Broadband and Mobile Broadband Technologies Synopsis

  Mobile Broadband 

What is Mobile Broadband and how does it work?

The word ‘broadband’ is used to describe the most common way of connecting your computer to the internet, replacing the original 'dial-up' method (which was much slower). You generally pay a flat fee every month for the service and your connection will be available 24-hours a day, regardless of whether you’re using the phone or not.

A broadband connection will give you access to everything you can get from the internet: as long as you have a compatible machine (be it a PC, Apple Mac or laptop device, or maybe a games console) you will be able to set up and access your email; surf the worldwide web; use social networking  programmers such as Face book and auction sites like eBay; watch and listen to live television and radio, as well as download music, pictures and video; play games; do online banking  - the list is massive!.

Mobile broadband is the technology which allows broadband access from anywhere by simply plugging your USB modem or dongle in to your laptop or computer. The popularity of mobile broadband has gathered pace quite quickly, with consumers keen to enjoy the flexibility, convenience, and mobility of this type of technology.

Mobile broadband is ideal for use amongst business people, students, and just about anyone else that may need or wish to access the Internet whilst they are on the go. It is also perfect for those that want to access the Internet but don't want to go to the expense of having a landline installed.

How does it Works?

Mobile broadband uses the mobile phone network to connect you to the internet. This is made possible by a new technology called High Speed Downlink Packet Access or HSDPA, but this is quite a mouthful so its better known as Mobile Broadband. You will be provided with a special USB Dongle or Stick which plugs into your computer to allow you to connect. You don't need to use your mobile phone. You pay not for how long you use the internet, but rather you pay for the amount of data you download. The great advantage is that you don't need a BT phone line, and you aren't tied to one location, wherever you go so can your mobile broadband connection!

No Need For A Landline

The biggest drawback with traditional broadband is that in most cases it forces you to have a landline from BT even if you don't require a phone line for any other use. With more and more people nowadays either using mobile phones rather than landlines it makes even more sense to make your broadband mobile rather than fixed.

How Much Does It Cost?

Surprisingly it probably costs less than you think, especially when you consider that you don't have to fork out for a telephone line as well (which is the case with most fixed line broadband). Deals start from as little as £10 per month, and go up to over £50 per month. There are 4 types of deal:

·    Pay as you go Mobile broadband - With PAYG mobile broadband it works very much the same as with PAYG Mobile phones, you buy a dongle and then when you want to use it you buy top ups. You can buy top ups either online or at any shop that sells mobile phone top ups. You can buy top ups in various price ranges, the more you spend the more usage you get. Prices for a 1Gb top start around £10 depending on your network.

·   Contract Mobile broadband - With Contract mobile broadband you sign up for a fixed period of time (usually between 12 and 24 months) and you receive a free dongle and a certain amount of data usage inclusive per month (between 1Gb and 15Gb depending on the package). If you use more than your standard data allowance during a month then you pay extra on top for the additional data. The providers provide you with a secure webpage with your usage amounts so you can keep an eye on your usage levels. Prices range from £10 per month to £40 per month depending on the length of contract and the amount of inclusive data per month.

·  Starter Kits  - Mobile broadband starter kits are similar to PAYG deals, but they come with a certain amount of data included and an increased time limit to use the data before it expires. Starter kits are an excellent present to give someone who needs to get connected but doesn't want a fixed contract. Prices start from around £69.99.

·  Free Laptops  - Mobile broadband with free laptops provides you with everything to get online, including the laptop! Now it really is simple to get online. You have to take out a mobile broadband contract (usually between 18 and 24 months in duration) which will cost between £30 and £55 per month depending upon the specification of the included laptop and the amount of inclusive data per month.


Mobile broadband is simple to install, you simply plug the supplied dongle into a spare USB port on your Windows or Mac computer and it will automatically set itself up and you will be online in no time. It really is that simple. In the unusual event that it doesn't work first time then each supplier has technical support just a phone call away.

Broadband by Features

Availability: There is something of a postcode lottery when it comes to broadband: BT's ADSL telephone exchanges vary in quality (it is currently in the process of upgrading them all, but this will take years) and your speed will be affected by the distance you live from your nearest exchange. Cable doesn't suffer the same problem with speed, but is only available to around half of the UK's homes.

Price: This usually consists of a one-off installation fee followed by a monthly charge.

Speed: One of the most common sales pitches for broadband is speed: generally speaking, as the speed goes up, so does the price. Speeds of ‘up to’ 8Mb (megabits per second) are fairly standard nowadays, while services are available that can reach 50Mb.

Download caps, extras, bundles and brands: Monthly usage caps can limit your broadband usage, but only tend to affect heavy users who download a lot of films or other large files. Extras can include free routers and anti-virus software, while bundles can see you save money by ordering telephone and TV deals alongside broadband.

Compare mobile broadband

As with any technical service it is important to choose the compare providers when it comes to choosing a mobile broadband package. When choosing your mobile broadband provider there are a number of factors to consider. You should take into account contract length, speeds, monthly cost, connection fee (some packages have no connection fee) and download limits. All of these can be checked in our mobile broadband comparison tables. We compare mobile broadband packages from O2, Orange, 3, Vodafone, Virgin and T-Mobile.

Mobile broadband providers

3mobile broadband offers plenty of choice when it comes to finding a suitable broadband package and price, which makes it easier to find a deal that suits your needs and your pocket. You can also choose from a number of modems and dongles to suit your needs. 3 offers competitive prices on its mobile broadband packages, so you can benefit from mobile broadband without breaking the bank. Whilst aesthetics are clearly not a priority for mobile broadband users, 3 has managed to incorporate some very cool, funky designs with its dongles, which often appeal to the younger fashion conscience market.

Vodafone mobile broadband offers some of the most competitive mobile broadband deals around for both business and recreational users. It has also recently been confirmed as the fastest mobile broadband provider following an independent study, with speeds of up to 7.2Mbps. You can enjoy a choice of modem solutions, including the USB stick, dongle, or card. Vodafone even offers a great, cool look with its USB sticks, so you can enjoy style as well as convenience!

Orange mobile broadband offers consumers the chance to enjoy the competitive Everywhere' mobile broadband package, which comes with a USB key through which to connect. You can select from a choice of contract lengths to suit your needs and your budget.

T-Mobile broadband offers a choice of two packages with a 1.8Mbps connection, so you can choose the package that best meets your need. Connection devices include the dongle or the USB stick. The dongles from this provider are state of the art, so you won't have to worry about having to replace them or upgrade them for quite some time.

O2 mobile broadband is one of the latest providers to embrace the world of mobile broadband having already seen how popular this broadband technology was becoming. At launch O2 mobile broadband appears to be overpriced compared to it's competitors.

Virgin mobile broadband is a relative new player. Virgin mobile broadband has a smaller range of offers but could prove to be good value if you have other services form Virgin such as your home broadband or phone.

Future of Mobile Broadband

Mobile broadband won't stay still over the next few years. Here are a few technologies that are coming our way:

  • 4G - the successor to 3G, 4G will see a huge increase in speeds.
  • Femtocells - a mini mobile base station that sits in your house and connects to a fixed line phone to boost the speeds if you get poor coverage. As they require a fixed line it sort of defeats the point of a mobile broadband connection, but regardless they are expected to become more common.


Mobile broadband (like most technologies) is full of terms that to the uninitiated make no sense whatsoever. Here's a complete glossary to help you out:

  • 3G - Third Generation mobile network provides for a good data transfer rate.
  • 4G - Fourth Generation mobile network. Trial 4G networks in Japan are capable of mobile broadband speeds when stationary of up to 1 Gbps.
  • Dongle - A dongle is a mobile broadband modem that is around the same size as a credit card but a bit thicker. It plugs into a laptop or desktop computer via a USB port and provides net access.
  • Stick - A stick is a small stick device, usually about an couple of inches long, that plugs into your computers USB port and works as a mobile broadband modem to provide your internet connection.
  • Datacard - a type of mobile broadband modem that can only work with laptops with PCMIA expansion slots. The rarest kind of modem.
  • HSPA - High Speed Packet Access. A type of mobile broadband standard.
  • HSDPA - High Speed Downlink Packet Access. Another standard, currently the one most often in use with most deals.
  • HSUPA - High Speed Uplink Packet Access. A standard that allows for very fast mobile broadband uplink connections.
  • LTE - Long Term Evolution. Related to 4G technology, LTE will be at the forefront of the next generation mobile broadband networks in a few years time.