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Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 16:51 UK

Mobile net reaching more people

Wimax base station
Wimax transmits data over much greater distances than wi-fi

From checking e-mails to status updating on social networking sites, more people are going online while on the move.

Peter Rampling, marketing director at mobile operator O2 UK, said the increasing take-up of fixed internet over the years had been a big influence.

"There is a natural progression, people now want to use it when they are out and about," he said.

More laptop users were signing up for mobile broadband which took advantage of 3G mobile phone networks.

"Theoretical" speed

After paying a monthly subscription, a dongle or USB modem can be used to access the net wirelessly on a laptop.

But Steven Hartley, senior analyst at market research firm Ovum, said the performance of fixed versus mobile broadband was like comparing "apples and oranges".

He said that mobile broadband speeds "vary dramatically", and could reach a "theoretical maximum" of 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps).

"Be aware that a lot of these theoretical speeds involve you standing in a flat field directly in line with a tower and nobody else around," Mr Hartley said.

Despite the flexibility of mobile broadband, the service is dependent on coverage. Also, there are limits to the amount of data users are permitted to upload and download.

But Steven Hartley, Ovum
Steven Hartley said mobile net can be taken cheaply to remote places

Many services offer a data allowance of around 3GB a month which is sufficient for web browsing and e-mailing - but it is not ideal for downloading video.

"More people doing more bandwidth hungry stuff means that performance across the whole network will drop," warned Mr Rampling.

Fourth generation

In some remote parts of the world, mobile broadband is the only way that people would be able to get online.

"The cost of digging up roads, installing cables, cabinets and exchanges is far more expensive then putting in cell towers that can serve a very wide area," said Mr Hartley.

He said that a mobile service was "more than adequate" in places without a fixed infrastructure.

He expected the number of people using wireless connections to increase in coming years - in particular, with the creation of networks built around fourth generation, or 4G, technology.

An alternative, and rival, technology called Wimax could improve performance thanks to its ability to provide wireless transmission of data over several kilometres.

"Some of the 4G technologies and LTE, or long term evolution,… are going to allow a theoretical maximum of about 100Mbps," said Mr Hartley.

"I should stress yet again it's mobile, and actually achieving that is a very different proposition," he said.

Mobile internet usage on the rise
25 Nov 08 |  Technology
Mobile web reaches critical mass
10 Jul 08 |  Technology

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