How can I get mobile broadband?

Monday, 30 July, 2018

In recent years, internet access has become an essential component of daily life.

Today’s always-online society makes it surprisingly difficult to be without a dependable landline or cable-based broadband.

Mobile broadband represents a potential solution – though it isn’t without its drawbacks, as we explain below.

How it works

Conventional broadband internet access is piped into our homes through phone lines installed by Openreach (a BT offshoot), or along fibre cables buried underground by Virgin Media.

Mobile broadband is distributed across the same wireless network used to provide a 4G connection on phones and tablets.

However, it then behaves rather differently, depending on which hardware option you’ve chosen.

A USB stick provides a stable internet connection to a device that otherwise lacks wireless connectivity, like a desktop PC.

A MiFi unit is a smaller version of a conventional home hub, wirelessly distributing 4G data to create a local network which multiple devices are able to connect to.

Benefits of mobile broadband

  • It’s available immediately. Once you’ve chosen the package you want, simply order online or buy from a high street retailer. There are no installation worries or engineer visits to arrange, while any software is usually swiftly (and automatically) installed
  • It works on any device. Ethernet cables, phone sockets and cables are all redundant. Plug-in dongles work on any computer with a USB port, while compact MiFi hubs power everything from Kindles and laptops to smartphones and games consoles
  • Rolling contracts are widely available. Because it’s often chosen as a temporary solution, every network operator offers rolling one-month contracts. That’s ideal when you’re about to move house, living in temporary accommodation, or experiencing landline issues
  • It’s portable. Because there’s no requirement for a phone line, dongles and hubs can be relocated with ease. These lightweight devices are ideal for people who regularly move around, like contractors or locums.

Of course, mobile broadband has its drawbacks – not least relatively high costs and modest speeds – while 4G network performance varies widely over the course of a day.

Even so, these limitations need to be forgiven if it’s your best option for getting online.

How to choose the right package

The experts at Broadband Deals help our customers to find the optimal mobile internet deal for their unique circumstances and requirements.

We’re currently aware of almost two hundred deals, all of which are listed under Mobile Broadband in the drop-down Deals tab in the top-left corner of this page.

You can search by brand, and order results by cost, speed or data limits.

The Filter Deals button enables you to specify a preferred network type (some people need 3G if 4G isn’t widely available in their area), and whether you want a USB dongle or a hub.

It’s possible to choose maximum connection speeds, monthly data allowances and contract periods ranging from rolling one-month deals to two-year commitments.

Each deal links through to the relevant network operator’s website, where postage costs and delivery times are outlined as part of the checkout process.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!