Buyers’ guide: mobile broadband pay as you go
As wonderful as it would be if all the mobile broadband providers priced their pay as you go mobile broadband deals and PAYG dongles in the same way, sadly we just have to accept this will never happen. New deals come along thick and fast, and its easy to get bamboozled by all the weird and wonderful connotations: down the page you’ll find a quick breakdown of the things to look out for when comparing mobile broadband pay as you go internet services.
Remember that although there are plenty of cheap deals about in the UK pay and go mobile broadband marketplace, it’s not always right to go for the cheapest offers after carrying out a comparison of the various products and reading the reviews of them from customers, as these might not neccessarily be the best pay as you go mobile broadband deals available.
Mobile broadband PAYG options?
Pay as you go mobile broadband deals come in a whole variety of different varieties and packages, with special offers always being promoted by the providers. Some of the premium pay as you go broadband dongle deals are very good, but it’s important to spend time comparing them all so that you don't end up going for a PAYG dongle package that is more powerful than you’ll ever want.
If you have specific needs from your mobile broadband pay as you go service then you’ll need to hone your search to compare just the deals and offers that are relevant, all of which can be done with ease using the columns and dropdown menus in the Broadband Genie comparison tables.
You’ll certainly find plenty of pay as you go internet dongle deals out there in comparison land, with PAYG dongle offers from all thr networks - Three Mobile, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2 and Orange. They offer variations on dongles, mobile Wi-Fi units and Wi-Fi laptops too. Pay as you go broadband can be tailored to suit specific needs however, so don’t just plump for any old dongle pay as you go package without first sorting through the comparison table above.
What's in a name: mobile broadband pay as you go?
Firstly, all of the mobile internet providers use a different name to describe what their mobile or 3G broadband pay as you go deal does: 'pay and go', 'top up and go', 'ready-to-go', 'pay per day' - just remember, it all adds up to the same thing: you are paying in advance for the amount of time (in days), or GB of usage, that you want to use on the internet. Sadly this array of pay as you go mobile broadband branding adds an extra layer of confusion to proceedings, but that's marketing for you.
What you need to do is look past the pay and go mobile broadband branding and focus on the nitty gritty. If you're undecided as to which pay and go mobile broadband provider to go with, this could be a key part of the decision, as will which pay as you go dongle you pick too.
Mobile broadband PAYG: Pay per day vs pay per GB?
Have a think about how you use your pay as you go internet dongle before you decide and compare which of these options is better for you. Essentially, both do what they say on the tin: you're either paying for a specific segment of time (either one day, one week, or one month, depending on provider) or a specific amount of data use via a wireless broadband service.
Pay per day deals come in a variety of shapes and sizes: you can pay in advance for a day, a week, or a month - even a three month chunk. Pay per GB deals mean you choose an amount of data you're going to use in the broadband dongle pay as you go package (much like choosing minutes and texts on a mobile phone pay as you go deal) and pay for that up front instead: you pay a certain amount per GB. Just to confuse matters though, pay per day deals that fall under the umbrella of mobile broadband PAYG still have usage limits, while pay per GB deals have time limits. But don't despair! It's not as complicated as it sounds.
When you opt for a pay per day deal, you can't just download films 24/7: there will be a fair usage policy in place, or a set GB limit for the time period you've paid for. When you opt for a pay per GB laptop internet deal, it will have an expiry date - after this time period expires, you've lost what's left of the data usage and will have to top up again to get online. The expiry time can range from 30 days to three months.
How do I choose which pay and go?
If you do decide to go for a pay as you go mobile broadband dongle, you're going to have a time limit and a GB limit whichever option you choose. When you're looking at our comparison tables, be sure to note the up-front cost in the 'Price' column.
This is the price you'll pay for the pay as you go dongle itself (which attaches to your laptop or PC, giving your laptop internet access) along with the initial cost of any data included with it (listed in the 'Free usage' column). This can vary wildly, although the prices of pay as you go dongles is coming down all the time.
The other key element to mobile internet, pay as you go broadband or otherwise, is coverage. This is becoming less of an issue as the providers beef up their 3G broadband networks, and those in major conurbations shouldn't see too much difference between them, but if in doubt click on the 'Providers' tab at the top of this page and click on the one you're thinking about signing up with from the drop-down menu.
Under each product's 'GO' button is a link to the appropriate provider's coverage checker - click this, enter your postcode, and see what kind of signal you should get in the areas you'll most likely be using your mobile internet dongle (you can check whether you would pick up 3G internet - mobile broadband will be very slow without it).
PAYG dongle one-month contract?
While pay as you go dongles and PAYG broadband dongle deals are probably the most flexible option for occasional users, some providers now offer a one-month contract option, which effectively means you only have to give 30-days notice to quit - almost PAYG but not quite.
Pay as you go broadband dongle deals are many and varied though. Take a look at the range of one-month mobile broadband contracts available if you're going to be a regular user but don't want to commit to a long contract. As we said earlier, it may not always be the cheapest deal that is going to be best for you if you have specific needs and requirements from your pay as you go mobile broadband package.
However, signing up for a mobile broadband pay as you go package on a one month PAYG dongle deal can be a great way of getting the best aspects from a mobile internet service, but without signing up for a contract that goes on for ages. That way, if you find that the pay as you go broadband dongle is costing more than you thought, or the package is simply too highly performing for your needs then you can always move to another dongle pay as you go option.
Get the best dongle pay as you go deals
Packages featuring dongle pay as you go mobile internet deals are always changing too, so revisit our comparison tables to keep tabs on the cheap mobile broadband PAYG options as they evolve. For example, one week you might see offers on O2 dongle pay as you go deals, while the next week it might be 3G dongle pay as you go packages that offer exciting new options but from another provider.
Pay as you go internet is still growing in popularity too and the range of pay as you go dongles seems to expand almost daily as well, from different UK providers such as Vodafone, 3 Mobile, Orange and T-Mobile. If you’re wary about committing to a broadband dongle contract then this is likely to make you even more reluctant, because you might feel that as soon as you sign up for a package or offer then another better deal will come along.
But that’s the beauty of mobile broadband pay as you go deals - you’re generally free to move to other offers as they come along. Contract deals, on the other hand, usually involve signing up for a service that you may find is not right for you further down the line. Mobile broadband pay as you go is therefore very sensible for thrifty types who want a lot more flexibility.
That's the great thing about our internet dongles price comparison charts too - they're updated constantly, meaning it's much easier to pinpoint something like the cheapest pay as you go package or newly unveiled mobile broadband PAYG deal in one place, rather than trawling the web looking for mobile internet pay as you go news and reviews to decide which to buy.
Pay as you go mobile broadband Wi-Fi units
Mobile Wi-Fi, or MiFi, is the latest trend in mobile broadband and some pay as you go deals are already on the market. MiFi devices work in the same way as a dongle but instead of plugging in a dongle, the MiFi sits and transmits the mobile broadband signal in the same way Wi-Fi works with most home broadband.
While MiFi devices cost a little more than a dongle they are definitely worth considering, as they add a lot of flexibility to your mobile broadband pay as you go package.