Prepaid Wireless Broadband - Wireless Technology & Speeds Uncovered!

Prepaid wireless broadband uses industry standard cellular technologies.  This page is dedicated to digging into details about mobile broadband speeds related to the different cellular technologies.  I've also included some legacy (i.e. old!) technologies to help with the comparison.  You'll also see information in the column of far right of the table that has notes regarding practical use.  It really is amazing how fast technology changes.  I remember when 1xRTT was considered next generation high speed wireless Internet!

At the end of the day, we can talk about prepaid wireless broadband speeds, and all kindsMobile Broadband Tower of technological terms, but what does it all really mean?  In other words, lets get past the technological jargon and answer the question:  "What can I do with that technology?"  Does it mean I can browse the Internet faster?  Watch YouTube videos?  Stream TV and Netflix?  I expect that you'll find the information useful in helping you to understand the practical applications.  You can also read an interesting discussion about the Definition of Broadband.

There's an amazing amount of detail that I could get into regarding the various prepaid wireless broadband technologies below.  For example, I don't go into the different technologies under 3.5G like EVDO-Rev0 versus EVDO-RevA.  My thinking is that the information here should cut through the techie details and give you the "so what" answers.  In other words, what can I do with this mobile broadband technology?  If you do, however, have questions or want more details, please don't hesitate to Contact me.
Technology Peak
Uplink Speed
Average Downlink/Uplink
Practical Use/Notes
Dial-Up 1 Mbps 1 Mbps
  • Email (small or no attachments)
  • Limited Internet browsing
Wired Ethernet 6 - 10 Mbps 6 - 10 Mbps
  • Anything!
1G n/a n/a
  • An analog technology primarily for voice
  • No practical data application use
2G n/a n/a
  • The first digital technology for voice
  • No additional benefit for data applications over 1G
  • Some basic WAP applications were available (weather, stock quotes, etc.)
3G 153 - 384 Kbps
153 - 384 Kbps
  • Digital voice
  • Location based services
  • Limited Internet browsing
3.5G 2.4 - 3.1 Mbps
153 kbps - 1.8 Mbps
300 - 900 Kbps
150 - 800 Kbps
  • Can offer simultaneous voice and data (ex. talk on the phone while browsing the Internet or sending/receiving emails)
  • Mobile streaming TV
  • VoIP
Wi-Fi 13 - 42 Mbps 20 - 40 Mbps
  • Two computers/devices communicating over Wi-Fi have tremendous data transfer speed (ex. music or file sharing)
  • When used to connect to a router, which in turn is connected to wired Ethernet, or 3G cellular technologies, speed is limited to that of the cellular network
WiMAX (4G) 23 - 46 Mbps
4 Mbps
768 Kbps - 6 Mbps
384 Kbps - 500 Kbps
  • Video chat/conferencing
  • User generated content
  • Full broadband data
LTE (4G) 173 - 326 Mbps
58 - 86 Mbps
>10 Mbps
>5 Mbps
  • Same as WiMAX

Some terminology definitions that you may find helpful:
Broadband Highspeed data - In 2006 was defined as any speed of at least 256 Kbps; in 2009 broadband became redefined as data speeds of 768 Kbps or greater
Downlink Also known as download speed; the speed at which your mobile device can receive data from the source/network.  Plays a large role in whether video is smooth or choppy
Uplink Also known as upload speed; the speed at which your mobile device can send data to the source/network.  Telling the network what data you want can impact the user experience even if download speeds are high, because the network is slow to receive information about what to send to the mobile device
Kbps Kilobytes per second - A byte is a packet of data; a kilobyte is 1,000 bytes.  Is a measure of data transfer speed
Mbps Megabyte per second - A byte is a packet of data; a megabyte a million bytes or 1,000 kilobytes.  Is a measure of data transfer speed
LTE Long Term Evolution - A 4G wireless broadband technology that's competitive with WiMAX
MIMO Multiple Input Multiple Output - When a number of antennas are used to transmit data streams from a source making the transmission speed even faster
For a list of other common prepaid wireless broadband technology and industry related wireless terms, visit the Wireless Terminology page.
Click the following links to explore available prepaid wireless broadband technologies and prepaid mobile broadband plans:

Prepaid Wireless Internet (3G)

Prepaid Wi-Fi

Prepaid WiMAX (4G)

MiFi (Mobile Hotspot)

Prepaid Wireless Broadband Speeds

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


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