Mobile broadband adoption is continuously on rise nowadays. Many people use mobile internet broadband to access internet to check emails, browse web pages, listen to music or watch streaming videos on the move.
Use your mobile handset/smartphone or Apple iPad or a laptop to access broadband whenever you want, wherever you are. Just switch on your laptop and plug in the dongle or USB modem to surf the internet at superb speeds just like your home broadband line. Stay connected to internet, wherever you are, whether you are outside the home or the office. It is that much simple!
What is mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband is a way of connecting you to internet using a small device called dongle which is plugged into the USB port of your laptop or PC.
Mobile broadband does not use wires or cables like the traditional ADSL or cable broadband technologies to provide broadband connections. It works just like mobile phone service which works on mobile phone networks that send and receive voice calls from your handsets.
In the areas where there is coverage, your handsets work. The main difference between mobile phone service and mobile broadband is that the latter use advanced mobile networks (called 3G mobile networks) to transmit broadband signals.
To enable your laptop to receive these signals, you require a data card or dongle to be inserted into the USB port of the laptop and the activation is usually done in no time. You can also use mobile phones that have built-in support for 3G mobile networks to access mobile broadband.
Mobile Broadband Providers in the UK
Some leading mobile broadband providers in the UK include 3, T-mobile, Vodafone, O2, Orange and Virgin Media. As mobile broadband is subject to network availability, you need to check whether you live in an area where you can get signals.
To get the best out of mobile broadband, check to see whether you have 3G network coverage in your area as 2G network (GPRS) offers much slower speeds.
What access speeds can I get?
While typical downstream speeds may vary between 300Kbps and 1.5Mbps, you can expect higher speeds in major cities or wherever you get strong signals. Do not be misled by the advertised speeds such as 4.5Mbps or 7.2Mbps. If you are able to get 3.6Mbps or more, you can still be happy.
Typical upload speeds may be up to 384Kbps. Apart from the location, other factors like hardware (laptop, PDA and mobile internet dongle), network congestion and internet traffic may also affect the speeds.
Is mobile broadband a good option for me?
Certainly, yes, if you are the one who is looking for a broadband option that can allow you to stay connected to internet on the move. You can check your emails, surf the internet, play games and watch popular video sites from different locations, outside the house, outside the office or in a café or on a train.
It is easy to setup and use and also very handy to carry. And there is no need to go through all the pains of buying and maintaining fixed broadband line.
Today, most people like students, employees and business users find the usefulness of being in touch all the time, from anywhere. Mobile broadband makes a huge difference in their lives.
Differences between Wi-fi internet and mobile broadband access
First, wi-fi hotspots are not everywhere. There is no guarantee that you can find one when you want to go online. You need to search for a wi-fi hotspot and that can be a pain in some areas.
Second, you have to be in a place like restaurant or wherever you are provided this kind of broadband access. Again, you are tied to a fixed place just as working in home or office.
Just compare this situation with using mobile broadband on a train or in a café. All you need is a USB dongle on your laptop and you are instantly connected to the web!
Mobile broadband network (3G) coverage in the UK
Mobile broadband uses high speed 3G mobile networks to help you to browse faster and download the large files much rapidly just like a fixed broadband line. Most urban areas in the UK are connected by 3G networks of the UK mobile broadband providers like T-mobile, Vodafone, O2, Orange or 3. However, many rural areas are yet to be connected by 3G networks. Don’t expect the higher speeds in such areas. So, check the coverage map of the providers before signing up which you can do by visiting their websites.
Also remember that there are regional areas in 3G network coverage where you cannot expect higher speeds due to poor signal strength. It is better to be a bit practical in approach.
The cost of mobile broadband
Currently, mobile broadband is a bit expensive when you compare it with a fixed broadband deal that offers the same speed or the same monthly download allowance. However, it is rather incorrect to compare mobile broadband and fixed broadband in this way. With mobile broadband, there is always better mobility and other special features that fixed broadband line cannot offer.
However, you can save money by finding the best deal as the providers offer discounts and incentives to the potential customers.
Mobile broadband service providers generally give you two options when you sign up: monthly contract or pay as you go. Monthly contracts may vary between 12 and 24 months. Under this plan, you get a dongle free of cost and the package may cost up to £30 per month. Nowadays, a few providers also offer free laptop with mobile broadband packages which may cost up to £40 per month provided you agree for a longer contract.
If you do not like the idea of being tied in by contract lengths, then Pay As You Go (PAYG) or pre-paid mobile broadband is still there. Just pay for usage on per day or per GB terms. Why go for longer contracts, if you are an occasional user? However, you need to pay for the dongle when you choose this option.
Another important thing you have to bear in mind is that the tariff usually changes when you use mobile broadband outside the UK. So, check the complete tariff details in case you want to use mobile broadband internet in other countries outside the UK.
Cheap Mobile broadband
- Check to see whether you have to pay for the dongle. Except with longer contracts, you cannot get it free of cost. In case of Pay As You option, you usually have to buy the dongle.
- Check your monthly usage that it does not exceed the download cap. Monthly contracts usually have a download cap. If you buy a cheap deal, you may not get large download allowance so you need to be extra careful. When you exceed this limit, you will be charged for the extra usage. Only way to prevent this from happening is to check your usage on regular basis.
- If you are unsure of your usage patterns, better sign up for Pay As You Go mobile broadband. Once you exceed your usage limit, you temporarily get disconnected until you buy the next top-up usage.
- Check to see whether there is free setup. If no, it is an additional cost that you have to bear.
How to find the best mobile broadband deal?
There are hundreds of mobile broadband packages on the market and how to compare all the packages with all the confusing techie words?
Start from ‘what you really need’ from your mobile broadband package. Need higher speeds because you want everything to be done a bit faster? Larger downloads? How are you going to use it? Occasionally or do you plan to use it for downloading large files, watching videos etc? Do you want to cut the costs as you are restricted by budgetary limits? Are you ready to sign up for longer contracts or go with Pay as you option?
Compare all the mobile broadband deals by checking all the details like speed, monthly download cap, price, contract length etc. As we have said, speeds may vary depending on the factors like signal strength, spectrum interference and internet traffic. Checking the coverage map of the providers may help you to find out how much speeds you can expect in your location.
Make sure that you choose the package that gives you ample data allowance to do all your internet activities.
Check to see if there is any hidden cost that you have to bear. If so, check to see the package delivers extra value for that.
If you think that a provider has reputation for great service, consider going for longer contracts. You can save money as you get lower monthly tariffs and also free dongle.
If you are a light user or do not want to be tied in by contracts, go for Pay As You Go broadband.
Do not hurry to buy the package without spending some time on online research or shopping around. There are some excellent mobile broadband deals from providers like Vodafone, 3, T-mobile, Orange and Virgin Media.
Laptop mobile broadband. How to begin?
Using laptop to access mobile broadband is the best option. A Pentium-IV with minimum 1GB RAM is ideal.
Find a mobile broadband package that suits your needs and budget.
Once you signed up with your provider, you will get a dongle (USB modem). Make sure that you have inserted the SIM into it. Now, plug the dongle into the free USB port available on your laptop. The software that comes with the dongle will do the rest of the installation. You will be connected to surf the web.