Mobile broadband is an increasingly popular way to get online, thanks to the fact that more and more we want to get online on the move. But with popularity comes increased choice – not only in gadgets, but also the types of deal you can choose.
We’ve put together the top five things to consider when considering which mobile broadband option is right for you. If you work your way through the list, you should be able to identify the right deal for you and be up and online in no time. Of course there is no such thing as the ‘best’ mobile broadband deals – only the best for you. The key is putting in a little bit of leg work to be sure you get the best value you can.
You may have a certain mobile provider you want to be loyal too, but if they don’t have good 3G (or, even better, 4G) mobile coverage in the areas you need to get online, you’ll be wasting your money. All mobile providers should have coverage checkers on their websites – check out your options first and rule out any who have poor cover in your area. You can also check out personal opinions – what providers do your friends use locally and how do they fare?
Once you’ve narrowed down the mobile broadband provider, choose how you want to access the internet. The most common way is via a USB modem, or dongle. These pop in your pocket and are often free, or very cheap at worst. They can be plugged into any internet device with a USB port, (laptop, PC etc) giving you some flexibility, while also being a good back-up for your home broadband. The second option is mobile Wi-Fi, or MiFi. These gadgets are also pocket sized and work just like home broadband Wi-Fi, letting you connect several devices at once. Finally there is built-in mobile broadband, normally found on laptop deals where the mobile broadband hardware is built into the device.
3) Download limit
With your device and providers narrowed down, decide how much data you think you will need. Getting this right can save you a packet, as you can either cut your monthly bill or avoid paying for extra data above your usual limit. A bit of browsing and checking text emails should hardly use anything (maybe up to 25MB per hour), but downloading large files and streaming video content can really up the stakes – maybe as much as 500MB per hour, or more for large downloads on a fast connection.
The most important thing to remember here is to take what mobile broadband providers say with a pinch of salt. Connections on a 3G network tend to have a top-end speed of 7.2Mb, but you are unlikely to get anything close to this – an average close to 2Mb is most likely, no matter which mobile broadband provider you choose. However, if you can get a supplier who has a 4G network in your area, this will make a very big difference to your speeds – up to 20Mb, or perhaps even more.
5) The deal
With all this knowledge in place, it’s time to choose your deal. You’ll probably find contract and prepay deals on offer – the former will normally be cheaper, offer good hardware deals, but be less flexible. The latter will mean you only pay for what you need to use, but will be more expensive per MB and offer less cheap hardware. Either way, if you’ve done your research following the guidelines above, you should be on track to get the right mobile broadband deal for you.