3G and newer 4G mobile broadband uses mobile phone signals to provide a connection to the internet. As with mobile phone reception, the speeds and quality of mobile broadband that you are likely to enjoy will depend on your location.
Use the uSwitch broadband postcode checker to find out which packages are available to you.
Factors that affect mobile coverage
- The mobile broadband provider you are with
- Distance from mobile network mast
- Height of buildings between you and the mast
- Thickness of walls in your house
Mobile broadband coverage can be hit-and-miss in certain areas so, as a rule of thumb, it is worth considering the quality of the mobile phone coverage in the area where you will predominantly be using it.
The key UK mobile broadband operators are:
- Three Mobile Broadband
- Vodafone Mobile Broadband
- T-Mobile Mobile Broadband
- Orange Mobile Broadband
- O2 Mobile Broadband
Click on the above pages to check the coverage in your area, or compare our best mobile broadband packages here.
3G is the UK's dominant mobile broadband technology and is slower than home broadband. But the newer technology 4G is much faster. With speeds up to five times the average UK 3G connection, this makes 4G mobile broadband a much more viable alternative to fixed line home broadband.
Depending on the type of USB modem, dongle or MiFi you are using, your speed can vary. This applies whether it's a 3G or 4G connection you're using. It is therefore worth considering the device you will be using to connect to the Internet when choosing your package.
People using a MiFi may also find that their connection speed is slower when the signal is being shared between multiple devices.
The breadth of the UK's mobile phone networks mean that 3G is now available to over 99 per cent of the population and through a massive selection of providers. However, 4G coverage is currently largely limited to cities and larger towns and at the time of writing is solely available from EE.
4G mobile broadband and the future
4G will replace 3G as the technology on which mobile broadband operates. Put simply, 4G technology will allow mobile airwaves to be utilised in a more efficient manner. This means that data travels across the airwaves faster than ever before and offer much higher speeds.
4G will also mean that coverage is no longer so much of an issue, as it will be more widespread. Although discrepancies in speed are inevitable, 4G technology will ultimately improve mobile broadband coverage for everyone.
Additionally, laptops with built-in modems are on the market - bypassing the need for MiFis and dongles. These laptops connect to the internet in the same way as a USB stick, without the need for external modems. People who want to connect to the internet on their laptops must decide between the different types of mobile modems they have on board.