Buyers' guide: cheap mobile broadband
Being able to stay online pretty much wherever you want to go has become wonderfully easy thanks to the advent of mobile broadband services. There is now a wealth of providers to choose from (Vodafone, 3 Mobile, Orange, O2 and T Mobile), who supply everything from the cheapest mobile broadband deals right on through to premium packages with all of the bells and whistles. Cheap mobile broadband deals have certainly become a lot more plentiful thanks to stiff competition between the mobile broadband providers.
In the same way that you can buy a mobile phone for peanuts, it’s now also possible to pick up a cheap pay as you go mobile broadband package for next to nothing as well, especially as dongles have really come down in price. And thanks to our comparison tables and current customer reviews throughout the site, it's now really easy to track down the deal that best suits your needs. Mobile broadband comes in lots of different variations, so there’s little point in paying for a premium package if one of the many cheap mobile broadband packages will do the trick.
Cheapest mobile broadband UK options
One of the main factors to consider before choosing your cheap mobile broadband package is to roughly work out how much you think you'll be using the service. If you're a casual user of online services, such as carrying out occasional web browsing or checking your email relatively infrequently then it's well worth narrowing down your search to some of the cheap pay as you go mobile broadband deals. These can be ideal for anyone who requires online access but doesn’t need or want the added flexibility offered by any of the contract-based cheap mobile internet deals.
At the same time, if you have a basic idea of where you'll be using your mobile wireless broadband package once you've honed down your search, it’s also a good idea to check the coverage in your chosen geographical area. You can use our coverage checker links in our comparison tables in order to click through to the mobile providers site and see how you'll fare when it comes to getting a signal from any of the cheap 3G broadband packages.
Cheap UK mobile broadband deals are similar to mobile phones in that you need decent signal strength for it to work properly. While coverage is getting a lot better across the country there can be some pockets that are less well served. So check out the levels in your area and also anywhere you think you might be heading in the near future to ensure that you can browse the web and check your email when you get there. There are plenty of cheap dongles around too, which are the plastic plug-and-play devices used to receive the mobile broadband signal, but be sure it'll work in your chosen area before you pick up the cheapest mobile broadband offer you can.
What you need for cheap mobile broadband
With your needs assessed and the coverage checked you can then move on to examining what’s on offer. Most of us tend to head towards the cheapest mobile broadband we can find, and that's fine because they all offer decent variations on the same theme. However, cheap mobile internet deals have limitations over their contract mobile broadband counterparts and you may find that they’re not as flexible as you might need. That all depends on what you want to do of course, so basic emailing and web browsing will be fine with something like a cheap pay-as-you-go mobile broadband option.
In terms of what equipment you'll need then alongside cheap dongles you'll require a PC, laptop, netbook or notebook computer. All of the cheap dongles will plug into these devices using an available USB port, and all of the mobile providers now have these machines available as part of some of their packages. Our comparison tables will give you the lowdown on the sort of computers that are available, and these can be had via some of the cheap mobile broadband deals, as part of a contract and, in some cases, you can even get one for free as part of the cheap mobile internet package that you've chosen.
Any of these computers work perfectly with the whole array of mobile deals, and cheap 3G broadband can be setup and working in no time thanks to the plug-and-play simplicity of the cheap dongles that are also on offer. Some of the newer machines have also started using built-in mobile broadband technology in order to receive the signal, so lookout for cheap mobile broadband deals that don’t need a dongle at all. Especially if you’re looking to lose the need for peripherals and have a truly get-up-and go package.
Cheap mobile broadband UK options
With the right machine and a cheap mobile broadband deal in your sights, it’s worth spending some additional time considering the other factors that will enhance your online experience while you’re away from home. There are lots of tantalizing figures quoted for mobile broadband speeds, but remember that these are invariably suggested speeds 'up to' that figure. Consequently, you won’t get anywhere near that and this can be down to a variety of reasons. It doesn’t matter if you've plumped for cheap pay-as-you-go mobile broadband or a premium service at the other end of the spectrum, mobile broadband can be affected by all sorts of factors.
Now that mobile broadband has become hugely popular it’s almost a victim of its own success - high volumes of network traffic can sap the strength of a mobile signal. Interference, low coverage areas and even things like thick walls in buildings or baby monitors can also cause your mobile broadband service to fluctuate. However, even a slow connection should be fine for getting online and surfing, or looking through your emails.
Cheap mobile broadband pointers
Casual users of mobile broadband aren't likely to be too bothered by factors like data allowances that come with all of the packages listed in our comparison tables. This isn't just limited to the cheap mobile broadband deals, because you'll find similar limits or caps are used in contract-based packages as well. The data allowance is basically the amount of information that you can download or upload during a fixed period of time. Even on pay-as-you-go, these limits tend to apply - you normally need to use your data up within 30 days of buying it, while some deals see you paying by the day.
If you spend large chunks of time online then it’s surprisingly easy to munch your way through the data allowance allocated to your cheap mobile internet package. Mobile broadband isn’t generally used for downloading large files containing the likes of movies and music, but even so it is possible to use up quite a lot of data allowance in a short space of time. So read up on the information listed in the cheap mobile broadband package that you fancy to get an idea of how much web browsing you can do before you hit the limits. If you go over these limits there can be additional costs involved, which may defeat the object of the signing up for cheap mobile broadband exercise.
Also, be very careful if travelling abroad. Called 'roaming', this will not be covered in your deal and is prohibitively expensive. We advise that, unless you've made your self very aware of the costs of using mobile broadband abroad and can afford it, that you leave your mobile broadband at home.
Cheap mobile broadband contracts
As you look through our comparison tables you'll see that there are now many similarities between the cheap pay-as-you-go mobile abroad deals when you compare it to their contract counterparts. In fact, they’re sort of meeting in the middle in lots of cases, so it’s now possible to get a one-month contract on a rolling basis and that means you’ve got the flexibility of pay-as-you-go mobile broadband while also having the ability to enjoy some of the perks that come with contract deals. This can include better data allowances and all manner of other little incentives that mobile providers list in order to hopefully gain your business.
Contract deals, whether they offer cheap 3G internet or a more in-depth package with all sorts of extras will require you to sign up for a longer period of time. However, you often get much more included in the extended deal option, although bear in mind the more average mobile broadband contracts can be anything up to 12, 18 or 24 months. While on face-value some of these deals might not look like they’re offering the cheapest mobile broadband on the block, they often more than make up for it with the extras that get thrown in along the way.
For example, if you need a new computer for your mobile broadband service then it's a great idea to look at the contract options that come with a so-called 'free' laptop. You'll pay more over the duration of, say 24 months, but even taking that into consideration you'll be getting cheap mobile broadband delivered to a brand-spanking new machine and it's also likely there'll be a free dongle thrown in for good measure too. And if you pick through the many cheapest mobile broadband deals on show here, some of the newer machines now have the connectivity for mobile broadband already built-in. This makes it the ideal hassle-free way to get yourself up and running with cheap 3G laptop internet.