Switching to mobile broadband, the pros and cons

by , Apps 06/02/2011
Mobile broadband

Using 3G mobile broadband as your main internet connection is still a fairly recent development. The vast majority of internet users use fixed line.

But, for some users, switching from fixed-line broadband to a mobile broadband deal – especially a pay-as-you-go deal – can save you a significant amount on your internet bill.

However, it’s not for everyone, especially very heavy internet users. So below we’ve picked out the benefits and drawbacks of using mobile broadband instead of a fixed-line connection.

If you’re looking for a mobile broadband deal take a look at our mobile broadband deals section, where you’ll find deals on dongles, laptops and wireless hotspots.

Mobile broadband – the pros

Access internet on the move

One of the most obvious benefits of signing-up to mobile broadband is that you get to access the internet wherever there is a 3G signal. This may not be likely if you live in a very rural area, but Ofcom estimates that around 87 per cent of the UK’s population is covered by 3G.

No line-rental

One of the reasons many people decide to use mobile instead of fixed broadband is that there’s no line rental involved, which can save you money. Also if you don’t have a phone line in your home, or if you’re a student and move around a lot, then mobile broadband is a very quick and easy way of getting online.

Pay-as-you-go option

Although many people are online day and night, many of us only spend a minimal amount of time browsing websites and checking email, with no need to use data-hungry services such as video streaming and online gaming. If you’re a light internet user switching to a pay-as-you-go mobile broadband deal can really save you money. Also, as you’re not tied into a lengthy contract, you can easily switch to a new provider if you spot a cheaper deal.

Mobile broadband- the cons

Slower broadband speeds

Mobile broadband speeds aren’t as fast as most fixed line speeds, typically around 3.6 to 7Mbps. This is fine if you’re just checking email or browsing websites, but perhaps not so reliable for high-bandwidth activities like online gaming. Coverage can also vary depending where you are and the network operator you use. So you’ll need to check your operator’s coverage maps and, preferably, test the connection in your home with another 3G enabled device – like a smartphone.

Restrictive usage limits

Usage caps for uploading and downloading on mobile broadband are usually lower than fixed-line and exceeding usage can be expensive. Again, for light internet users this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you do a lot of video streaming or online gaming then you may find it more costly than a fixed line connection. Also some providers block access to VoIP services such as Skype, so if you plan to use VoIP you’ll need to check with your provider first.

Locked dongles

The most common way to connect to mobile broadband – other than with a smartphone – is by using a dongle that plugs into your PC or laptop via USB. However, most dongles are usually locked to a single operator, so if you plan on switching to a new mobile broadband provider, you’ll have to buy a new dongle.

For more information on mobile broadband, including our mobile broadband customer satisfaction survey, see our mobile broadband advice section.

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