Can I get unlimited mobile broadband?
At this time there are no unlimited mobile broadband deals available from any provider.
However that doesn’t mean you can’t get mobile broadband with data limits high enough to ensure you won’t get charged extra.
You can also opt for a cheaper deal with a lower data limit, but make use of the public Wi-Fi hotspots found all around the country to get effectively unlimited internet access at minimal cost.
How much data do I need?
If you already have a mobile broadband package, take some time to look at how much data you’re actually using at the moment. You may be able to see data usage stats via your network’s online account tools, or you can install software to measure internet traffic. You may find a very large data limit is not necessary, and you can instead save money with a cheaper deal.
If you’re buying a new deal, consider how the mobile broadband will be used. Web browsing and email do not usually require much data, but file downloads and video streaming are significantly more demanding. Our guide to mobile broadband data usage goes into more detail about this topic, including guides to the amount of data used by popular services and applications.
Which network is best for mobile broadband?
It would be a lot simpler if we could point to one network and recommend them above all others, but there is no single provider that’s best for everybody.
The best network for you is the one which offers the strongest signal in the areas the service is going to be used; once you’ve identified that, then you can look at other important factors.
To check network signal strength, click the logos below to access the official coverage check tools.
Which mobile broadband dongle should I choose?
When purchasing a mobile broadband package you’ll have the option of several different types of hardware…
Simple and cheap. Get a USB dongle if the mobile broadband is only going to be used on one computer at a time, as the connection cannot be shared. You will need a compatible Windows or Apple laptop or desktop computer (a dongle may work on Linux too, but official support is rare so you may have to figure it out yourself).
These flexible devices share the connection over a Wi-Fi network, so as well as enabling multiple users to connect at the same time (typically 5-20 at once depending on the model), the mobile broadband service can be used on tablets, games console or anything else that supports wireless.
This is a Wi-Fi dongle specifically designed to be used in a car by plugging into a lighter socket. This may be useful for anyone who takes long car journeys, especially if you’ve got family members who want to use their gadgets on the road.
SIM only mobile broadband deals
In addition to mobile broadband deals with a dongle, there’s also the option of a SIM-only package. It will be up to you to get the correct hardware to use with the SIM, but there is no up-front cost with these types of deals.
Can I use mobile broadband at home?
Mobile broadband can be used anywhere there’s signal, but in general it’s not a great alternative to home broadband for most of us.
Home broadband is often unlimited, and cheaper than many mobile broadband services to boot. The connection is often faster and more reliable too.
But mobile broadband does have its advantages - there’s no need for a phone line, it can be used anywhere (signal allowing) and there’s a wide choice of flexible contracts.
To see whether it might be suitable for you read our guide to using mobile broadband at home.
What should I look out for when buying a mobile broadband deal?
Here are some key factors to consider when comparing mobile broadband deals.
Mobile broadband deals are available on a variety of contracts from 30 days (rolling monthly, or “no contract”) up to 24 months. Longer contracts usually provide better value for money in terms of data allowance, and can have lower upfront costs in comparison. But of course you are committed to paying the monthly fee for that length of time.
Upfront costs for mobile broadband are not usually too onerous. There may just be a small subsidised charge for the dongle, though many (usually 12-24 month contracts) throw in the hardware for free. Setup costs will be highest if you purchase a pay-as-you-go deal with a dongle (as you must pay for the dongle in one lump sum) or if you want a particularly expensive bit of hardware such as a cutting-edge dongle or iPad.
This is the price you’ll pay every month for the length of the contract. It covers the data allowance included in the deal, but exceeding that limit may result in extra charges.
This is how much data (both download and upload) you can use within the fixed monthly price. Data limits typically range between 1GB - 60GB per month.
If a speed is provided it is an indication of the maximum possible speed of the service based on figures supplied to us by the network. Actual performance will vary depending on unpredictable factors such as signal strength and network traffic. If you require a minimum speed for a specific purpose you should carefully research the capabilities of the network and the mobile broadband hardware, and confirm the availability of a strong mobile signal.