Top Five Ways to Boost Your Mobile Broadband Hotspot Speeds
We know that mobile broadband connections never hit the advertised speeds—far from it. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a smartphone or a portable broadband hotspot device. The signal, service, and data transmission are the same, not counting customized data control based on use, bandwidth limit, and device. But there are simple, often cost-free measures you can take to improve the 4G/5G connection that you share with other devices. Here are the top five ways to boost mobile broadband hotspot speeds and performance.
Hotspot Speed Booster #1: Use a USB Extension Cable with Your Dongle
A mobile dongle receives cellular data signals and converts them into an internet connection for the attached device. Other names for mobile dongles include Mi-Fi dongles, USB modems, mobile internet USB sticks, 3G/4G/5G USB modems, prepaid USBs, etc. Since prepaid dongles plug directly into a USB port, you can use a USB extension cable instead, and then connect the dongle into it.
Not only does this step reduce the impact of electrical interference from your PC (from your Wi-Fi radio, for example), it also gives you the flexibility to position the dongle for maximum reception. Merely changing a USB modem’s orientation can boost signal strength, potentially adding extra bandwidth and speed.
Hotspot Speed Booster #2: Buy an Unlocked Modem
Mobile broadband modems are devices that use 3G/4G/5G signals to deliver the internet to any attached devices. Most include Wi-Fi functionality, turning them into a hotspot modem. You’ll see names that include Wifi- modems, Mi-Fis, mobile hotspots, mobile Wi-Fi routers, 4G routers, etc.
Mi-Fis may be cheaper when you buy them from a specific network, but that, of course, means you’re tied to that particular provider. Instead, consider purchasing an unlocked modem and buy a selection of pay-as-you-go SIM cards. Mi-Fis/mobile hotspots receive and convert the 3G/4G/5G broadband into the familiar WLAN interface that is sharable, whereas mobile routers simply disburse the internet through WLAN and require a modem device.
Here are a couple of “unlocked” wireless hotspot devices that handle everything from the mobile signal (modem) to the wireless internet (hotspot) when used with a SIM card of your choosing.
Standalone wireless modems aren’t ludicrously expensive. The networks give away the SIM cards for free or charge a nominal fee, so there’s nothing to stop you from getting a SIM card for every US 4G/5G network. However, you have to pay for the service to make it useful.
Carrying a selection of SIM cards is particularly handy for those who spend a lot of time on the road, as the gaps in one mobile provider’s 4G network coverage can get filled by another provider. Remember that some mobile providers use another company’s towers for their service, such as Boost using Sprint’s network and Cricket using AT&T’s network. Therefore, research the provider first to ensure you don’t “double-dip” on SIM cards and waste your money.
Hotspot Speed Booster #3: Switch to OpenDNS
The DNS servers used by mobile broadband networks tend to be pretty patchy, according to Paul Ockenden, PC Pro’s wireless and mobile expert. That means DNS look-ups take longer than need be, or web addresses fail to resolve at all. Try a free alternative such as OpenDNS if you notice a delay in website loading despite a strong signal.
Hotspot Speed Booster #4: Tether Your Mobile Phone
If you struggle to get a decent 4G or 5G connection on your PC while indoors, you may be better off avoiding USB dongles altogether. Tethering the PC to your smartphone may be the right choice. This option allows you to place the mobile handset on a window sill where it has more chance of picking up a decent signal without having to move your desk close to a window.
A third-party tethering application shares your smartphone’s bandwidth with devices connected to or plugged into it. Tethering includes Wi-Fi internet sharing, Bluetooth internet sharing, and USB internet sharing.
Top Two Tethering Apps that Work Great
Option #1: PdaNet
Option #2: EasyTether Pro
Take note that EasyTether by Mobile Stream has received much attention from service providers. Therefore, the Google Play Store and your provider may have blocked the app from appearing in your smartphone. Head to the Play Store on a PC using non-mobile Wi-Fi, and you’ll see the difference. Mobile Stream (owner of EasyTether) states that you can use any EasyTether app that appears in your Play account and that they are all the same. Just read the store page for details.
Hotspot Speed Booster #5: Change Your APN
Mobile networks assign different APNs (Access Point Names) to customers on regular monthly contracts and pay-as-you-go deals. It is known that providers give priority to specific customers and services based on bandwidth availability and usage. Customers that use more bandwidth, and do so with high-demanding services like video streaming, tend to get reduced speeds most of the time. However, portable broadband usage from a hotspot/mobile Wi-Fi device (non-phone) tends to get a little more priority to make the device worthy of service.
Take note that these statements are not level across the board. Every provider has unique bandwidth managing processes, reasons, and methods. If you’re determined to get every last megabit per second (Mbps) out of your connection, it may be worth considering signing up for a long-term deal with one of the fast networks, such as Verizon or T-Mobile. Just be sure to research signal availability in your area, or you may waste your money trying to get faster mobile broadband speeds.