Many of us have heard about mobile broadband and thought, I already have broadband at home – why would I pay more for another connection? There are several reasons why it might just be the right kind of broadband for you.
So what exactly is mobile broadband?
Where home broadband uses your telephone landline to run the internet into your home, mobile broadband gets it via the same signal your mobile phone uses. Mobile broadband is sometimes built into devices such as laptops and tablet PCs (such as the iPad), but more commonly you buy a simple USB modem (often called a dongle) or a mobile Wi-Fi unit (which works in just the same way home Wi-Fi does). The advantage of of a dongle or mobile Wi-Fi unit is you can use them to get any PC, laptop or other internet ready device on line when you need them. They are really easy to setup and use too.
Advantages and disadvantages
In the UK especially, mobile broadband can be a little patchy and rather slow. At the moment you’re unlikely to get an average speed much faster that 1-2Mb, which is a fraction of what you can get from some home broadband packages. However, if you’re just checking email and looking at web sites an average speed of 1-2Mb is more than enough to get by – it is only advanced tasks such as downloading large files that are problematic. As for patchiness of service, all mobile broadband providers have coverage maps on their site – be sure to check your area has 3G coverage (the fastest UK mobile broadband signal right now), or it probably isn’t worth the cost. Finally, a big advantage of mobile is you can take it with you – on the train, on holiday etc.
A money saving alternative to home broadband
While we’re bombarded right now with adverts saying ‘home broadband for just £5.99’ or similar, the truth is you also have to pay more than £10 on top of that for monthly line rental. With home broadband, that is simply unavoidable. Many people no longer have any use for a landline, as their mobile phone has taken over its duties completely – it is only there to get your fixed-line broadband into the house. If you opt for mobile broadband, you can lose your landline bill as well as your home broadband bill.
Getting a good mobile broadband deal
If you decide to go for mobile broadband, think carefully before taking a particular deal. Once you’ve checked coverage in your area, and those you might travel regularly too, decide how much data you will be using each month. Simple web browsing, email checking and social networking will only use up to about 25 MB per month. Streaming TV (such as the i Player or YouTube) can increase that to 150 MB of usage per hour, while downloading a whole film could use close to 1000 MB (or 1 GB). Data will be cheaper per GB if you go for a contract, while you will often get a special offer thrown in such as a free dongle, or even free vouchers or a free laptop! However, very occasional users should consider a pay-as-you-go alternative where you only pay for the actual data you use.