Mobile broadband

Mobile broadband could suit your needs, especially if you require internet access on the go, but be wary of limits on speed, reception and data allowance.

When we talk about mobile broadband we're not referring to internet access on your mobile phone, but a type of internet connection that uses the mobile phone network rather than a fixed-line broadband service.Mobile broadband dongle

To access mobile broadband you need a data card or a USB dongle. While some laptops have this kind of connection built-in, some don't and rely on a dongle, which plugs into the USB port on your computer.

You can purchase a dongle from a mobile phone network and then connect to the internet using that network. This means you can browse the web anywhere, so long as you can get a mobile phone signal.

Levels of service and browsing costs will vary from different providers so - if this is the sort of broadband you require - we recommend shopping round and comparing deals to ensure you're getting the right product for your needs.

Please note: does not currently offer a mobile broadband comparison service.

Why mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband is generally used by those who do not want a fixed landline and/or those who want access to broadband on the go - perhaps when travelling to business meetings or working at external locations.

A dongle is the most common modem used to access mobile broadband

If your job demands regular travel and you find yourself spending a lot of time at different offices or on public transport, using mobile broadband could allow you to work while on the go.

Your smartphone may give you access to the internet, but working on documents is difficult, nigh on impossible, on a screen so small.

Mobile broadband allows you to take all the capabilities of a wired internet connection with you on the road. Working remotely may mean relying on other people's internet connection - in cafes or hotels - but when paired with a laptop or tablet, mobile delivery allows you to create a portable office wherever you are.

This could, for example, be useful for roving reporters sending pieces from the field, or bloggers reporting on a live event or conference.

Mobile broadband could be a suitable choice for students, too. Unlike standard broadband it should not require a contract and could help to avoid awkward conversations over bills or internet usage with housemates. You won't need to ask your landlord about getting a broadband connection to the house, either.

Is mobile broadband right for me?

Web access wherever you are sounds tempting, but you're relying on a signal being available wherever you are to make this promise a reality.Laptop

Availability in your area depends on network coverage and signal strength. If the aerials have not been upgraded to 3G or 4G then speed and connectivity can suffer significantly.

The growth of wi-fi networks across the world is continuing - in public spaces and buildings, cafes, hotels, offices and bars, for example. Many of these services may be free, offering a cost-effective alternative to mobile broadband.

But if you're going somewhere off the beaten track where wi-fi isn't available, you don't want to search for an accessible wi-fi connection, or you don't want to solely rely on someone else's service, mobile broadband may be a suitable alternative or back-up.

Mobile broadband at home

If you're considering mobile broadband for use at home, there are a few things to think about beforehand.

If you download photos, music or films, mobile broadband may not be for you

As with other types of broadband, the speed advertised isn't usually the speed you receive. This is why speeds are promised with a qualifier of 'up to', such as up to 7.2Mbps.

If you're accessing the internet to use data-heavy streaming services like Netflix or LoveFilm or are a regular online gamer, the speeds offered by mobile broadband may be insufficient for your needs and it's unlikely to be the most cost-effective option.

Similarly, if you download photos, music or films, mobile broadband may not be for you. The data allowances offered tend to be more in line with what you find as part of a mobile phone package, perhaps around the 1GB-5GB mark - fine if you're happy to use the internet for general surfing and reading emails, but insufficient for more data-heavy activities.

To decide if mobile is the right option for your needs, think about your internet usage and the speed your usage relies on.

What hardware do I need for mobile broadband?

To use mobile broadband you'll need a modem or a Sim card, like the one found in your mobile phone. Many new laptops have 3G broadband modems built in - it's worth checking before getting in touch with your network operator, as the antenna found in your laptop may perform better if it's newer.

A dongle is the most common modem used to access mobile broadband - it looks like a typical USB stick, but newer ones can be smaller.

If you want to share mobile broadband across your household, a router will be necessary. These can be expensive though, and you may find fixed line broadband more appropriate for your family's needs.

By Emily Bater