How Do AT&T Laptop Connect Cards Work?
By Carol Luther
Getting online with a laptop when you are away from home or the office often means resorting to free Wi-Fi hotpots in coffee shops and libraries. Not only is this a haphazard, unreliable approach to having Internet access, but public wireless connections are always a dicey option. The AT&T LaptopConnect card is an alternative for getting Internet service on your laptop almost anywhere you find a broadband data signal. An AT&T data account and laptop modem card are the essential components of the service.
The LaptopConnect service uses AT&T's broadband 3G, 4G and EDGE wireless data networks. You must install AT&T's communications software on your laptop before you can use your card. At the time of publication, an AirCard that fits into a Type II slot or a compatible USB modem are your communications equipment choices. The USB card also functions as a hotspot, giving you a shared connection for five other devices. With LaptopConnect service, you can also tether your mobile phone and laptop.
The first time you insert your LaptopConnect card into your card slot or USB port, the device installs the AT&T Communications Manager software on your computer. When the installation finishes, your device is ready to use. To start a new session, insert your card before you open the software. When the program opens, it automatically finds your card and prompts you to establish your broadband connection. At the end of each session, disconnect from the service before you remove the LaptopConnect card.
At the time of publication, a LaptopConnect data and mobile hotspot plan is 5GB of data per month for a flat fee of $50 per month. AT&T charges $10 per gigabyte for excess data under this plan. AT&T customers can add the LaptopConnect service to a mobile share plan. With these plans, you must have at least one smartphone. You pay $40 a month for 1GB of data, $45 for each smartphone and $20 for LaptopConnect. AT&T’s mobile share plans let you purchase up to 20GB of data monthly. The excess usage fee for all plans is $15 per GB.
AT&T's national network provides mobile broadband in major metropolitan areas of the U.S. In less populated areas, the LaptopConnect service connects to the Internet using the EDGE network. AT&T advertises download speeds up to 700 Kbps and upload speeds of 384 Kbps for the broadband network. The EDGE network advertised speed ranges from 70 to 135 Kbps.
For international service, you connect to one of more than 200 data networks that have roaming agreements with AT&T. LaptopConnect does not use your AT&T domestic data allowance when you leave the U.S. Outside the U.S., networks are frequently Global System for Mobile Communications, or GSM, with varying data speeds. AT&T sells prepaid international data roaming packages or bills your existing account for international data. Data packages for selected countries require a minimum purchase for one month. Rates range from $30 per month for 120MB to $120 for 800MB. The excess usage fee for these plans is $30 per 120MB. Pay-as-you-go rates for countries that do not have packages are $.0195 per KB, roughly $20 per megabyte.
Carol Luther has more than 25 years of business, technology, and freelance writing experience. She has held leadership roles in higher education management, international development, adult education, vocational education, and small business support programs