Got the PC, got the portable, now how do I mobilise my data?

With more and more people owning both a mobile phone and a portable computer, mobile data is beginning to take off. But how easy is it really to equip yourself to become a 21st-century data road warrior?

I own a computer and a mobile phone. What else do I need in order to use my equipment to send and receive data?

All you need is a data card which slots into your notebook and a small cable to connect it to your mobile phone. You will also need some communication software if you don't already have any.

What do you mean, 'a card that slots into a computer'?

Most portable computers have what is called a PCMCIA or PC Card slot. This is a slot which will take a credit card-sized device. The mobile phone data cards use this slot.

Is a data card the same as a modem?

No. A modem converts digital data into analogue sounds so they can pass through the conventional telephone system. The GSM and PCN phone networks are digital systems so they would not be able to understand the noises the modem uses to signal with.

How much are these data cards?

They are still quite expensive, around pounds 300-pounds 400.

Are some computers better than others?

No. The actual data communication makes very few demands upon the computer. But getting the right phone is vital.

How so?

Older analogue phones are not very good for mobile data. They are very slow and not very reliable. The newer digital phones, that is GSM phones and the PCN phones - Orange and One2One, are much better. But even here there are differences: some are much faster than others., while some will not pass on data at all

What is the difference in speed between these phones?

The fastest digital phones are rated to send and receive data at 9,600 bits per second but some, even quite new phones, only work at 2,400 bits per second.

That's not very fast. Don't ordinary modems go up to 28.8

thousand bits per second?

Yes, it is quite slow, but data cards are now being introduced with data compression. This means that although data is only sent at 9,600 bits per second, by clever mathematical tricks it can appear to be send a lot faster.

OK. So I've got my data set up - what can I do with it?

Well, you can send and receive e-mail and faxes and connect to online services or your office's network. You can get weather reports from services like Compuserve and AOL. You can check your diary in the office and arrange meetings with colleagues over your company's network.

So do I need to make special arrangements with my mobile phone supplier?

If your phone is on the Vodafone network then, theoretically, you do not need to contact them to make data calls. With the other networks you have to contact them before you can send or receive data. Even if you are with Vodafone it is worth contacting them because, to receive data or faxes, you need special separate telephone numbers.

Does that mean that I will end up with three telephone numbers?

Yes, that's right. One for your voice calls, one for data and the other for incoming faxes. But don't worry - few people receive data calls, although it can be helpful to receive faxes out of the office.

Can you receive faxes and data while you are physically moving - in a car, for example?

Yes, if the signal is strong you should have no problem receiving data, although you might find the connection a bit slower. But if the signal is good you should be OK even at high speeds.

Can I take my data card and phone and so on with me when I travel abroad ?

Well, with GSM phones you can now "roam", that is, use your phone, in around 40 countries. In many of those you can also send faxes and data messages and in about half you can also receive faxes and data calls. Check with your service provider to see what data facilities there are in the country you are travelling to. But don't forget your service provider will often require you to leave a fairly substantial deposit before you are able to use your phone overseas. For PCN phone users, there are for the moment very few places that you can use your phone overseas.

Mobile phones are getting smaller and smaller. Is there a way of doing mobile data without lugging a big notebook computer with me?

One or two companies, including Nokia, are introducing devices that allow you to send and receive data on pocket-size devices. You can also use handheld computers such as the Psion organiser to send and receive e-mail. It seems certain that in 10 years' time we will be carrying communication devices with us that will send and receive data very simply.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss