Using Android Tablets on 3G/4G Mobile Networks


Updated: December 8, 2016

Internet-Mi-Fi All tablets sold today support Wi-Fi.

Some Tablets also come with 3G/4G mobile data access allowing them to connect to mobile carrier networks just like a smartphone.

However tablets cannot be used for making standard phone calls or sending SMS, but only for connecting to the Internet

Wi-Fi + 3G/4G or Wi-Fi – Only Tablets

If you are looking to purchase a Tablet and are unsure whether or not you actually need Mobile data access via 3G/4G then you should consider the following:

  • Wi-Fi + 3G/4G enabled Tablets will cost more than Wi-Fi only tablets
  • With Wi-Fi + 3G/4G tablets you will have Internet access from practically anywhere including when driving in your car.
  • To use 3G/4G you will need a Sim and data plan from a mobile operator.
  • Your choice of tablet is very restricted.

Just because your Tablet doesn’t support 3G/4g networking you can still use these networks on your tablet using::

  • A GSM (3g/4G) )dongle
  • Tethering
  • A MiFi Hub

3G/4G Dongles

If your tablet doesn’t have built in 3g/4G support you may be able to use a 3G/4G dongle just as you do on a laptop.

The dongle looks like a standard memory stick but it is in fact a small mobile phone without the keypad and screen.

Most dongles that you buy are locked to a network, and so you should first decide on the network operator based on your location and the reception in that area.

Dongles that you buy usually have the SIM card already installed and pre-loaded with an allowance.

You can use a dongle with a pay as you go plan or a contract. Most mobile providers will offer both plans.

Note: Your Tablet needs a USB or Micro USB port

Here is a video showing how to use a dongle (sound is little bad but you can see how it is done)

Important Note: it is not guaranteed to work on all devices, and it may require that your tablet is rooted.

Tethering

If you have a mobile phone then you can often use it to create a Wi-Fi hotspot which you can use to connect to the Internet

The diagram below illustrates the process:

Tethering-schematic

See How to Use Your Android Phone as a Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

Using a Mi-Fi Hub

A Mi-Fi Hub is a relatively new device and it can be used for connecting multiple devices to the Internet over the mobile network.

It is very similar to tethering but doesn’t use a mobile phone.

You tablet connects to the hub using Wi-Fi and the Hub connects to the mobile network using 3G/4G.

Mi-Fi-tablet-android

Mi-Fi hubs are low cost ( around £20 to £40) and many will work hours without being connected to the mains.

Again you will need a SIM card  and a data plan.

Note: When using a dongle,tethering or a MiFi hub you cannot apply data restrictions.

3G/4G Equipped Tablet

On tablets with built in 3G/4G mobile network support you have control of your mobile connection.

Because mobile data plans tend to charge for downloading data and therefore when using your tablet on a 3G/4G network you may want to set some restrictions.

For example the Nexus 7 ( with mobile access sim) allows you to:

• Set a data usage warning level
• Set a data usage limit.
• Restrict data usage by App.
• Identify mobile hotspots and restrict background downloads.

If you are worried about mobile charges when you are traveling abroad or just want to restrict 3G/4G connections you can turn 3G/4G off and leave Wi-Fi only access.

There are several ways of doing this

Settings>Wireless & Networks> More.. Enable Airplane mode.
Settings>Wireless & Networks>Wi-FiEnable.

In the system/status bar you should see an Airplane icon and Wi-Fi should be active.

airplane-mode

Alternatively under Settings>Wireless & Networks>More>Mobile Networks – uncheck “Data Enabled.”

There are also 3G/4G widgets available that will toggle 3G/4G on and off.

Overview Mobile Networks 3G and 4G

Mobile phone networks were originally designed to carry voice signals (telephone calls).

But over the last 10 years with the growth of the Internet they have been upgraded to include the ability to carry data signals and connect to the Internet.

Each upgrade has been called generation and it start with 1G ( first generation) mobile networks and we are now using predominately 3G networks.

Although 3G networks provide Internet access to mobile devices they are considerably slower than Wi-Fi networks.

4G (fourth generation) are being deployed but are not universal.

There are a number of competing technologies all marketed as 4G. However all of these technologies are very fast and promise to deliver fast mobile Internet. See Wiki on 4G

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