Mobile broadband may not be something you’d thought much about, but with hybrid working and the emerging 'work from anywhere' culture, we depend on a good internet connection wherever we are. And mobile broadband has some great benefits you may not have considered.
Mobile broadband dongles allow you to get online quickly without the need for an engineer to visit your home. They're incredibly simple to set up and will keep you connected wherever there is a 3G, 4G or 5G mobile connection (depending on the dongle you choose).
A dongle is a small USB 'internet stick' that allows you to access online services without needing to connect to Wi-Fi.
It can also be referred to as a Wi-Fi dongle, USB modem, internet stick, USB network adapter or USB mobile broadband stick. Dongles are popular because they offer greater flexibility than fixed line connections and can be used on the go.
USB internet is another term used for accessing internet services via an internet dongle, since most dongles are connected to your laptop via a USB connection.
A Wi-Fi dongle is, in effect, a small modem you can plug into your computer or laptop.
It connects to the internet in the same way your smartphone does, via 3G, 4G, and 5G networks. Simply plug it in, and you’re good to go.
A mobile internet dongle is no substitute for a fixed broadband line in your home, because it usually just works for one device at a time. But its versatility can make it incredibly useful for some certain people.
Why you should get a mobile internet dongle:
If you travel a lot, and need to be able to access the internet on your laptop without having to rely on free Wi-Fi from Starbucks or airport lounges.
Similarly, if you like to work in public spaces but don't want to rely on poor, unrestricted Wi-Fi, you could save yourself time and effort with a mobile internet dongle.
If your home broadband just isn't fast enough, or there are too many people using it at once, a mobile internet stick is a great backup option if you need to get online on your device quickly.
The introduction of 5G mobile broadband means a dongle is now a serious alternative to fixed line home broadband. This will depend on the coverage of 5G in your area, which is constantly growing but only really available in urban areas right now.
Mobile broadband is quick and easy to set up and doesn't require an engineer appointment
Dongles are supplied for free when you take out a contract
USB dongles give you greater flexibility, allowing you to access the internet when away from home or the office
Developments in mobile broadband technology have seen mobile dongles become smaller, sleeker and faster in recent years
Mobile broadband dongles run on the battery of your computer or laptop, meaning you don’t need an additional charger for them
4G dongles are still the most common types of mobile broadband sticks, but it has comparatively slower average speeds than many fibre broadband packages. This would make it difficult to do high-data activities like large file downloads or 4K streaming, especially while someone else is using the internet too.
Coverage is dependent on the mobile phone reception in your area, so the mobile 'not'-spots that have you cursing your network provider might also affect your mobile broadband connection
Unlike home broadband connections, mobile broadband usually has monthly data limits
Overseas charges have come down, but it's still not cheap to use a dongle abroad
Broadband dongles use the same 3G, 4G and 5G technology as a mobile phone, so nearly all mobile providers offer mobile broadband. The market is simply too competitive not to.
Like a mobile internet dongle, a MiFi unit connects you to the internet over 3G, 4G or 5G networks.
But unlike dongles — which only offer a connection for just one PC or laptop — a MiFi acts as a router by sending out a wireless mobile broadband signal that can be shared between multiple internet-connected devices at the same time.
Just consider that if you choose a limited deal and want to share your monthly allowance between multiple devices such as consoles, smartphones, tablets and laptops, you're likely to get through your download limit a lot quicker.
For more information on MiFi, visit our more detailed guide.