A Newbie’s Guide To Mobile Broadband Internet

Feb 2, 2014 by

A Newbie’s Guide To Mobile Broadband Internet

The mobile broadband Internet market has certainly exploded over the past few years, and thanks to faster 4G data technology it is now possible to have a mobile data connection which is faster than many people’s home landline broadband connections!

As with mobile phones and their associated contracts, there is a huge range of options available to those who are looking to use mobile broadband to their advantage. Here is a newbie’s guide on the subject, which will hopefully assist you in choosing the best solution for your needs!

How does mobile broadband work?

It works in a similar way to how it does with a smartphone, in that a SIM card is required to work inside of a device that is capable of transmitting and receiving data over radio waves.

With mobile broadband, instead of using a smartphone you use a USB ‘dongle’ which looks similar to USB flash drives except it has all of the technology needed to send and receive data over the air. Some people also use other devices like 3G routers and ‘MiFi’ devices which enable wireless mobile Internet access from multiple computers and devices.

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon (via Flickr).

Why use mobile broadband?

There are many reasons why a person would want to use mobile broadband:

  • No provision for landline-based broadband – there are a few parts of Britain that still lack a decent ADSL or fibre-based broadband service, and so consumers have to resort to using mobile broadband;
  • Internet access on the go – if you are on a train or you are sitting in a cafe somewhere with your laptop or Apple iPad, for example, you can have access to mobile broadband so that you don’t have to go home or to your office in order to do your work or surf the World Wide Web;
  • It’s cheap – quite often mobile broadband connections are cheaper to use than some ADSL or fibre-based landline services, especially if Internet access is needed every day (there are pay-as-you-go plans available for many mobile broadband services).

What types of mobile broadband are there?

As mentioned earlier, you can access the Internet with your mobile broadband SIM card using a USB dongle, MiFi device or 3G router. Alternatively, if you are using a tablet or laptop which has a SIM card slot for mobile broadband Internet, you only need the SIM card.

Network operators tend to offer pre-pay and post-pay contracts with USB dongles, MiFi devices or just the SIM cards by themselves if you are using your own device.

In terms of cost, prices typically start from £5 to 10 as a one-off top-up, or you can pay for a monthly contract which offers a fixed amount of bandwidth (the amount you are entitled to download and upload each month, measured in megabytes or gigabytes).

What kind of speeds could I get?

Due to the nature of the service offered, the speeds you are likely to attain will depend on where you are in the UK and whether you use the service indoors or outdoors. Ofcom has a handy list of links to network operators to see how good the coverage is in your area.

Coverage aside, the speeds you are likely to get can vary depending on what service you pay for (i.e. 3G mobile broadband, up to 7.2Mb, or 4G mobile broadband, up to 21Mb).

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