Aol.|Mail|Click here to return to AOL.com

Digital Life

Cut the home broadband cord and use your smartphone instead


If you own a smartphone, you're carrying around a mobile broadband connection. As more advanced mobile networks continue to roll out, the speeds we get on our phones are starting to rival what we can get from internet service providers hooking up a line in our homes. So having high speed access on your phone may get you thinking, "Then why am I paying for home internet?" Switching to having mobile broadband only can be easy, but it doesn't come without caveats.

Smartphone ownership continues to rise. Time says, "56% of American adults own an iPhone, Android or similar device," up from 45% last year. This comes from a research report conducted in June report by Pew, which states "10% of Americans have a smartphone but not a home broadband connection." While you or I may open our laptop or sit at our desk to surf the web, 10% of Americans are relying entirely on their phones for access to sites and services like Facebook, Wikipedia, and Huffington Post.

Going without home broadband becomes an easier task to pull off as carriers continue to expand their networks. The introduction of 4G networking had a big impact on mobile devices, increasing speeds. Verizon even offers a home broadband service served entirely via their LTE network.

If you decide to go this route, there are few things you need to watch out for. First off, you have to ask yourself how you use the internet. Just browsing Facebook, sending some emails, or even an occasional video chat are fine. However, stream video or music all the time and you'll be thinking twice. As more providers move to monthly data caps, these luxury services we use over our home broadband leave a big impact on total data usage. For example, streaming one or two episodes of a 30-minute TV episode on Netflix can chew up 800MB of data.

The reception in your town is also important to consider. While services like cable are susceptible to high levels of congestion during peak hours, they're still a dedicated connection to your house. By choosing to rely entirely on wireless, you're at the mercy of the airwaves.

Gamers may also want to stay away from using their mobiles for broadband. Gaming may not use that much data, but online games need a consistent connection in order to avoid lag. If you, or someone else in your house, routinely plays games online then relying on your mobile carrier is not advisable.

Are you planning to just use your phone, or would you like to connect to a laptop as well? If you want to use a laptop, you need to check with your current mobile provider, because there may be restrictions. Many companies charge an additional fee to tether -- connecting an outside device like a laptop or tablet to your phone to share the data connection.

Even if you feel confident enough to get by just using your smartphone, you should review your current carrier's terms and conditions. In addition to finding out if there's an additional fee to tether, you need to find out if you have unlimited data or if you're restricted by a data cap. Being under a data cap may require a bump in total data allowance since your usage will increase -- unless you're okay with getting charged overage rates.