third parties (e.g. GMail [Google]). In addition, having a poor credit rating won't stop you being able to buy a pay-as-you-go package like it might with some land-line services.
So it's not perfect, far from it, but provided you can get it we'd still say that Mobile Broadband is a much better choice than either dialup or satellite. We recommend that those of you still stuck in the "last mile" make sure to keep an eye on operator coverage and check our listings: