Back to top
Back to all guidesBack to all guides

Mobile Broadband

If you need a reliable internet connection whilst on the move, then mobile broadband might be for you. Find out more here.

Last updated: 20 November 2020

Mobile Broadband
Do you need internet access for your laptop, but can’t find a wireless network nearby? Mobile broadband gives you wireless internet access by using a mobile phone network via 3G, 4G, and soon 5G. As long as you are in an area with mobile signal then mobile broadband can give you easy online access whilst you’re on-the-go or at home.

What is mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband works by connecting your device to the internet through mobile data networks, using 3G and 4G technology. You can use mobile broadband whether you are at home or on-the-go. This gives you flexibility and can be useful for people who need constant internet access, wherever they are. It may also be a good option for those who don’t want to get a long-term fixed line broadband deal or those that don’t want to pay for calls and texts as part of their mobile deal.
When you get a mobile broadband deal, you will be sent a mobile broadband SIM and there are a number of ways in which you can use it:
  • Mobile Wi-Fi hotspots or Mi-Fi: If you want to access mobile broadband services on multiple devices you can get a Mi-Fi router which works just like a standard Wi-Fi router. You insert your mobile broadband SIM and it will disperse the signal throughout your home. Your mobile network carrier may also support Personal Hotspot which will allow you to create a Wi-Fi network directly from your mobile device.
  • USB dongles: Your device may not have a slot for the mobile broadband SIM card, in which case you can opt for a dongle that will have a slot for the SIM. This then plugs into a USB port in your device and provides internet to that device.
  • Inbuilt data SIMS: If you have a newer device then you may have a slot for your mobile broadband SIM. It works in the same way as a mobile phone SIM except it only provides you with internet data and doesn’t provide you with calls or texts.

Mobile Broadband Deals

Users in more remote areas of the UK may benefit the most from mobile broadband deals as fixed-line access may be limited, and there are likely to be less wireless internet access points near your home. Rural areas of the UK often don’t have access to fast fibre broadband so internet speeds can be extremely slow. These areas are more likely to be covered by a 4G mobile network than can provide faster and more reliable internet speeds. Another advantage of mobile broadband is the flexibility it provides you. You no longer have to worry about Wi-Fi not reaching parts of the house or having to search for a coffee shop that provides free internet.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind before you commit to a mobile broadband deal. The first and most important is to check the coverage of your mobile network provider in your area. If you don’t get good mobile signal at home, then this means your mobile broadband won’t work too well either. The other potential problem with mobile broadband is that many deals come with data usage limits, therefore you won’t be able to make unlimited downloads like you would on a fixed-line contract. Data allowances range from 500MB to 100GB though the higher tariffs are likely to be expensive. Make sure to check the terms of your mobile broadband contract before you commit. Often it can be best to start off with a 30-day plan for a data-only SIM so that you can work out how much data you need and see if mobile broadband works for you.
Most of the large mobile network providers offer mobile broadband deals:
Make sure you compare all these providers in order to get the best broadband deals.

How does mobile broadband work?

Mobile broadband provides you with wireless internet access by running off the same signals that serve mobile phone networks. It sends and receives information via the 3G and 4G networks of the UK’s four largest mobile operators (O2, Vodafone, EE and Three).
It differs from regular broadband in a number of ways. The main difference is that the speed of your broadband will depend entirely upon your location as it is governed by the mobile coverage in that area. If you are covered by a 4G network, then your mobile broadband speeds could be as fast or faster than regular Wi-Fi. However, they will be much slower if you are only covered by a 3G network. Parts of the UK will soon have access to 5G mobile broadband which will be even faster than the 4G network.

What is 5G mobile broadband?

5G mobile broadband is the next step up from 4G networks and will provide super-fast connectivity. It will work the same way as current mobile broadband and the only difference is the speeds offered. 5G mobile broadband may provide even faster download speeds than superfast fixed-line broadband services. However, 5G technology is relatively new and will only be available in limited areas for the time being.

Do I need mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband is the most convenient and flexible way to access the internet. Fixed line broadband services mean you have to be within a certain radius of your router in order to use your internet. You also have to connect to multiple different Wi-Fi networks in order to gain internet access outside of your home. With mobile broadband you can connect to the internet anywhere, as long as you have mobile signal. 
Mobile broadband is most useful for people who need constant internet access, for those who live in remote and rural areas of the country where there may be less fixed-line services available, and for those who need to use the internet whilst travelling regularly. Another reason to get mobile broadband is the Pay as You Go option that is available. Those that may not be able to afford fixed-term contracts can simply pay for the exact amount of data they use each month. 
Make sure that you do a broadband comparison so that you have access to cheap broadband that suits you best. 
Danny Lord

Author: Danny Lord

Danny is our Editor-in-Chief, and has been writing news and guides for comparison sites for the last five years.

Broadband providers