Cell Phones and You, On the Move

By: K. Lynn

With the technology available to us today we are no longer tethered to our homes and offices when we have the need to access our email or the Internet. With portable computers, hand held devices, and aircards we now have the ability to work or play from virtually anywhere in the world.

What Is An Aircard

An aircard is, simply put, a device that connects to your laptop via your USB or PCMCIA slot. The device becomes a wireless modem for your laptop, allowing you to have the same type of Internet access you would at home or in the office when plugged into your network or phone line. Mobile carriers that use SIM card technology will give you the ability to switch between using your SIM card in your aircard or in your cell phone, so long as you have the data plan enabled on it.

Where Can An Aircard Be Purchased

An aircard can be easily purchased from your mobile carrier for use on their network. Aircards purchased from your carrier will be locked to their network; this means that you can only use your aircard on their particular network. This can restrict you a bit when traveling, especially internationally, because you are tied to your "home" mobile network. You have the ability, additionally, to purchase an aircard directly from a retailer that specializes in mobile products. These aircards will be unlocked and can be used on any wireless network.

Locked vs. Unlocked

The main difference between buying locked or unlocked aircard will often be price. Mobile carriers can offer aircards that are locked to their network at heavily discounted prices. However, you will often need to be tied into a minimum of a one year contract with your carrier. Additionally, if you switch to another mobile carrier you will need to purchase a new aircard to ensure that you have one that works on your new network. Purchasing an unlocked aircard will, initially, be a more expensive investment but consider the benefits. You will not be locked into a length contract with your mobile carrier, giving you the freedom to switch between carriers; this can be especially useful if you are a frequent international traveler since it's often more cost effective to use a local cellular provider when traveling in foreign countries. Depending on your mobile provider, you can often ask them to provide you with an unlock code for your aircard device; a quick phone call to explain your travel needs should take care of this with them.

Cost

Depending on if you opt for an aircard from your provider or an unlocked card from another retailer, your aircard can be purchased for under $300. Many providers will often provide the aircard to you for free if you agree to sign a two year contract with them. The biggest expense that you will need to keep an eye out for is going to be the cost of the data plan. If you plan on using your aircard frequently then it will be worth it to you to sign up for the unlimited data plan offered by your carrier. Choosing a plan with a low data allowance can get you into trouble with high bills at the end of your billing cycle if you happen to go over your limit. An unlimited data plan can often be found for about $49 a month.

Choosing An Aircard

Before making your decision to purchase an aircard consider talking to your mobile carrier to find out what they can offer you in terms of type of aircard and rate plans. It may be as simple as changing your plan to include unlimited data, many carriers will then offer the aircard to you at no additional cost. If you are considering going the route of purchasing your aircard from another retailer be sure to do your research on the products you are considering.

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