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What is an AirCard® Modem?

Kathy R
Kathy R

An AirCard® modem lets people connect to the Internet via a wireless broadband network typically used for cellular phone services. AirCard® is actually a brand name for several different devices a person can plug into his or her computer's USB port or PCMCIA slot to access the Web in this manner. All AirCard® devices are distributed by Sierra Wireless. Other brands of mobile broadband devices are available.

The advantages of an AirCard® modem are many. The most important one is that the user can access the Internet from anywhere where there is cellular phone service available. This gives him or her a lot more freedom, since it's not necessary to plug the machine into a landline network or find a Wi-Fi hotspot. It's crucial to note that, at this time, most AirCard® modems are tied to specific cell phone carriers, so someone with an AT&T AirCard® could not access the Web in an area where only Verizon has a network, for example. The user must also purchase a monthly service plan to be able to use the AirCard®.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

Another advantage of an AirCard® modem is that it is small and portable. Most are roughly the same size as USB drives or network cards, at less than 6 inches (15 cm) in length and width. They can easily fit into a pocket or a laptop sleeve. It's even possible to buy a case for an AirCard®, and attach it to a keychain.

To set up an AirCard® modem, all a person has to do is install the software that comes with the modem, and then use it to log on to the related wireless service. The modem will only work with specific software, so there is not much choice in this matter. With the software set up, a person can access the Web as long as the AirCard® is plugged securely into the proper port or slot in the computer. Many USB-type AirCard® modems actually light up when they are connected properly. This can help greatly with troubleshooting.

One thing to remember before using an AirCard® is that, since these modems connect through cellular networks, charges can be greater when connecting internationally or even in roaming areas. Be sure to ask your wireless carrier about price plans before you use your modem. Otherwise, you could get stuck with a huge bill.

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Discussion Comments


My boyfriend has an AirCard modem, and he uses it pretty frequently. He works as an audio visual technician doing at home installations for people. A lot of times he needs to get on the Internet, but he doesn't want to bother his clients by asking to the password for their wi-fi.

He feels it would be unprofessional, and I agree. Having the AirCard allows him to use the Internet wherever he is.


@starrynight - I see what you're saying, but not everyone lives close to so much free wi-fi. For people who live in a more rural area, an Aircard modem might be their best option.

I actually have a friend that lives in a somewhat rural area, and she doesn't have that many options for Internet access. Neither cable Internet or DSL Internet are available in here area. So she chose to get something like the Aircard modem and she uses 3G Internet. She really likes that she can take it almost anywhere and get service.


At this point in time, I don't see the point in getting an AirCard USB modem. Where I live, free wi-fi is available almost everywhere. There is a public library within a 5 minute drive of my apartment, not to mention many different coffee shops and restaurants that offer free wireless.

I suppose I could see the point of an AirCard if I traveled a lot, but even then not so much most hotels have wireless Internet available free of charge!


Nice article buddy, learned a lot about air cards from you. Thanks, Reuben

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