What is a USB Wireless Modem?

What is a USB Wireless Modem

A USB wireless modem is a device that acts as a host and provides Internet access to another device such as a laptop or desktop. This works by connecting to cellular towers with specialized receiver antennas, similar to those found on your cellular phone. Using a USB Wireless Modem, you can access the Internet from anywhere in the service provider’s coverage area without CAT 5 cables, usb wired connections, or worry about finding a Wi-Fi hotspot.

At the moment, USB modems are the most popular wireless modem devices, completely overtaking similar but less efficient technologies such as PC network cards, embedded modules, and wireless routers.

Nowadays, the majority of wireless broadband users that take advantage of portable connectivity do so through USB ports and USB wireless modems. The main rival and alternative, the PC card slot, has rapidly been displaced starting way back in 2006 with the universal acceptance of usb ports and slots.

One of the main reasons analysts believe USB wireless modems have gained so much popularity is because of its versatility at such an economical price range. According to ABI Research’s Cellular Modem Product Tracking Database, more than 50 percent of the modem models now available in the market utilize the ubiquitous USB interface.

“USB dongles connect the subscriber to a specific network rapidly and without installing drivers. As new networks using the latest 3G or 4G protocols emerge, the USB modem is ready to update the installed base of portable and mobile computers,” says Jeff Orr, principal analyst, mobile devices at ABI Research.

Despite its obvious popularity, there is still much debate as to whether or not embedded modem modules in new computers or the recent interest in personal hotspot routers connecting multiple Wi-Fi devices to a single wireless WAN connection can overtake their USB dongle counterparts.

Current trends in the market suggest that more portable devices will be looking for network to connect to. The wireless modem market can solve this in many ways including its varying form factors, air interface protocols, and increased attention to aesthetics and overall consumer trends.

The mobile broadband USB modems available today from major cellular service providers all support a variation of air interface technologies. Approximately half of all USB wireless modems support GSM, GPRS, EDGE, or HSDPA.

A USB wireless modem is an incredibly resourceful tool for mobile computing and online activity. Along with use for desktops and laptops, these devices are also the primary choice for computing using Windows Mobile based devices, such as a PDA (Personal Desktop Assistant) and Windows Mobile PC allowing them to connect to the internet using a wireless connection unrestricted by a mobile hotspot coverage area.

USB wireless modems are typically sold by service providers that come along with other equipment that you can find useful for your mobile wireless setup. The most popular of these packages is the HDSPA. The HDSPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) package comes along with a USB tray, a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, a USB sharing cable used to connect two different personal computers and a single USB cable.

To start, place the SIM card inside the USB module tray, and then connect the USB cable. All of the necessary drivers for the device to work should already be present on the USB wireless modem, therefore driver installation from a computer it isn’t necessary.

After the device designates the appropriate drivers for itself, the system will them process to install your USB wireless modem. All you have to do (in most cases) is click on the next button or ok when the setup wizard prompts you to do so. Depending on the resolution of your laptop screen, desktop monitor or mobile device, you might have to adjust the resolution to 800×600 when an error pops up that indicates that this has occurred. After this initial installation completes you should be able to connect to the internet without a problem.

In order to connect to the internet you might also need a USB 2.0 cable or a Bluetooth adapter. In the past it was important to have a smartphone with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)/EDGE (Electronic Data Gathering Equipment). Also use a CMDA (Code Division Multiple Access) 1X/EvDO (Evolution-Data Optimized) data plan along with tethering plans from carriers such as, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.

The main concept of using CMDA is to use similar technology used by laptops in using wireless or Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet. Currently, most mobile phones use GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication), with the use of USB wireless modem, it allows the Windows Mobile PC or UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) to get the signal from the telecommunication provider.

You should also bear in mind that the USB wireless modem uses a data plan. This does not coincide with your call minutes plan.

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Vincent Clarke

Vincent Clarke is the Universal Serial Bus (USB) Guru for USBtips.com. When he's not writing tutorials and catching up on the latest USB news, Vincent is busy preparing his next blog post and answering USB questions from his readers and subscribers.

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