Mobile broadband sticks are USB modems that connect a laptop or computer to the internet. They use 3G or 4G - the same connection technology as mobile phones - and provide internet connectivity wherever there is mobile coverage. They are more commonly known as mobile broadband dongles.
Which providers offer mobile broadband dongles?
Broadband dongles use the same 3G and 4G technology as a mobile phone, so nearly all mobile providers offer mobile broadband. The market is simply too competitive not to.
- Vodafone offers a range of mobile broadband dongles. Speeds are up to 7.2Mb with dongles or 21Mb with a Mi-Fi. Generous download allowances and a very competitive monthly asking price complete a smart offering.
- Three’s dongle provides speeds of up to 21Mb.
- T-Mobile's USB dongles also offer speeds of up to 21Mb. The carrier's huge network means you can expect excellent coverage too.
- Orange's dongle deals are no longer available. The company is now subsumed under the EE banner.
- O2 dongles get you online at speeds of up to 21Mb, with a suite of offers to meet different user profiles.
- EE At the time of writing, EE is the UK's sole 4G broadband provider and promises speeds up to five times the UK 3G average.
Pros and cons of dongles:
- Mobile dongles are usually free of charge with contracts.
- USB dongles give Internet users greater flexibility, with the option to access the Internet when away from the home or office.
- Mobile dongles run on the battery of your computer, therefore do not need to be charged.
- Mobile broadband dongles can be used in both laptops and computers, making them ideal for regular use as well as in emergencies.
- 4G speeds are now almost comparable to home broadband.
- 3G Speeds are low - reaching a maximum of 21Mb and having an industry-recognised average of up to 7.6Mb. This is perfect for basic tasks like email, calendars and Twitter. But it may not be enough for more demanding applications, or those involving media streaming.
- 4G is faster. But this comes at a fairly hefty premium.
- Coverage is dependent on mobile phone reception. This applies to 4G and 3G.
- Data limits are small – again this is okay for basic tasks, but for mobile broadband to truly threaten home connections there is a long way to go.
- Overseas charges can be huge, even in the wake of landmark legislation from the EU.