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®.
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.