What is mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband is simply the term used for connecting to the internet wirelessly, without requiring access to a router - instead using a 'dongle' to get online through mobile phone signals.
Usually, the dongle will be sent to you by your provider when you sign up to a mobile broadband service. This will often be a device that will plug into the USB port on your laptop or tablet. Once you have your dongle you will then be able to surf the web at your leisure. It doesn't matter if you're on the bus to work, or if you're enjoying a coffee with friends, as long as you're in an area that is receiving a mobile signal, you will be able to access the internet.
Depending on your type of smartphone and mobile provider, you will be able to access the internet using 3G or 4G networks - 3G delivers data at slower speeds, while 4G is much faster; sometimes as fast as home broadband. Another way of getting online if you’re not within range of a Wi-Fi network is by setting up a Personal Hotspot, which allows you to share the data connection of your smartphone. However, not all network carriers supports Personal Hotspot.
This kind of flexibility really suits people who always need access to the internet, even when they are on the go. It can also be appealing to people who don't want to commit to a long term fixed line broadband deal. For more information, read our mobile broadband guide.
How does mobile broadband work?
Mobile broadband works by using a 3G signal to connect to the internet. 3G is the 3rd generation of mobile phone technology and allows providers to offer more services, such as internet on the go. This means that you do not need a fixed line connection to get on the net. Most new mobile phones will be 3G enabled and mobile broadband dongles use the same technology.
This means that when you plug your USB dongle into your computer it will be able to access broadband through mobile phone signals, which results in you having the option of accessing the web anywhere, as long as there is a mobile signal.
A few years ago, when this technology was in its infancy there were criticisms of the download speeds that mobile broadband offered. However, mobile broadband coverage has advanced a lot over the last couple of years and in some areas you should be able to receive speeds of up to 7.2Mbps.
Why should I use mobile broadband?
There are many reasons to use mobile broadband these days. The main reason is that it is the most convenient and flexible way to access the internet. With your fixed line connection you will have to be within a certain radius of your modem in order to use your broadband. With a mobile dongle you will have access to broadband services almost anywhere.
Many people have lifestyles that mean they cannot risk being without the internet for any length of time. You may have a long commute to work in the morning and, with mobile broadband you would be able to send and receive emails while you are travelling.
Another advantage on offer is Pay as You Go mobile broadband which makes this service even more flexible. This is great for occasional broadband users who feel that they do not use the internet enough to warrant paying a fixed price each month. With a Pay as You Go service you can simply pay for the exact amount of data that you use each month.
What do I need to use mobile broadband
All you will need to use mobile broadband is a laptop or computer with USB ports. You should also check the service provider's requirement check list before you purchase a dongle. The reason for this is that certain operating systems like Linux may not be compatible with the dongle you have.
Some provider's may even offer free laptop with mobile broadband deals. While this can be great if you are looking for an 18 or 24 month contract, you may find that over the course of the contract you end up paying more for the laptop than you would have needed to had you bought it separately.
If you decide that mobile broadband is the best option for you then you would also be advised to install a good security package to keep your computer safe from potentially harmful viruses and malware.