Cellular telephones are becoming more and more capable as Internet browsers. The widespread use of cellular phones in most areas has allowed cellular telephone networks to expand quickly into broadband Internet service networks. Since the cellular phone towers are already in place, cellular broadband access is rapidly becoming a popular means to access the Internet, with or without a cell phone.
Most of the cell phones sold today have some kind of support for Internet access. Broadband access is mainly concentrated in the cities at this time (2007), but all of the major cellular carriers intend to expand their broadband offerings.
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Since cellular networks often cover large areas of the nation, many traveling people prefer cellular Internet access to other technologies such as WiFi wireless and satellite. Although some satellite services allow end-users to reposition their dish antenna, there are considerable drawbacks to pointing a large satellite dish on a mobile platform (such as an automobile or vessel). Cellular service can normally be received using a small omnidirectional antenna.
Because many people need to connect computer equipment to the Internet, and not just their cell phone, cellular broadband access is available with this in mind. A user can access the Internet by using their 3G/HSDPA enabled cell phone connected to their laptop or PC, normally using a USB connection. There are also Cardbus, ExpressCard, and USB modems available that can perform a similar function but require no cell phone. Some of these modem cards are compatible with cellular broadband routers, which allow more than one computer to be connected to the Internet using one cellular connection.
- The only broadband connection available on many cell phones and PDA's
- Mobile wireless connection to the Internet
- Available in all metropolitan areas, most large cities, and along major highways throughout South Africa
- No need to aim an antenna in most cases
- The antenna is extremely small compared to a satellite dish
- Lower latency compared to satellite Internet
- Higher availability than WiFi "Hot Spots"
- A traveler who already has cellular broadband will not need to pay different WiFi Hot Spot providers for access.
- Unreliable: drop-outs are common during travel and during inclement weather
- Not truly nationwide service
- Speed varies widely throughout the day, sometimes falling well below the 400 kbit/s target during peak times
- Asymmetric service: the upload rate is always much slower than the download rate.
- High latency compared to other broadband services