In order to communicate with the outside world, most tablet computer come with some form of network connectivity via the tablet wifi and optionally, 3G/4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). There are four ways of connecting to the internet:
1. Internet service provider’s network: Some tablets will have been paired with a service provider like Verizon/AT&T/Rogers/Bell. Your tablet will be connected to the provider’s 3G/4G LTE network. You will need to pay a monthly data plan which comes with a maximum monthly data usage. The advantage to this is that you are on your own network. The disadvantage is that you need to watch carefully your data usage. If you go over your monthly limit, you may be hit with extra charges. So make sure you purchase the right data usage plan (500Meg, 1 Gig, 2 Gig, etc.). Depending on your service provider, you may also be limited to regional coverage. As mentioned, not all tablets will have the 3G/4G LTE connectivity feature. So if you want this feature, make sure the tablet you choose has it. One other thing, having this feature also increases the cost of the tablet device.
2. Tablet Wifi: All tablets and some eReaders will have the tablet wifi feature built-in. As more and more cities, restaurants, cafes (Starbucks and Tim Hortons), public areas (parks), shopping malls, libraries, and hotels are providing free wifi hotspots, your tablet wifi can easily connect to the internet. There is no worry of going over your data usage limit. The only issue is that there are some places where wifi hotspots are not available. Also, security may be an issue as you are going through a public connection.
3. Personal hotspot: It can become quite costly if you have both a smartphone (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) and a tablet as you will be paying a dataplan for each devices. Some service providers have a sharing plan where you can pay one data plan and share it between all your devices. Some may charge a nominal fee like an extra 15 dollars a month to add an additional device. Check with your service provider. To save some money, if you already have a smartphone, you can use your smartphone as a wifi hotspot whereby your tablet wifi can connect to. The only thing here is that you will use up your data usage on your smartphone. So make sure your smartphone’s data plan have enough data usage for both the smartphone and tablet. Also, to avoid others from “stealing” your hotspot connection, always use a password to access your personal hotspot.
4. Home Internet Wifi: Your home wifi connection can serve as a connection to your tablet wifi. The only issue here is to make sure you don’t go over your monthly data usage for your home internet connection.
One question that keeps coming up is if you have both 3G/4G LTE and tablet wifi, the provider does not have to be the same for both networks. Actually, the wifi hotspot provider can be different from the provider of your 3G/4G LTE. For example, you may be subscribed to Rogers for 3G/4G LTE but Bell Canada is providing the free wifi hotspot access at your local MacDonald’s restaurant. In fact the wifi provider can be anyone and your tablet will be still able to connect to the internet. It is only with 3G/4G LTE that you will be stuck with a particular provider such as AT&T.
Tablet Wifi or 3G/4G LTE?
So which connection to use? The best would be a tablet wifi connection as this will lower the cost of your tablet device and the tablet wifi access is free.