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Gone are the days when most of us connected via phone lines. Gone, too, are the days when Ethernet cables were necessary to achieve high speeds. We go online wirelessly, and we’re not limited by the range of our routers. Mobile internet devices can bring us online anywhere with a strong connection to a cellular tower.
Do you connect everything via a portable wireless hotspot or your smartphone? Should you invest in a USB dongle or a WWAN card? Each has their own pros and cons. Let’s take a look.
Portable Mobile Hotspots
Portable mobile hotspots access the same cellular network as your smartphone. You can add them as another device on your shared data plan, or you can get one with its own data-only plan. Data plan prices tend to be similar to the amount you spend on phones.
These mobile internet devices tend to have between 10 and 20 hours of battery life. Some models serve as portable battery packs that can charge your phone or offer shared storage via a microSD card slot. Many have screens that show how much data you’ve used out of your monthly allotment. The specifics change depending on which model you buy.
With the rollout of 5G, portable wireless hotspots can better function as your home’s primary internet connection. That’s because 5G has lower latency, allowing devices to communicate more quickly with one another. This is key for gaming and VR.
Some hotspots, such as 2019’s HTC 5G Hub, can support up to 20 devices and provide enough battery life to cover a day’s usage. But since 5G networks have been slow to roll out, most areas will still rely on 4G LTE.
One downside to a portable mobile hotspot is having to lug it around in addition to your phone, tablet, or laptop. The cost of a data plan can also add up. If you’re merely adding one to your shared data plan, you may be able to get by with tethering your smartphone instead.
- Reasonably long battery life
- Supports more devices
- The right unit could serve as your home’s primary source of Wi-Fi
- Added features such as an informative display, shared storage, Ethernet port, or back-up battery power
- If used exclusively for work, can be helpful for tracking internet usage
- Having to carry around another device
Like portable wireless hotspots, dongles tend to come straight from a carrier. Many look like flash drives, while some look like small modems that you plug into your computer via a USB cable. Sticking one in your laptop has the effect of giving your computer a cellular radio. It’s now able to hop online via Wi-Fi or cellular data, just like your smartphone. It can also share that connection with other devices.
One big difference between dongles and mobile hotspots is that dongles don’t take up as much space. Nor do they drain on your battery quite like smartphone tethering does. That said, you have to keep the dongle plugged in for it to work, which means giving up a USB port. This probably is not all that big a deal on most laptops, but there are many sleeker models out there that skimp on the number of ports. Some have even done away with full-sized USB ports entirely.
Dongles aren’t limited to USB ports or even PCs. Some plug into a car’s OBDII port, providing passengers with Wi-Fi on the go.
A dongle doesn’t get you out of a data plan. You still need one, and they’re not going to be cheaper than buying one for a portable wireless hotspot. Another downside: dongles often require special software. Setup can be slow or annoying. If you’re a Linux user like me, this may mean you have to jump through additional hurdles, or you may be out of luck entirely.
- Cheap upfront cost
- Less drain on battery
- Takes up less space than a portable wireless hotspot
- Typically requires a USB port
- May need special software
Don’t want to buy another device? That smartphone you probably have in your pocket may just be all the internet you need. Sounds great, I’m sure. Before you get too excited, the drawbacks are substantial. Here’s the situation.
Smartphones can provide internet access to other devices by turning into hotspots. Tell your phone to start sharing its data, and give the temporary network a name. Your laptop or tablet can connect the same way they would to Wi-Fi. Alternatively, you can connect your phone to a computer using a cable. Regardless of which method you choose, this is called tethering. Wherever you have your phone, you have internet.
If you can even connect a 4G phone to a 5G phone’s hotspot to experience fast speeds on both, if for someone reason you find yourself in that situation.
Doesn’t this mean everyone who buys a dedicated hotspot is being duped? No. Smartphones aren’t designed to serve as hotspots, so they don’t broadcast as far or handle as many devices as dedicated units. Plus, tethering is a huge drain on battery. If you use your phone to provide internet for a few hours, expect to need a charger before the end of the day. Also don’t be surprised if your handset becomes a little hot to the touch.
- Doesn’t need a separate bill
- Only one device to carry around
- Puts a strain on your smartphone
- Often comes with a smaller monthly limit
- Isn’t intended to support many devices at once
- Phone calls happen, making sharing internet with others awkward
Wireless wide area networks, or WWAN, are something you’re more likely to interact with while working than in your own time. These are wide area networks that utilize a cellular network to keep corporate computers connected. These can be employee laptops, kiosks, point of sale machines, or vehicles.
A WWAN card gives your PC the ability to connect to a wide area network using a cellular connection. This enables you to connect to a corporate network wherever you’re in range of your company’s WWAN. Typically a traditional carrier provides and manages the infrastructure.
WWAN is offered straight to businesses, not general consumers. For that reason, it’s hard to make a comparison to the options listed above. Don’t think of this as your personal solution to get online. But keep in mind that if you do want to access a wireless wide area network, you will need specific hardware, such as a WWAN card, in order to do so. Some laptops come with this functionality built in.
Which Is Better: Dongle or Hotspot?
You might not be surprised to hear that there is no single best answer. For lightweight, occasional use, smartphone tethering is just fine. Work away from home often and need to connect multiple devices? A portable wireless hotspot can come in handy. Have only limited space to work with? A USB dongle can fit in your pocket.
Or if you’re not particularly interested in another monthly bill, you could stick to Wi-Fi hotspots instead.
Read the full article: Dongles vs. Portable Hotspots: Mobile Internet Devices Explained
Smartphones have changed the way we interact with the internet. Our cell networks have evolved over the years to keep up with our increasing demand, and 5G is the latest iteration of mobile internet.
Now that 5G networks are coming online, there has been speculation about the safety of the technology. You may have even heard some of these claims. So, it’s time to find out, is 5G safe?
What Is 5G?
In most homes, connections to the internet are usually made via Wi-Fi. This is common across offices, and even coffee shops and public spaces like shopping malls. Outside of those areas, the cellular networks operated by AT&T, Verizon, and similar providers connect us to the internet.
There have been technological developments to improve mobile internet speeds, reliability, and coverage to support the increase of internet-connected devices. One of the most significant developments came in the form of 4G and LTE, which allowed us to use our smartphones to stream music, video call, and even watch Netflix while on the go.
5G represents the evolution of cellular networks to handle the coming influx of devices. The technology promises broadband-like speeds while out and about, as well as supporting the future of the internet of Things (IoT) devices. These are just the headlines, though; there are many ways that 5G will make mobile internet faster.
Is 5G Dangerous?
In 2019, there was a public debate about whether Huawei should be able to operate 5G networks. This may have made you concerned whether 5G is a security risk. It’s also possible that you’ve heard about some of the health concerns raised about the network, too. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 5G was wrongly implicated in spreading the disease, for example.
There are some extreme claims about the health impact of 5G networks and technologies. However, despite media coverage of such claims, there is no evidence to suggest that 5G is dangerous to your health. As the New York Times noted, many of the same issues were raised about 4G, too.
Similarly to those older technologies, there is no evidence that 5G networks are dangerous. Initial studies have shown that the amounts of radiation generated by 5G cell towers and 5G smartphones are well below official safety limits.
In March 2020, The Guardian recounted statements by The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), noting that 5G is safe, while the risk posed is no different from other wireless networks.
It is reasonable, though, to still be cautious—after all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That’s why governments around the world keep the situation under review.
One complication is that scientific studies produce different results from one another. Study A may show no negative impact, while Study B shows a small possible impact. In this example, Study A would not be widely reported—it’s not very interesting to say nothing happened—but Study B would likely receive a fair amount of media coverage.
The Scientific Method
The Scientific Method exists to deal with inconsistent results. This is a method of inquiry used by researchers, where data is observed without bias or assumption, as much as possible. In this scenario, someone has a question and sets about trying to answer it by developing a test and generating data.
The researchers then draw conclusions from the data. Once written up, the study is peer-reviewed, and, if found to be without error, will be accepted into a scientific journal for publication. This allows for public scrutiny of the study and the conclusions that were drawn from it.
Other scientists may ask the same or similar question, but have a different method of testing. This will likely give different results, too. Because of this, there could be a situation where two studies, broadly examining the same topic, give different results.
To combat this, scientists and governments look for consensus on a given issue. However, an agreement can be challenging to achieve. For example, two opinion articles in Scientific American exposed differing views on the safety of 5G.
Published first, an article by Joel M. Moscowitz makes the arguement that 5G is unsafe. At the same time, a follow-up piece by David Robert Grimes contends that personal idealogy and low-quality studies guide Moscowitz’s argument.
Is 5G Safe?
The British telecoms regulator, Ofcom, performed one of the country’s first studies into 5G networks. They took measurements at 16 locations in 10 UK cities. As reported by the BBC, their results showed that the maximum radiation output was 0.039 percent of official safety limits.
Scientific consensus is based on the data we currently have. So, of course, this may change in the future.
Studies into 5G are presently limited as the technology is still being rolled out. There are low numbers of users and compatible phones, too. As 5G becomes widely available, there will be more opportunities for studies and, importantly, long-term research into wireless technologies.
Based on our current understanding, though, 5G does not pose a risk to human health.
Wireless Networks and Cancer
One of the long-standing claims about the new network is that 5G may cause cancer, so it’s worth taking a look at this particular assertion.
Cancer is the uncontrollable growth of our body’s cells. Our DNA contains instructions on how the cell should behave, and control the growth of the cell, too. If there is a change, or mutation, to these structures, then the instructions become incorrect, leading to abnormal growth and multiplication of cells.
Radiation can damage cells, leading to these mutations. There are multiple types and strengths of radiation. If the radiation has enough energy, it is able to interact with atoms, and detach electrons. This is ionizing radiation and is considered the most dangerous to humans. Despite the damage it can inflict, ionizing radiation is also used in cancer radiotherapy treatment.
Low-energy, non-ionizing radiation is not able to interact with atoms, and, as a result, our cells. Wireless technologies, like Wi-Fi, radio, and LTE, fall into this category. That is true of 5G, as well. However, since the introduction of mobile phones in the 1990s, there have been suggestions that the non-ionizing radiation emitted by these wireless devices can harm us.
Does 5G Cause Cancer?
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2014 guidance states that a “…large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
While this type of non-ionization radiation may not directly cause mutations, there have also been studies into the other effects of wireless radiofrequency radiation. For example, this low-energy radiofrequency radiation can cause increases in temperature. However, investigations into this effect have also shown there are no impacts to your health as a result.
Such was the case in Australia. As reported by ZDNet, network operators found that 5G networks were no more harmful than other household items like baby monitors and microwaves.
Is 5G the Future?
While it’s worth being cautious around new technologies, there’s no evidence to suggest that 5G is any more dangerous than 4G, Wi-Fi, or any other existing wireless systems. Even then, the impact of such networks is debatable, with most studies concluding there is insufficient evidence to report them as unsafe.
If you’re ready to dive into the mobile network of the future, then you’ll need a phone that supports it. So, be sure to check out the best 5G smartphones before you make your next upgrade.
Read the full article: Is 5G Safe or Dangerous? Here’s Everything You Need to Know