Will 3G MiFi Be Fast Enough?

by Rich and Shele
(El Cajon, CA)

I mostly we check email, go on facebook, check other people's status, and my husband watches some shows and YouTube videos, and we watch Netflix. I also stream music from IHeart radio through our XBOX, our son plays games on the WII, and XBox accessing the Internet.

Virgin mobile broadband is only 3G here in San Diego, and we're wondering if we will be disappointed in speed or service?

Comments for Will 3G MiFi Be Fast Enough?

Click here to add your own comments

Jul 29, 2013
You'll Be Disappointed With 3G - Part 1
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

This is actually a very timely question now that 4G technology is becoming pervasive across major carriers, but 3G is still being widely used. In fact, with the pace of 4G advertising continuing to increase, but 3G still having better coverage for the most part, and 3G pricing coming down, the deals to be had for 3G are quite appealing for many of us. For me personally, there was a period of almost three years when I was using a mobile 3G broadband modem as my only Internet connection at home.

I was very satisfied with it for most of that time. However, it's important to note that I was almost exclusively using it for email and Internet browsing. I didn't use any live streaming applications like Netflix, XBox, etc. The occasional YouTube video or live TV show streaming was adequate. However, after several years, not only did my usage needs evolve, but I found that the download speeds deteriorated. In other words, I needed faster speeds, while my 3G broadband speed actually decreased.

It was a tragic time for me to finally admit that I could no longer rely on 3G as my only broadband connection. I did, however, have to resort to finally buying Internet service from my cable provider. Anyway, the point of this background is that I have a good amount of experience using 3G mobile broadband, and here's my conclusion. Note that the actually speeds that you get on 3G can vary widely between wireless providers, as well as your wireless coverage (i.e. signal strength):

Jul 29, 2013
You'll Be Disappointed With 3G - Part 2
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

- Email and general Internet browsing is acceptable. If you're using a desktop email client (ex. Outlook), the experience is great. Larger attachments will take longer to download, however, you won't really notice it as downloading is in the background. Your Internet browsing experience can vary. For sites with an average amount of images, your experience will be virtually flawless. While you won't describe it to your friends as speedy, you'll be satisfied. For sites with a heavy amount of images, however, you will find it slow.

- Streaming is where you'll really notice a problem. For sites or applications that have good buffering rules, it's really not that bad. For example, I wouldn't mind waiting 30 seconds for a YouTube video to buffer if it means perfect streaming thereafter. I'd even be willing to wait several minutes for a movie to buffer on Netflix for uninterrupted streaming thereafter. However, from my experience (and surprise) buffering has been really poor, so I find that it's constantly buffering content resulting in large delays and pauses during the viewing experience. The only exception I saw was that Netflix (using a Wii) wasn't too bad. Though if you get annoyed by buffering (i.e. pauses in your video playback) several times during a 1.5 hour movie, you'll still find that experience to be disappointing.

Overall, although there are a lot of variables that drive each user's personal experience, I feel confident in concluding that 3G is NOT an acceptable experience for "modern day" computing and streaming needs. Sadly, while I used to use it as my only connection, now I only rely on it for the occasional outing for basic email and Internet needs. For dependable and consistent YouTube, Netflix, and gaming, I highly recommend 4G Internet as a minimum requirement. Any extra cost will be worthwhile as it will save you frustration and headaches.

If you have a phone with hotspot capability, you can test the experience with a minimal investment by enabling it for one month. That way you won't have to invest in a new modem, only to find that it doesn't function as needed where you live, work, and play. Hotspot add-ons are usually $10-$15. Some carriers even include it in your plan, and have it draw from you regular data allowance. If you don't have the ability to test it in this way, I would pass on 3G and go for a 4G plan. Good luck!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Prepaid Wireless Questions.

Be Heard!  Let prepaid wireless providers know what you want; fill out the survey now.