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Temporary Wi-Fi: Best short-term internet options

16th May 2024

Temporary wifi solutions

Temporary Wi-Fi can be extremely useful when moving house, if you’re in temporary accommodation, for use in a caravan, or if you're waiting for fibre broadband to be installed.

There are a number of short-term internet options available to choose from including tethering using your phone, mobile broadband, 4G & 5G broadband, or no-contract fibre broadband. 

We'll look at all the options in turn to help you decide the best option for you.

Table of Contents

1. Tethering

Tethering
Pros Cons
No extra cost Consumes your phone's battery
All you need is your phone Uses your phone's data allowance
No need for a socket  

Tethering is the simplest and cheapest temporary Wi-Fi option, because it’s something that almost everyone can do with their existing hardware and at no extra cost.

By tethering, we mean using your phone to make a personal hotspot that you can connect other devices – such as laptops and tablets – to. Enable this option on your handset (via your phone’s settings menu) and your phone will create a Wi-Fi network using whatever mobile signal it itself is connected to. So if you have a 5G connection for example, the resulting Wi-Fi network will deliver 5G speeds.

When devices connect to this network, they’ll also be sharing your phone’s data allowance, so that’s something to be aware of it you don’t have a high allowance or unlimited data, especially as larger devices like laptops can often eat up data quickly.

Another downside is that tethering will use up your phone’s battery faster, and some networks have fair usage limits for how many devices you can tether to your phone at once.

But if you only occasionally need to get gadgets online (and don’t need to connect too many at once) then it’s a great option to have in your pocket (literally).

SIM Only deals with tethering included

Three SIM Card

Unlimited data

Unlimited mins & texts

£21 a month

See Deal

Smarty SIM Card

Unlimited data

Unlimited mins & texts

£16 a month

See Deal

Tesco SIM Card

Unlimited data

Unlimited mins & texts

£25 a month

See Deal

Compare SIM Only Deals

2. Mobile broadband

Mobile Broadband
Pros Cons
Compact and portable Most need charging
No need for a socket Requires a separate data plan (unlike tethering)

If you require a temporary Wi-Fi solution on a regular or semi-regular basis, then mobile broadband is probably the option for you.

Mobile broadband is admittedly a vague term, and can sometimes refer to any broadband that uses a 5G, 4G, or 3G signal, but here we’re specifically talking about 5G, 4G, or 3G broadband devices that are either battery-powered, or dongles that you plug directly into a laptop. In other words, solutions that are designed to be taken with you when out and about, and which don’t require a power supply.

A battery-powered mobile broadband router is a small gadget that has its own SIM card and can beam out a Wi-Fi network over 5G, 4G or 3G, so it’s a bit like tethering but using a dedicated device rather than your phone.

That means you’re not using up your phone’s battery or data allowance (though you’ll need to pay for a separate data allowance for your mobile broadband device).

Dongles also fall into the mobile broadband category, and these don’t have a battery – instead you plug one directly into a laptop and it’s powered by the laptop.

So you don’t need to worry about charging them, and they’re typically very small and light, with a similar design to a USB stick. But in many cases they can only get the device they’re plugged into online. Some can additionally broadcast a network, but they still need plugging into something first, and that something usually needs to be a laptop or desktop.

Below, you’ll find an overview of the main mobile broadband options available on 1-month plans or Pay As You Go.

Mobile Broadband devices
Device What we like Price

Three Plus MiFi

Three 4G MiFi

1-month plans available

Three Logo

View price

EE 4G WiFi

1-month plans available

EE Logo

View price

 

EE 5G WiFi

1-month plans available

View price

Netgear Nighthawk M1

Netgear Nighthawk M1

1-month & PAYG plans

O2 Logo

View price

Alcatel Pocket Hotspot 4G

Alcatel Pocket Hotspot 4G

1-month & PAYG plans

O2 Logo

View price

Netgear Nighthawk M6

Netgear Nighthawk M6

1-month & PAYG plans

O2 Network Logo

View price

Vodafone 4G Mobile hotspot

 

Vodafone 4G Mobile Hotspot

1-month & PAYG plans

 

Vodafone logo

View price

Vodafone 5G Mobile Hotspot

Vodafone 5G Mobile Hotspot

1-month and PAYG plans

Vodafone Logo

View price

Of the many battery-powered mobile broadband options, the main differentiation is simply whether they're 4G or 5G devices, with only the Vodafone 5G Mobile Hotspot, the EE 5G WiFi, and the Netgear Nighthawk M6 offering faster 5G speeds. Beyond that, consider the coverage of the network they're on, and the cost and data limits of the plans offered. You can find more details of UK network coverage and reviews of many of these devices elsewhere on this site.

3. 4G and 5G home broadband

4G and 5G Broadband
Pros Cons
Doesn't need charging Less portable
Great for getting lots of devices online Costs extra

Another significant temporary Wi-Fi solution is 4G or 5G home broadband, though this can also work as a permanent solution.

4G and 5G home broadband means setting up a router in your home that uses 4G or 5G to create a Wi-Fi network. So it’s similar to the mobile broadband routers above, except there’s no battery here – it needs plugging in, so it’s less portable, but is designed to be left on all the time.

Because 4G and 5G home broadband is designed to bring internet to a whole home (or office), it also often supports up to 64 simultaneous device connections, so you can get all your devices online.

But it works as a temporary Wi-Fi solution because it’s incredibly quick and easy to set up, with 4G and 5G home broadband basically being plug and play. So you don’t need to wait for an engineer visit – you can have it up and running yourself minutes after the device arrives at your home.

In many cases you can also get 4G and 5G home broadband on short 30-day rolling plans, so you’re not tied into a long contract. This makes it a great temporary choice if you’ve moved house and haven’t had time to get fibre broadband set up yet – though it can be fast enough to be a strong permanent option too.

1- Month Broadband deals

EE Smart 4G Hub 2

EE Smart 4G Hub 2

5GB data

1-month plan

£19 a month

£40 upfront cost

View deal

Three 5G Broadband

Three 5G Broadband

Unlimited data

1-month plan

£25 a month

No upfront cost

View deal

EE Smart 4G Hub 2

EE Smart 4G Hub 2

Unlimited data

1-month plan

£55 a month

£40 upfront cost

View deal

Compare Broadband  Deals

5G and 4G home broadband is also easy to take with you and set up elsewhere – just plug it in somewhere else to bring internet to that location. Still, since it requires mains power it’s not as good for travel as the mobile broadband options above.

4G and 5G broadband devices
Device What we like Price

Three 5G Broadband

Three 5G Broadband

30-day plans

Three Logo

View price

Vodafone 5G GigaCube

30-day plans

Vodafone logo

View price

EE Smart 4G Hub 2

30-day plans

EE Logo

View price

The 4G and 5G home broadband routers in the chart above are all broadly similar. Some have higher top speeds than others, but real world speeds will more depend on network and location, so the network they're available on is worth considering – check each network's coverage in your home before making a decision. We'd also tend to recommend a 5G home broadband service over a 4G one. At the time of writing, only the Three 5G Broadband and the Vodafone 5G GigaCube offer a 5G solution on a 30-day plan.

4. No contract fibre broadband

No contract fibre broadband
Pros Cons
A more conventional Wi-Fi solution Can be expensive
A variety of speeds available Can be slow to set up

Finally, there are no contract fibre broadband plans. These are 30-day rolling plans that you can cancel at any time, and they provide a conventional fibre broadband connection to your home or office. So they're similar to 4G and 5G home broadband above, except using cables rather than a mobile signal. These services aren't typically as quick to set up as 5G or 4G home broadband, which can hamper their viability as a temporary solution, but once they're up and running you're not tied into a contract, and they're widely available.

You can also get plans offering a variety of speeds (at different prices), from around 11Mbps (which is slower than 4G broadband) all the way up to 1Gbps (which is faster than most 5G broadband), assuming you have the correct infrastructure for the highest speeds. That said, not many companies offer fibre broadband on a no contract option, and choosing not to have a contract is often more expensive per month or upfront.

Recommended no contract fibre broadband
Service What we like Price

Now Broadband

11Mbps, 36Mbps, or 63Mbps speeds

View deals
Hyperoptic

50Mbps, 150Mbps, 500Mbps, or 1Gbps speeds

View deals

Virgin Media

54Mbps, 132Mbps, 264Mbps, or 362Mbps average speeds

View deals

G.Network

150Mbps, 300Mbps or 1Gbps speeds

View deals

4th Utility

50Mbps, 100Mbps, 250Mbps, 500Mbps, 900Mbps

View deals

Of the no-contract fibre broadband options in the chart above, Hyperoptic and G.Network are the fastest if they can deliver their peak speeds to your home. However, they also charge more than Now Broadband. Note though that while Now Broadband's monthly prices are low, there's a £60 activation fee if you choose not to commit to a contract. 4th Utility is a strong option if it’s available, with speeds that almost match the highest, and significantly lower prices.

Conclusion

So there you have it, between tethering, mobile broadband, 4G or 5G home broadband, or a no-contract fibre broadband connection, there should be a temporary Wi-Fi solution suited to everyone.

For sheer versatility we'd give the nod to mobile broadband, but if you specifically need broadband just in one location, and a power supply isn't a problem, then we'd point you towards 5G home broadband if you have 5G coverage there. Failing that, 4G home broadband will do too, it's just slower, or you could look to a no contract fibre option, but setup might not be as fast.

Tethering we'd say is more of a last resort, for times when you weren't expecting to need a temporary Wi-Fi solution or only need it for a few hours, but it's a great (and essentially free) option to have.

Editorial Manager

James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.

In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.

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