Differences Between Hot Spots & Broadband Cards

By Alicia Prince

Hot spots and broadband cards both relate to wireless internet usage, though in very different ways. A hot spot provides a wireless internet signal, while a broadband card is an upgrade used on some computers to access a wireless internet signal. Broadband cards are necessary on computers or laptops that do not already include wireless internet capabilities, or for accessing the internet in locations where a hot spot is not available.

Broadband Card

A broadband card is a peripheral device, usually connecting to the computer via the USB or PCMCIA port, that lets users connect to the data network of the cell phone service provider that issued the card. This lets computers use 3G and 4G networks to surf the internet from nearly anywhere, plus these cards are compatible with almost any computer model and operating system.


Broadband cards often offer a multitude of bonus features, including GPS functions and microSD memory card expansion slots. These cards are also very well known for receiving strong service signals in areas of bad reception, plus they can be switched from computer to computer without passwords or other hassles. On the other hand, for highly mobile users, the protruding card can be easily damaged or caught on things.

Wi-Fi Hot Spot

A wi-fi hot spot is any area where a business or building has made a wireless internet access point for the use of their customers. Some wi-fi hotspots are free, while others are pay-per-use or require a subscription. Common places for wi-fi hot spots are airports, coffee shops and cafes. Customers access the hot spots using the built-in wireless capabilities of their laptops or mobile devices. Unlike a broadband connection, a wi-fi connection generally does not require a data plan and does not institute bandwidth usage limits. Wi-fi connections also are often faster than broadband connections.

Mobile Hot Spot

A mobile hot spot, sometimes called a personal hot spot, is a palm-sized device that connects to cellular data networks, then rebroadcasts a wi-fi internet signal. This means the mobile hotspot makes 3G or 4G internet available for laptops or computers through a regular wi-fi signal. The mobile hotspot device can be taken anywhere, as well as provide internet access to multiple devices -- though broadband cards allow mobile internet use, mobile hotspots allow mobile internet and for more than one device to access the internet at a time.

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