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Mobile broadband problems

Mobile broadband is a great way to get connected to the internet — it's portable, affordable and easy to use. However, like all technologies, it's not perfect.

That's especially the case in rural areas, where 3G and 4G internet connections aren't always as good as they should be.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most common mobile broadband problems and provide an easy-to-follow guide to solving them.

Problems with mobile broadband coverage

Mobile broadband is delivered over 3G and 4G mobile phone networks. Unfortunately, parts of the UK still don't even have access to older 3G technology, let alone a super-fast 4G service.

Areas that are particularly affected are deep rural parts of Scotland, Wales and the South West. If you live in one of these areas, it's likely you'll face reception and speed problems.

If you live in a city, your connection will probably suffer at peak times. This is because although there are lots of mobile phone masts in more urban areas, there are also lots of people using the service at the same time.

Before committing to a mobile contract, it's worth checking the coverage of the provider that you plan to use. Here's where you'll find coverage checkers for the UK's mobile broadband networks:

If your area isn't covered, check out these best-selling home broadband packages instead.

Problems with mobile broadband speeds

Depending upon your package, mobile broadband providers claim that you can expect a maximum connection speed of up to 60Mbps. However, even in an area with excellent coverage you are unlikely to enjoy that. A recent study by OpenSignal revealed that even on the fastest 4G networks, the average speed was 18Mbps — which is impressive, but nowhere near the 'up to' speed claims.

There are three main factors that affect the speed of a 3G or 4G connection:

  • Location: how close you are to mobile phone masts
  • Time: what time of day you use it
  • Electrical interference: large pylons, power stations, cabling, etc.

Installation problems with mobile broadband

Software is preinstalled on dongles, so installation is easy. No separate driver discs are needed. Simply insert the USB drive and follow the onscreen instructions.

If nothing happens when you insert the USB device, the first thing to do is try another USB port. If this works, you'll know that the problem lies with the port rather than your mobile broadband dongle.

If you still can't connect after using all your USB ports, try another USB device (like a smartphone or tablet) to test the USB port.

Windows users can browse (through My Computer in Windows XP, or Computer in Windows Vista and 7) to see if the USB drive is showing up there. If it is, you can right-click and choose the option to install. If it's not showing up, the dongle is probably faulty, so call the provider for advice.