|Vodafone Network||3GB Vodafone mobile broadband with free USB modem. Free delivery with 14 day guarantee. 12 month contract.|
|O2 Network||3GB O2 Mobile Broadband. 12 month contract. Free USB modem with delivery. Virtually no risk with their 14 day money back guarantee. |
|Orange Network||1GB Orange mobile broadband with free USB modem. Comes with free next day delivery and 14 day money back guarantee. 12 month contract. |
|3 Network||3 mobile broadband with 5GB per month. Free USB modem/dongle. 18 month contract. Free delivery. |
|T-Mobile Network||3GB T-Mobile mobile broadband. Free USB modem/dongle. 18 month contract with unlimited browsing under T-mobile's fair usage policy. Free delivery. |
first 3 months, then £15/month
Everything you need to know about Mobile Broadband
There can be no doubt that the modern world is increasingly coming to rely upon the internet for both commercial and social applications. Things have progressed a long way since the original dial-up days, the internet is now a robust and secure way of doing business on-line and communicating with friends and family.
Mobile broadband is set to revolutionise the way we use the internet. No longer are we tied to a static connection in our homes and offices, or expensive, often badly performing Wi-Fi hotspots. Mobile broadband enables the subscriber to access the internet across their own private high speed connection from anywhere and at any time.
By using state of the art mobile telecommunications technology to provide a stable connection to the internet via the existing mobile phone network, mobile broadband providers are able to offer a quality product at an affordable price. Just imagine the freedom you will have once you subscribe to one of the many excellent mobile broadband packages.
You will be able to take your laptop or netbook everywhere, keep in touch via email, surf the web and even download music and other multimedia content whilst taking your lunch break, sitting on the train or stuck in a traffic jam.
Unlike previous mobile data products such as GPRS and WAP, mobile broadband uses a high speed 3G connection to provide constant high speed connection similar to that associated with traditional cable or ADSL broadband. So what are you waiting for, Sign up for a mobile broadband package today and start enjoying the internet everywhere.
Why subscribe to mobile broadband?
The single largest benefit of subscribing to mobile broadband lies in the fact you are free to use the internet anywhere. Take a moment to think about all those hours we waste simply waiting, such as sitting on a train on your way to work each morning.
With mobile broadband and an inexpensive laptop you will be able to take advantage of this down time and keep in touch with friends and family, or simply do a little extra work. For business users, mobile broadband is a great way to allow them to work whilst out of the office.
How many times have you found yourself needing to send an email, book a ticket or simply check a fact by searching for the answer, whilst away from your internet connection. Once you have mobile broadband you will be constantly connected to the internet at all times, simply turn on your laptop or netbook and do what you need to do, no hassle of finding a Wi-Fi hotspot, no need to find an internet cafe, simple log on and surf.
How much does mobile broadband cost?
The main difference between mobile broadband and conventional ADSL of cable broadband is the fact that 3G providers sell their products based upon data usage limits. This means that the cost of the package will depend upon how much data you will need to download each month.
The lower rate plans start from as little as £9.99, allowing you to download up to 1 GB of data. Of course, 1Gb is not very much, this would be fine for light email use and a little web browsing, although if you were to start downloading multimedia content such as YouTube movies and MP3 tracks the limit would be reached very quickly indeed.
Other more expensive plans allow for larger amounts of data to be downloaded each month, some offer as much as 15Gb. Speed also affects the price. Currently there are two speeds which are popular with 3G providers; these are 3.6Mb and 7.2Mb, although some providers do also offer a 4.5Mb connection.
As a rule of thumb the faster the connection and the more data allowance the package includes, the higher the price will be. Currently it is possible to subscribe to a mid range package, which should suit most users, for a cost of around £20 per month.
Something to also consider when it comes to the price of the mobile broadband package you choose is the free equipment that will come with it. The cheapest mobile broadband packages will usually provide you with a free USB dongle which plugs into your PC or laptop. Some of the more expensive packages will supply a free netbook or laptop as part of the subscription. So quite often the higher priced packages are better value due to the free sign up gifts they provide.
Are there any extra charges associated with mobile broadband?
For most people who use their mobile broadband access sensibly there will be no additional charges. Although there are two ways in which mobile broadband could cost more than the quoted price for your chosen package. The first of these is in the form of the equipment needed to link your PC or laptop up to the 3G network.
Most mobile broadband packages will supply the new subscriber with a dongle to plug in to the USB port to connect for free; others will charge a small fee for the equipment. The second way in which your mobile broadband could cost more than the stated price of the package is if you go over your data transfer allowance.
Most of the 3G providers in the UK will charge for every extra megabyte downloaded over the data transfer limit of the package and this can quickly add up to quite a large bill. Several providers operate what is termed a fair usage policy. This means that if you happen to go over your allowance one month by a little, then they will not charge for the extra.
However, if you repeatedly go over your bandwidth allowance each month they may reduce the speed of your connection or charge you for the extra data transfer. 3G networks have steadily increased the data allowance over recent months, and it is unlikely that mobile internet users will face the problem of additional data transfer cost in the future, as it is highly likely that most plans will be upgraded to a more significant level of data allowance.
Should I choose monthly subscription or PAYG (Pay As You Go) mobile broadband?
For most people a monthly subscription to a good mobile broadband package is usually the best option. This is by far the cheapest way to avail yourself with mobile internet as almost every subscription plan includes a free dongle and sometimes a free netbook or laptop.
PAYG is more suitable for people who only rarely need to use mobile broadband; it is particularly useful for expats and others who do not reside in the UK the entire year round. Instead, by using a PAYG mobile broadband product they can have access to a mobile connection when they need it and not pay a monthly subscription during the times they do not.
PAYG is also an excellent way of trying out the different 3G networks in your area without committing yourself to a monthly subscription contract.
How does mobile broadband work?
Mobile broadband utilises third generation technology (usually shortened to 3G) to provide a fast and stable high speed internet connection across the mobile phone network. 3G is based upon a set of standards defined by the International Telecommunication Union. The 3G subscriber uses either a dongle or a data card to add 3G connectivity to their PC or laptop.
Mobile broadband uses a dial on demand type of connection, meaning that you only need to connect to the 3G network when you require an internet connection. This helps to save on data allowances by eliminating redundant data being sent over and idle connection.
If you have worked with either a dial-up or ADSL connection in the past then you will be familiar with the way mobile broadband connects to the internet, the installation is very similar. Mobile broadband actually incorporates two technologies.
The first of these is 3G, which describes the actual signal type between the network and the user. The second technology is HSDPA, this is an extension of 3G which enables extremely high data transfer rates, and it is the development of HSDPA which has made the introduction of mobile broadband possible.
Is mobile broadband better than using Wi-Fi hotspots?
When using Wi-Fi hotspots you are limited to accessing the internet when you are in range of a Wi-Fi gateway. This means you will need to remain static in the hotspot for the entire time you wish to use the internet.
With mobile broadband you are entirely free to roam around within network coverage and use the internet with an uninterrupted connection. This means you can still use the internet on a train, on a bus, in a car or anywhere where you have network coverage. So yes, for the truly mobile user then a 3G internet connection is far more useful than subscribing to a Wi-Fi hotspot service.
Can mobile broadband be used everywhere?
The simple answer to this question is yes, but with some limitations. Generally the main 3G providers in the UK have a fairly extensive network. Certainly most major cities and towns are covered as well as smaller towns. In the countryside things may be different, as the major mobile broadband providers are constantly updating their networks and some areas are still not covered.
All of the main mobile broadband companies have a coverage map or a searchable database which allows prospective subscribers to check coverage in their local area. If you live in a more remote part of the UK it is advised that you make use of these tools before you subscribe to your choice of mobile broadband package.
It is possible to use a mobile broadband connection when travelling overseas, however it should be noted that this will usually incur an additional cost, often quite a steep additional cost. If you intend to use your mobile internet connection whilst travelling abroad you should contact your provider to discuss the extra cost involved. Several mobile broadband companies offer packages aimed at the international traveller, these are the best option if you travel abroad frequently.
How fast is mobile broadband?
If you have ever used an old style mobile data connection such as GPRS and WAP you will be familiar with the low speeds these servicers offered. Mobile broadband improves upon both of these technologies significantly.
Currently the 3G network in the UK is able to provide download speeds of up to 7.2Mb. Most mobile broadband providers offer a choice of speeds when selecting a package; these will be 3.6Mb, 4.5Mb or 7.2Mb. These speeds are comparable to a traditional ADSL or cable broadband connection.
Another area in which 3G improves upon older forms of mobile data transmission is latency. A GPRS connection uses a form of packet transmission, which leads to particularly high latency, often greater than 1000ms. A similar 3G connection will displays a latency of around 100ms, which is quite clearly better.
Although it should be noted that for certain applications, such as on-line gaming, the latency of a mobile broadband connection may still be a little on the high side. For general browsing tasks including viewing multimedia content such as streaming video, 3G is perfectly capable of performing perfectly.
It should also be noted that speed and latency will vary depending upon the level of network coverage in the location you are using your mobile broadband. The stronger the 3G signal you have the faster and more stable your connection will be.
Can mobile broadband replace my home broadband?
The answer to this question depends upon your internet usage habits. For light users who spend a few hours a day surfing the web and chatting via on-line messaging applications such as MSN and Google Talk then yes, it would be viable to replace your home broadband connection with mobile broadband.
In this situation you would probably need to subscribe to one of the plans which offer a higher data transfer limit. If you are a heavy internet user who spends many hours each day downloading movies, music and other items then no, it is highly unlikely that mobile broadband could be used to replace traditional broadband. This situation may change as 3G providers introduce subscription plans with higher data transfer allowances.
Who are the main mobile broadband providers?
Currently there are six major mobile broadband providers in the UK. These six are Vodafone, 02, Three (3), T-Mobile, Virgin and Orange.
There are also a number of value added resellers that have repackaged products provided by these five mobile networks and branded them as their own. Fundamentally, each major mobile phone network has a 3G offering, many of which are identical across networks.
Which mobile broadband product is right for you?
It can be tricky to decide upon which of the 3G mobile broadband plans is perfect for your own situation. As a rough guideline we can define the following types of internet users:
Light user: Basic email and web browsing, chatting with friends and family using text based messengers such as MSN or Google Talk. This type of internet user will find that a cheaper package with a much lower data transfer allowance is probably sufficient for them. Although it should be noted that subscribers to low bandwidth allowance packages need to monitor their internet usage closely, as going over the allowance can be costly.
Medium use: Advanced email usage including attachments, advanced web browsing such as viewing streaming video in a browser window, using VOIP (Voice over IP) telephony applications such as Skype to talk with friends and family.
This type of internet user should definitely subscribe to one of the higher data transfer plans. A minimum of 5 GB per month allowance would be a good guide, take an even higher package if you can afford it.
Heavy use: Advanced email usage including attachments, advanced web browsing such as viewing streaming video in a browser window, using VOIP (Voice over IP) telephony applications such as Skype to talk with friends and family, downloading DivX or equivalent movies, downloading MP3 music regularly.
This type of user needs to decide on whether they can actually use mobile broadband as their primary internet connection. Currently even the highest data transfer allowances may not be enough for a heavy internet user.
Heavy internet users would be best advised to use mobile broadband when travelling and keep a traditional ADSL or cable connection in their home. Mobile broadband providers charge for extra data downloaded or uploaded once the data transfer allowance of the monthly package has been used up.
It is vitally important that every mobile broadband subscriber keeps check on their usage statistics. If you begin to approach the limits of your data allowance each month it may be time to upgrade your subscription plan to avoid extra charges.
Is mobile broadband future proof?
It is important that we consider the fact that 3G is a very young technology which is already providing mobile internet access at incredible speeds. In many ways the only improvements that can be made to the 3G are in the overall coverage map and in the speed of download.
Currently Vodaphone are testing a 3G connection which offers downloads speeds up to 24Mb, comparable to the fastest ADSL or cable broadband available currently. It is unlikely that any normal internet user would ever require speeds faster than this. This means that mobile broadband is extremely future proof; it is a fresh technology that will be with us for many years to come before it is replaced.
Do I need any special equipment to connect to a mobile broadband service?
Yes you will need a 3G or HSPDA capable device to connect to the 3G network. These most oft3en come in the form of a USB dongle which plugs in to a USB port on the PC or laptop. Some laptops can accept PCMCIA or PCIe cards, and it is possible to find good 3G versions of these. Finally, some cellular handsets can connect to a 3G network, and these may be used as a modem if they are connected to a notebook via Bluetooth or by a cable.
Is mobile broadband hard to install?
Mobile broadband is extremely easy to install. Most 3G providers provide a set up disk along with the hardware they supply. This means you simply need to insert the dongle or data card into your PC or laptop and then run the installation from the CD provided.
Each provider also supplies an extensive help and FAQ section on their website which can be used to find out how to install the mobile broadband connection manually. Additionally, 3G providers operate a full support desk, with a telephone number that subscribers may call to get help with the installation process, or to solve problems that have occurred with the connection.
What is the difference between home and business mobile broadband?
Although home mobile broadband and business mobile broadband share the same physical 3G networks, there are a few very significant differences. Overall, business users are given a better level of service than home users.
This is a direct reflection of the fact that most business users will rely upon their internet connection to perform commercially critical duties. For this reason business users are given preferential support treatment, and are supplied with an SLA which guarantees a maximum amount of service availability.
What can I do if there is no mobile internet coverage in my area?
Unfortunately if your area is not currently covered by one of the major 3G networks your options are going to be limited. There are two alternatives however. The first alternative is to seek out a suitable Wi-Fi hotspot, although this will not provide you with true mobile internet. The second alternative is to subscribe to the older 2G network which uses GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) to send and receive data.
Although this is a much slower option than 3G or HSDPA it should still be sufficiently fast for very basic web browsing and for send and receiving emails. It should be noted that 3G network coverage is expanding at an ever increasing rate; most 3G networks offer a subscription feature upon their website, whereby a prospective mobile broadband user can receive regular updates about new areas of network coverage via email.
Mobile broadband technical terms
For non-technical people the terms used by mobile broadband providers may be confusing. Below you will find some of the buzz words and phrases explained:
3G: This stands for Third Generation and is used to describe any mobile data network which adheres to the International Telecommunication Union standards for 3G performance and operation. 3G is the name of the type of connection which connects you to the internet.
HDSPA: This stands for High Speed Downlink Packet Access, this is the feature of the 3G network which enables true high speed internet access.
Data allowance / Bandwidth allowance: Both of these phrases mean the same thing. They both mean the amount of data you are allowed to download (and sometimes upload) per month with your current mobile broadband subscription plan.
Netbook: These are small, ultra-portable laptops that many 3G providers will give away to new subscribers as a signing up bonus. Great for popping into a handbag or briefcase to access the internet on the move from anywhere.
Data card: These will either come in PCIe (PCI Express) or the older PCMCIA standard. These are small card which plug into a specialised socket on the laptop. If the plan you intend to choose supplies one of these then you need to make sure your laptop actually has the required interface.
Dongle: This is a small, thumb sized USB modem device which plugs into any available USB port on the laptop or PC. These are universal devices, meaning they should work on any machine which has USB ports available. They contain all of the wireless hardware required to connect to a 3G network.