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What is mobile broadband?

by Ciaron Dunne

Mobile broadband allows you to connect to the internet, wherever you are. Just as it's possible to make telephone calls wherever you happen to be using your mobile phone, mobile broadband allows you to connect to the internet in much the same way – you plug a USB modem into your laptop, and away you go. 

The USB modem – also known as a ‘dongle' - connects you to the internet using the mobile phone networks, so you don't have to go looking for a WiFi hotspot, or try to read your emails from the screen of your mobile phone – you can do all the browsing you want, wherever you are. computer dongle

So why isn't everyone using it?

lady sitting on grass using her laptop Mobile broadband connections are not yet always as fast as fixed line connections, so it is not yet a full replacement for home broadband – although in the future it may well be. However, mobile broadband is extremely handy for anyone who works on the move, or anyone who just likes to stay connected whilst out and about. 

It also works really well for anyone who doesn't want to get involved with landlines, cables and modems and such – so for example people who rent accommodation short term and students who move house a lot. The great thing about your mobile broadband connection is that wherever you go, it goes.

How do I get it?

Here in the UK there are six main mobile broadband suppliers, and not by coincidence they are the big mobile phone network providers: 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Virgin. 

As with mobile phone deals, each supplier offers a wide range of different options at different prices, so it pays to shop around. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use an independent online comparison service, such as Mobile Broadband Genie. Rather than trawling round suppliers' websites to see what's on offer, use the comparison site to get a good picture of what's what. 

To get you started, here's some things to look for when assessing the different options.

Freebies. One good starting point is the extras which are being offered with mobile broadband contracts. Suppliers are very keen to get your custom, so there are a lot of good extras being thrown in, one of the best of which are free laptops.

You pay a bit more for a contract which includes a laptop, but if you don't already have one and want to get online on the move then this is a great place to start.

cartoon of man using laptop

Speed. Bear in mind when you look at advertised speeds that they use the magic words “up to” whatever speed they offer. This means that you are not guaranteed to get that speed, so bear that in mind when shopping around.

Data cap. This is basically a restriction on the amount of data you can transfer per month. Data caps start at 1GB which is relatively low, but generally the average user will be fine with a 3GB limit. There are some quite pricey penalties for over-use, though, so if you go for a low data cap make sure you know what you're entitled to and read the small print.

tent Length of contract. Contracts are usually 12, 18 or 24 months. There are pay-as-you-go options available for those not keen to commit, although with pay as you go you will probably be asked to pay for the USB modem, which is normally thrown in free with a contract.

 

About the author: Ciaron Dunne is editor of www.broadbandgenie.co.uk, the independent comparison website for broadband and mobile broadband.


 

 

 

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