So you’ve decided you want to get online on the move, but how do you go about it? There are lots of mobile broadband deals out there, with plenty of choices to make on everything from hardware to data to tariff types. So where to start?
Mobile Broadband: Dongle, MiFi or smartphone?
Before you do anything else, think about what you need from your mobile broadband. If it’s just a bit of social networking, email and checking a few websites a smartphone may do. But if you want the full online experience via a laptop or tablet, a mobile broadband USB modem (or dongle) is required – or a mobile broadband Wi-Fi unit (or MiFi) for getting multiple users online at once.
Prepay or contract?
You will also want to consider how often you’ll need to be using mobile broadband, as this will help you decide which kind of tariff to go for. If you’re only going to be an occasional or very light user, a prepay pay-as-you-go deal will probably suffice. However, more regular users should go for a contract deal – this will see you get cheaper data, as well as cheaper hardware. You may even be able to get a quality piece of kit, such as a laptop, free upfront.
Data limitations and speed with mobile broadband services
Also try to look at a few usage calculators to see how much data you may need each month. Just checking your mal and surfing the web will only use a little, but if you’re going to be streaming video, gaming or downloading other large files you may need a much higher download limit. As for speed, unless you can get a 4G connection, don’t believe the hype – most 3G connections give an average of around 1-2Mb, no matter what they may advertise.
Mobile broadband provider and coverage
Most importantly, make sure you check the provider pages of any mobile broadband providers that may be available in your area before you commit. In fact, it’s normally best to check these things first. Each provider should have a coverage checker, which will give you an indication of how good each carrier’s coverage is in the areas you’ll need to connect. However great a deal sounds, if the coverage is poor you’re going to have a bad experience.
Mobile broadband deals and special offers
Once you’ve got a strong idea of the kind of mobile broadband deal you’re looking for, it’s time to shop around. The mobile broadband market is a competitive one, with providers constantly competing for your cash. This means a plethora of special offers are always on the table, from free months off of your contract to bargain hardware or high street vouchers.
Whatever you do, don’t be blinded into getting a mobile broadband deal that isn’t right for you. You may want that freebie, but if you’re not going to use all the data is it really free? And don’t forget, it’s easier to upgrade to a more expensive package than down to cheaper one, especially if you got something free into the bargain.
Chris Marling writes on behalf of Mobile Phone Genie, the UK based site for the best contract phone deals.