Mobile broadband

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A mobile broadband modem in the ExpressCard form factor for laptop computers Expresscard 34.jpg
A mobile broadband modem in the ExpressCard form factor for laptop computers
HTC ThunderBolt, the second commercially available LTE smartphone HTC Thunderbolt.jpg
HTC ThunderBolt, the second commercially available LTE smartphone

Mobile broadband is the marketing term for wireless Internet access through a portable modem, USB wireless modem, or a tablet/smartphone or other mobile device. The first wireless Internet access became available in 1991 as part of the second generation (2G) of mobile phone technology. Higher speeds became available in 2001 and 2006 as part of the third (3G) and fourth (4G) generations. In 2011, 90% of the world's population lived in areas with 2G coverage, while 45% lived in areas with 2G and 3G coverage. [1] Mobile broadband uses the spectrum of 225 MHz to 3700 MHz. [2]

Wireless broadband

Wireless broadband is telecommunications technology that provides high-speed wireless Internet access or computer networking access over a wide area. The term comprises both fixed and mobile broadband.

Internet access individual connection to the internet

Internet access is the ability of individuals and organizations to connect to the Internet using computer terminals, computers, and other devices; and to access services such as email and the World Wide Web. Internet access is sold by Internet service providers (ISPs) delivering connectivity at a wide range of data transfer rates via various networking technologies. Many organizations, including a growing number of municipal entities, also provide cost-free wireless access.

Mobile broadband modem modem providing Internet access via a wireless connection

A mobile broadband modem is a type of modem that allows a personal computer or a router to receive Internet access via a mobile broadband connection instead of using telephone or cable television lines. A mobile Internet user can connect using a wireless modem to a wireless Internet Service Provider (ISP) to get Internet access.



Mobile broadband is the marketing term for wireless Internet access delivered through cellular towers to computers and other digital devices using portable modems. Although broadband has a technical meaning, wireless-carrier marketing uses the phrase "mobile broadband" as a synonym for mobile Internet access. Some mobile services allow more than one device to be connected to the Internet using a single cellular connection using a process called tethering. [3]

Cellular frequencies are the sets of frequency ranges within the ultra high frequency band that have been assigned for cellular-compatible mobile devices, such as mobile phones, to connect to cellular networks. Most mobile networks worldwide use portions of the radio frequency spectrum, allocated to the mobile service, for the transmission and reception of their signals. The particular bands may also be shared with other radiocommunication services, e.g. broadcasting service, and fixed service operation.

In telecommunications, broadband is wide bandwidth data transmission which transports multiple signals and traffic types. The medium can be coaxial cable, optical fiber, radio or twisted pair.

Tethering connecting one device to another

Tethering, or phone-as-modem (PAM), is the sharing of a mobile device's Internet connection with other connected computers. Connection of a mobile device with other devices can be done over wireless LAN (Wi-Fi), over Bluetooth or by physical connection using a cable, for example through USB.

The bit rates available with Mobile broadband devices support voice and video as well as other data access. Devices that provide mobile broadband to mobile computers include:

In telecommunications and computing, bit rate is the number of bits that are conveyed or processed per unit of time.

Mobile computing use of portable computers

Mobile computing is human–computer interaction in which a computer is expected to be transported during normal usage, which allows for transmission of data, voice and video. Mobile computing involves mobile communication, mobile hardware, and mobile software. Communication issues include ad hoc networks and infrastructure networks as well as communication properties, protocols, data formats and concrete technologies. Hardware includes mobile devices or device components. Mobile software deals with the characteristics and requirements of mobile applications.

Laptop Personal computer for mobile use

A laptop computer is a small, portable personal computer (PC) with a "clamshell" form factor, typically having a thin LCD or LED computer screen mounted on the inside of the upper lid of the clamshell and an alphanumeric keyboard on the inside of the lower lid. The clamshell is opened up to use the computer. Laptops are folded shut for transportation, and thus are suitable for mobile use. Its name comes from lap, as it was deemed to be placed on a person's lap when being used. Although originally there was a distinction between laptops and notebooks, as of 2014, there is often no longer any difference. Laptops are commonly used in a variety of settings, such as at work, in education, for playing games, Internet surfing, for personal multimedia, and general home computer use.

Tablet computer mobile computer with display, circuitry and battery in a single unit

A tablet computer, commonly shortened to tablet, is a mobile device, typically with a mobile operating system and touchscreen display processing circuitry, and a rechargeable battery in a single, thin and flat package. Tablets, being computers, do what other personal computers do, but lack some input/output (I/O) abilities that others have. Modern tablets largely resemble modern smartphones, the only differences being that tablets are relatively larger than smartphones, with screens 7 inches (18 cm) or larger, measured diagonally, and may not support access to a cellular network.

Mobile Internet device iphonex

A mobile Internet device (MID) is a multimedia-capable mobile device providing wireless Internet access. They are designed to provide entertainment, information and location-based services for personal or business use. They allow 2-way communication and real-time sharing. They have been described as filling a niche between smartphones and tablet computers.

Internet access subscriptions are usually sold separately from mobile service subscriptions.


Roughly every ten years, new mobile network technology and infrastructure involving a change in the fundamental nature of the service, non-backwards-compatible transmission technology, higher peak data rates, new frequency bands, and/or wider channel frequency bandwidth in Hertz, becomes available. These transitions are referred to as generations. The first mobile data services became available during the second generation (2G). [4] [5] [6]

Second generation (2G)  from 1991:
Speeds in kbit/sdown and up
CDPD up to 19.2
GSM GPRS (2.5G)56–115
GSM EDGE (2.75G) up to 237
Third generation (3G)  from 2001:
Speeds in Mbit/sdownup
UMTS HSPA 14.45.8
CDMA2000 1xRTT 0.30.15
CDMA2000 EV-DO 2.5–4.90.15–1.8
GSM EDGE-Evolution  1.60.5
Fourth generation (4G)  from 2006:
Speeds in Mbit/sdownup
HSPA+ 21–6725.8–168
Mobile WiMAX (802.16)37–36517–376
LTE 100–30050–75
 • while moving at high speeds100
 • while stationary or moving at low speedsup to 1000
MBWA (802.20)80
Fifth generation (5G)  from 2018:
Speeds in Mbit/sdownup
HSPA+ 400–25000200–3000
Mobile WiMAX (802.16)300–700186–400
5G 400–3000500–1500


The download (to the user) and upload (to the Internet) data rates given above are peak or maximum rates and end users will typically experience lower data rates.

WiMAX was originally developed to deliver fixed wireless service with wireless mobility added in 2005. CDPD, CDMA2000 EV-DO, and MBWA are no longer being actively developed.

WiMAX wireless broadband standard

WiMAX is a family of wireless broadband communication standards based on the IEEE 802.16 set of standards, which provide multiple physical layer (PHY) and Media Access Control (MAC) options.


Mobile broadband Internet subscriptions in 2012
as a percentage of a country's population
Source: International Telecommunications Union. MobileBroadbandInternetPenetrationWorldMap.svg
Mobile broadband Internet subscriptions in 2012
as a percentage of a country's population
Source: International Telecommunications Union.

In 2011, 90% of the world's population lived in areas with 2G coverage, while 45% lived in areas with 2G and 3G coverage, [1] and 5% lived in areas with 4G coverage. By 2017 more than 90% of the world's population is expected to have 2G coverage, 85% is expected to have 3G coverage, and 50% will have 4G coverage. [9]

A barrier to mobile broadband use is the coverage provided by the mobile service networks. This may mean no mobile network or that service is limited to older and slower mobile broadband technologies. Customers will not always be able to achieve the speeds advertised due to mobile data coverage limitations including distance to the cell tower. In addition, there are issues with connectivity, network capacity, application quality, and mobile network operators' overall inexperience with data traffic. [10] Peak speeds experienced by users are also often limited by the capabilities of their mobile phone or other mobile device. [9]

Subscriptions and usage

Worldwide broadband subscriptions
World population [11] 6.6 billion6.9 billion7.3 billion
Fixed broadband5%8%11.9%
Developing world2%4%8.2%
Developed world18%24%30.1%
Mobile broadband4%11%49.4%
Developing world1%4%40.9%
Developed world19%43%90.3%
a Estimate.
Source: International Telecommunication Union. [12]
Broadband subscriptions by region
  Fixed subscriptions:   200720102014a  
Arab States1%2%3%
Asia and Pacific3%6%8%
Commonwealth of
Independent States
  Mobile subscriptions:   200720102014a  
Arab States0.8%5%25%
Asia and Pacific3%7%23%
Commonwealth of
Independent States
a Estimate.
Source: International Telecommunications Union. [13]

At the end of 2012 there were estimated to be 6.6 billion mobile network subscriptions worldwide (89% penetration), representing roughly 4.4 billion subscribers (many people have more than one subscription). Growth has been around 9% year-on-year. [14] Mobile phone subscriptions were expected to reach 9.3 billion in 2018. [9]

At the end of 2012 there were roughly 1.5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions, growing at a 50% year-on-year rate. [14] Mobile broadband subscriptions were expected to reach 6.5 billion in 2018. [9]

Mobile data traffic doubled between the end of 2011 (~620 Petabytes in Q4 2011) and the end of 2012 (~1280 Petabytes in Q4 2012). [14] This traffic growth is and will continue to be driven by large increases in the number of mobile subscriptions and by increases in the average data traffic per subscription due to increases in the number of smartphones being sold, the use of more demanding applications and in particular video, and the availability and deployment of newer 3G and 4G technologies capable of higher data rates. Total mobile broadband traffic was expected to increase by a factor of 12 to roughly 13,000 PetaBytes by 2018 . [9]

On average, a mobile laptop generates approximately seven times more traffic than a smartphone (3 GB vs. 450 MB/month). This ratio was forecast to fall to 5 times (10 GB vs. 2 GB/month) by 2018. Traffic from mobile devices that tether (share the data access of one device with multiple devices) can be up to 20 times higher than that from non-tethering users and averages between 7 and 14 times higher. [9]

It has also been shown that there are large differences in subscriber and traffic patterns between different provider networks, regional markets, device and user types. [9]

Demand from emerging markets has fuelled growth in both mobile device and mobile broadband subscriptions and use. Lacking a widespread fixed-line infrastructure, many emerging markets leapfrog developed markets and use mobile broadband technologies to deliver high-speed internet access to the mass market.


Service mark for GSMA mobile broadband Mobile Broadband service mark.jpg
Service mark for GSMA mobile broadband

In use and under active development

GSM family

In 1995 telecommunication, mobile phone, integrated-circuit, and laptop computer manufacturers formed the GSM Association to push for built-in support for mobile-broadband technology on notebook computers. The association established a service mark to identify devices that include Internet connectivity. [15] Established in early 1998, the global Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) develops the evolving GSM family of standards, which includes GSM, EDGE, WCDMA, HSPA, and LTE. [16] In 2011 these standards were the most used method to deliver mobile broadband.[ citation needed ] With the development of the 4G LTE signalling standard, download speeds could be increased to 300 Mbit/s per second within the next several years. [17]

IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX)

The IEEE working group IEEE 802.16, produces standards adopted in products using the WiMAX trademark. The original "Fixed WiMAX" standard was released in 2001 and "Mobile WiMAX" was added in 2005. [18] The WiMAX Forum is a non-profit organization formed to promote the adoption of WiMAX compatible products and services. [19]

In use, but moving to other protocols

CDMA family

Established in late 1998, the global Third Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2) develops the evolving CDMA family of standards, which includes cdmaOne, CDMA2000, and CDMA2000 EV-DO. CDMA2000 EV-DO is no longer being developed. [20]

IEEE 802.20

In 2002, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established a Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA) working group. [21] They developed the IEEE 802.20 standard in 2008, with amendments in 2010. [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is a third generation mobile cellular system for networks based on the GSM standard. Developed and maintained by the 3GPP, UMTS is a component of the International Telecommunications Union IMT-2000 standard set and compares with the CDMA2000 standard set for networks based on the competing cdmaOne technology. UMTS uses wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA) radio access technology to offer greater spectral efficiency and bandwidth to mobile network operators.

Wireless local loop (WLL), is the use of a wireless communications link as the "last mile / first mile" connection for delivering plain old telephone service (POTS) or Internet access to telecommunications customers. Various types of WLL systems and technologies exist.

3G, short for third generation, is the third generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology. It is the upgrade for 2G and 2.5G GPRS networks, for faster data transfer speed. This is based on a set of standards used for mobile devices and mobile telecommunications use services and networks that comply with the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) specifications by the International Telecommunication Union. 3G finds application in wireless voice telephony, mobile Internet access, fixed wireless Internet access, video calls and mobile TV.

IEEE 802.20 IEEE standard

IEEE 802.20 or Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA) was a specification by the standard association of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for mobile wireless Internet access networks. The main standard was published in 2008. MBWA is no longer being actively developed.

4G is the fourth generation of broadband cellular network technology, succeeding 3G. A 4G system must provide capabilities defined by ITU in IMT Advanced. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television.

Evolution-Data Optimized

Evolution-Data Optimized is a telecommunications standard for the wireless transmission of data through radio signals, typically for broadband Internet access. EV-DO is an evolution of the CDMA2000 (IS-2000) standard which supports high data rates and can be deployed alongside a wireless carrier's voice services. It uses advanced multiplexing techniques including code division multiple access (CDMA) as well as time division multiplexing (TDM) to maximize throughput. It is a part of the CDMA2000 family of standards and has been adopted by many mobile phone service providers around the world particularly those previously employing CDMA networks. It is also used on the Globalstar satellite phone network.


WiBro is a wireless broadband Internet technology developed by the South Korean telecoms industry. WiBro is the South Korean service name for IEEE 802.16e international standard. By the end of 2012, the Korean Communications Commission intends to increase WiBro broadband connection speeds to 10Mbit/s, around ten times the 2009 speed, which will complement their 1Gbit/sec fibre-optic network. The WiBro networks were shut down at the end of 2018.

The IEEE 802.21 refers to Media Independent Handoff (MIH) and is an IEEE standard published in 2008. The standard supports algorithms enabling seamless handover between wired and wireless networks of the same type as well as handover between different wired and wireless network types also called Media independent handover (MIH) or vertical handover. Vertical handover was first introduced by Mark Stemn and Randy Katz at U C Berkeley. The standard provides information to allow handing over to and from wired 802.3 network to wireless 802.11, 802.15, 802.16, 3GPP and 3GPP2 networks through different handover mechanisms.

Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access multi-user version of OFDM digital modulation

Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) is a multi-user version of the popular orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) digital modulation scheme. Multiple access is achieved in OFDMA by assigning subsets of subcarriers to individual users. This allows simultaneous low-data-rate transmission from several users.

Generic Access Network

Generic Access Network (GAN) is a protocol that extends mobile voice, data and multimedia applications over IP networks. Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) is the commercial name used by mobile carriers for external IP access into their core networks. The latest generation system is named Wi-Fi Calling or VoWiFi by a number of handset manufacturers, including Apple and Samsung, a move that is being mirrored by carriers like T-Mobile US and Vodafone. The service is dependant on IMS, IPsec and ePDG.

This is a comparison of standards of mobile phones. A new generation of cellular standards has appeared approximately every tenth year since 1G systems were introduced in 1979 and the early to mid-1980s.

Mobile VoIP or simply mVoIP is an extension of mobility to a Voice over IP network. Two types of communication are generally supported: cordless/DECT/PCS protocols for short range or campus communications where all base stations are linked into the same LAN, and wider area communications using 3G/4G protocols.

A wide variety of different wireless data technologies exist, some in direct competition with one another, others designed for specific applications. Wireless technologies can be evaluated by a variety of different metrics of which some are described in this entry.

Media Independent Handover (MIH) is a standard being developed by IEEE 802.21 to enable the handover of IP sessions from one layer 2 access technology to another, to achieve mobility of end user devices(MIH).

The 3GPP has defined the Voice Call Continuity (VCC) specifications in order to describe how a voice call can be persisted, as a mobile phone moves between circuit switched and packet switched radio domains.

The Nexus Hawk 4G is a gateway router linking broadband cellular data, such as CDMA, GSM and Wi-Fi a, b, g, n) and WAN networks providing enterprises with broadband wireless internet/network data services in mobile and remote environments.

International Mobile Telecommunications-Advanced are the requirements issued by the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2008 for what is marketed as 4G mobile phone and Internet access service.

Bernhard Walke German electrical engineer

Bernhard H. Walke is a pioneer of mobile Internet access and professor emeritus at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. He is a driver of wireless and mobile 2G to 5G cellular radio networks technologies. In 1985 he proposed a local cellular radio network comprising technologies in use today in 2G to 4G and discussed for 5G systems, like self-organization of a radio mesh network, integration of circuit- and packet switching, de-centralized radio resource control, TDMA/spread spectrum data transmission, antenna beam steering, spatial beam multiplexing, interference coordination, S-Aloha based multiple access and demand assigned traffic channels, mobile broadband transmission using mm-waves, and multi-hop communication.


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