Mobile broadband is a brand new technology, so expect to pay a premium to use it. Like all cellular services, mobile broadband requires a one- or two-year contract. If you cancel the contract early, the cellular provider can charge an early termination fee up to $200.
If you're going to use a cell phone for mobile broadband access, you might also need to buy a new phone. Cellular providers require that you use certain phones to access certain services. If you want to sign up for AT&T's BroadbandConnect service, for example, you'll choose from a dozen or so phones that have the right hardware and software to handle Web browsing and multimedia playback. And if you don't sign up for an all-inclusive voice and data plan, then you'll have to sign up for some kind of voice plan in addition to the mobile broadband contract.
The nice part is that the cellular providers often offer steep rebates and discounts when you buy a phone with a voice or data plan. Some phones and PC cards are even free after all of the instant discounts, online savings and mail-in rebates.
Make sure you read your mobile broadband contract closely and pay attention to all of the surcharges and taxes that apply. When you're quoted a monthly charge of $39.99 a month, that doesn't include any of the extra fees that will show up on your monthly bill. Let's talk about a few of them:
- Most cellular service contracts come with a one-time activation fee of around $35.
- Some contracts require a deposit. Depending on your credit history, that deposit could be as low as $50 or as high as $1,000.
- Cellular services are subject to state and local taxes. Depending on where you live, those could add between 4 and 35 percent to your monthly bill.
- Phone companies are required to contribute to a federal fund for providing phone access to low-income individuals and families. This is called the Universal Service Fund (USF). As of April 1, 2008, the FCC is charging 11.3 percent per telephone line, also known as the Federal Universal Service Charge.
- There are also various regulatory and administrative charges that add up to around one dollar a month.
Some mobile broadband services have roaming areas that extend into parts of Mexico and Canada. Generally, if you use data or mobile broadband services within one of these extended roaming areas, you'll be charged an extra fee based on a set price per kilobyte or megabyte of data transfer.
We hope this has been a helpful introduction to the exciting possibilities of mobile broadband. For more information about mobile broadband services, wireless technology and related topics, check out the links on the next page.