By May 5, 2009

Mobile Broadband Guide by Broadband Genie

About Mobile Broadband

If you ever want to get online when you’re out and about without hunting around for a WiFi hotspot; want to check your mail or your bank balance on the move on your laptop; if you’ve ever wound up frustrated trying to tether your handset to your laptop to try to get a connection  then mobile broadband could be just the thing for you.

Using a USB modem, usually known as dongle, plugged in to your laptop, mobile broadband connects you to the internet via the mobile phone networks, just the same as the 3G connection on your mobile phone: except you’ve got all that lovely laptop functionality to work with, rather than squinting at a tiny handset screen.


Okay, but is it any good?

Well, that’s the critical question. There are big leaps forward coming very soon for mobile broadband, but at present it is not considered a complete alternative to your fixed-line broadband; mainly because of speed and coverage.

In terms of coverage, mobile broadband experiences the same problems you will already be familiar with from using your mobile phone; some areas have better coverage than others, and it will depend on which network you’re on, and where you are (how far from a mast) as to how good your signal is.

And as far as speed goes, the best speed offered in the UK at the moment is up to 7.2Mb,  but it’s that ‘up to’ that’s the crunch. Just like with your fixed-line broadband, the advertised speeds and the actual speeds don’t usually match up. Again this depends on which network you’re with and where you are geographically, but it’s safe to say that at present it’s likely that your mobile broadband connection will be noticeably slower than your fixed-line one.

However, the important thing to remember is that mobile broadband isn’t the same as fixed-line broadband, so comparisons of speed and coverage aren’t necessarily helpful. The key thing about mobile broadband is that it is mobile, and if you want to get connected on the move, be that regularly or just occasionally, then mobile broadband is the ideal solution.

Choosing mobile broadband

There is a wealth of choice of mobile broadband packages available at the moment:  it’s a competitive market with all the suppliers keen for your custom, so it pays to know what you’re looking for and to shop around. In order to get an overview of what’s on offer, it’s a good idea to use an independent comparison website such as Mobile Broadband Genie, which has up to date information on all the latest deals for easy comparison.

When you’re choosing a mobile broadband deal there are a few key things to look for, namely the contract type and length, the speed offered, the download limit, and of course the price.

Download limit is a key difference between fixed-line and mobile broadband. Most fixed-line deals include unlimited or virtually unlimited downloads, but because it is more expensive to deliver data via a mobile connection, this kind of flat rate unlimited deal is not possible with mobile broadband. Mobile broadband contracts are limited to anything between 1GB and 15GB per month, with higher limits usually costing more. Vodafone recently launched an ‘unlimited’ download offer, although this is still subject to a fair usage policy, so with all contracts it’s a good idea to read the small print and know what you’re entitled to, and what it’ll cost you if you go over.

Contracts are usually available as pay-as-you-go, which offers more flexibility but often at a greater price, or 12, 18 or 24 month fixed contracts. If you’re more a pay-as-you-go sort of person it’s worth noting that you’ll pay for your dongle, and that most providers’ top-ups expire after a certain amount of time, so you can’t just top up and then not use it for months. The exception to this is Vodafone: its top-ups don’t expire. If you opt for the fixed type contract, you’ll usually get the dongle for free, and you may get a better deal all round for signing up for longer, although of course that stops you shopping around again for a while.

Moving on to speed; as mentioned before, mobile broadband is sold as ‘up to’ the headline speed, which tells you almost nothing about what you’ll actually experience. The key here is to get on to the provider and quiz them about speeds in your area:  they should provide you with the relevant information.

Finally the key factor for many people: cost. This depends on what you choose in terms of all of the above. Additionally, what you get for your money changes from month to month, and there are usually some special offers to be had. Special offers may include anything from low introductory rates up to subsidised extras such as a laptop.

There are some really good mobile broadband deals around, and armed with the right information it’s easy to choose the right one for you. Then all you have to do is plug in your dongle and go:  it’s as easy as that.

Written by: Chris Marling of, the independent comparison website for broadband and mobile broadband

Posted by: John

Posted in: Desktop Computing

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