Mobile broadband enables you to stay connected to the internet at home, on the move and even in your car and better still you don't need a landline or even a contract to get switched on. All you need is a mobile broadband dongle or Mobile WiFi device and away you go!
Browsing on mobile broadband is now faster than ever thanks to a new breed of 4G mobile broadband dongles that take full advantage of the new faster 4G networks offered by UK operators. In many cases it can offer faster speeds than a fixed line broadband connection and also reach areas that fixed line broadband cannot.
There are various different types of mobile broadband devices, different operators to choose from and a host of different contracts and Pay As You Go plans to choose from.
Mobile WiFi (or WiFi) enables you to share internet with a number of devices simultaneously over a personal WiFi hotspot.
These clever devices take a single mobile broadband connection and broadcast it over a personal WiFi network meaning you can connect up to 10 WiFI-enabled devices at once. All of the Mobile WiFi devices below also enable you to connect to your PC or laptop using a USB cable.
Car Mobile WiFi devices plug straight into your vehicles 12V (cigarette) port enabling the device to draw power so you never run out of battery. In all other ways they are the same as standard Mobile WiFi devices.
4G dongles are perfect for plugging straight into your laptop, MAC or PC's USB port and can prove cheaper if you don't need to share internet with multiple devices.
You might think that 4G is just about smartphones, but there are any number of portable devices that could benefit from an internet connection, be it a tablet, a laptop, an e-reader or even a handheld console. With 4G mobile broadband you can essentially create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot that’s with you wherever you go, thereby allowing you to get those things online.
4G mobile broadband works in much the same way as standard 4G, except rather than getting a signal to your phone, you get one to a USB stick or MiFi device, which can then either be plugged into the device that you want to give internet to or used to create a wireless signal which multiple devices can connect to.
The obvious advantage is that it gives you access to the internet on any and all of your devices, wherever you happen to be. You might be able to rely on Wi-Fi when at home, work or the local coffee shop, but on the train or in the middle of nowhere you’ll likely find that there’s no signal.
So this is a way to get online with devices that don’t have built in 4G capabilities. The same idea has existed with 3G for a while, but the advantage of 4G mobile broadband is that it’s a lot faster.
In fact, 4G can be so fast that in some places it’s even a viable alternative to fixed line broadband at home.
While 4G mobile broadband can certainly be fast it can also be expensive. We’ll get into specific costs in the section below, but suffice to say it still tends to be more expensive than 3G. It also often has quite strict data limits, which are less of a factor with standard Wi-Fi.
These vary between tariffs and networks, but you’re not likely to find one with unlimited data, even on networks like Three which offer unlimited data for phones.
The coverage still isn’t perfect. The leading operator (EE) has made decent inroads and currently provides over 92% of the UK population with 4G, but that still leaves a number of areas which won’t get a 4G signal. While O2 is currently hovering around 70%, Vodafone’s last update put it at 68% and Three’s coverage is at around 63%.
When you can’t get 4G these devices will switch to a 3G signal, but even then there are signal dead zones, plus 3G is slow and you could find yourself paying a premium for slow speeds if you regularly find yourself in 3G areas.
4G mobile broadband coverage is the same as standard 4G coverage and varies by network, so you’ll have to check the coverage map of whichever network you’re interested in to get the latest data. However, as a general rule large cities such as London and Manchester should be good to go while smaller places may or may not have 4G coverage.
Right now EE has by far the greatest coverage, as it reaches over 92% of the UK and even offers double speed 4G in many cities and LTE-A (branded as 4G+) in London and beyond. But even the other networks are starting to offer fairly comprehensive 4G coverage, so it should only be a matter of time before your network of choice has 4G where you need it.