Mobile Broadband Buying Guide
Purchasing Mobile Broadband
Consider the following when shopping for mobile broadband.
- Always be sure to check system requirements before making a purchase.
- Mobile broadband receives data through the same cellular signals as your smartphone. Check coverage and signal quality in the areas you frequent before purchasing.
- Depending on your internet usage, mobile broadband can be a more affordable alternative to home broadband. It is, however, likely to be slower and have more limited data allowances.
- Not all mobile broadband packages will work abroad. Be sure to check tariff details if you plan to use it overseas.
Types of Mobile Broadband
USB modems, often referred to as dongles, plug into a USB port on your computer or tablet and connect you to the Internet when you are on-the-go.
- USB modems are extremely easy-to-use. Simply plug your dongle into a USB port, install the software and start making the most of the Internet.
- Small, lightweight and highly portable, USB modems can be slipped inside your bag or your pocket and taken with you wherever you go.
- Dongles are available with 3G and 4G connection speeds. 4G is almost always preferable, but it is not universally available across the country and is more expensive than 3G.
Mobile WiFi (sometimes referred to as MiFi) works in much the same way as a USB modem except for the fact that it allows you to create your own secure WiFi hotspot wherever you need it.
- Mobile WiFi can connect up to 10 devices to the Internet at once making it ideal for families and for small teams who need to work on-the-go.
- If you need an Internet connection when you are on the road, consider opting for a model that include a car charging kit so you always have WiFi when you need it.
- Although bulkier than dongles, MiFi units are still small enough to fit comfortably in your hand or in a small bag.
If you own a tablet or a laptop with cellular capabilities, then you can get online simply by inserting an activated SIM card.
- If you have a compatible device then all you need to do is choose a tariff or plan that suits you, insert your activated SIM card and enjoy the Internet.
- As with other mobile Internet, you can choose between 3G and 4G plans. Consider your usage and 4G coverage in the areas you frequent before deciding.
- SIM cards are available with a wide variety of tariffs, services and extras. They are available as pay monthly and pay as you go (PAYG), meaning you don’t even need to sign up for a long contract.
Mobile Broadband Features
Bandwidth & Speeds
The speed of your mobile broadband connection will be dictated by bandwidth. However, it is usually sold according to whether or not it works on 3G or 4G networks, the latter being the fastest.
- The bandwidth of an Internet connection, measured in bits per second (Mbps), directly impacts upon the speed of the connection.
- 4G is the latest generation of mobile Internet and the fastest. In theory, it is capable of download speeds of 150Mbps, however, expect speeds of around 11-14Mbps.
- 3G has a theoretical maximum speed of 7.2Mbps. However, users should expect an average of around 3-5Mbps. Note, these speeds are dependent on the quality and strength of the mobile signal.
There is a wide variety of data plans available so you’ll be sure to find the one that’s right for you.
- Establish how much data you expect to use each month and choose your plan accordingly. Remember that 1GB equates to about 40 hours of surfing time.
- Pre-paid plans work from the moment you sign up until the moment you cancel your contract. They tend to offer the best rates.
- PAYG plans are ideal for anyone who doesn’t want the commitment of a long-term contract and for anyone who wants to establish how much data they use in a month. Most PAYG data is only valid for 30 days.
Choosing a Provider
There are a number of considerations to bear in mind when choosing a provider, principal amongst these are tariffs, allowances, coverage and extras.
- Every tariff is different so spend some time establishing which one suits your browsing habits. Look out for things like data allowance, minimum contract length and how each provider allows you to monitor your usage.
- Always check network coverage in your area. Whilst 4G is preferable, it is not available in every part of the country.
- Some providers offer extras such as priority access to content and tickets to their users. If you need to use your mobile broadband abroad, verify if international usage is permitted.
Mobile Broadband Essentials
Having a tablet with cellular capabilities allows you to access the Internet on a large screen anywhere there is a mobile signal. Find the one that’s right for you.
Make sure you can get the very best from your mobile Internet connection by upgrading your laptop. Shop a wide variety of the latest devices.
Covers, Cases & Bags
Keep your laptop or tablet safe from bumps, drops and scratches when you are on-the-go with a lightweight, durable case, cover or bag.