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What is a mobile dongle?

Dumbfounded by dongles? Read on to learn all about internet dongles, including the pros and cons.

What is a dongle?

A dongle — also called an internet dongle — is a small USB device that allows you to access the internet.

It can be referred to as a 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.

Check out the best dongle deals at uSwitch now.

what is a wireless donge

Pros and cons of dongles:

Pros

  • Dongles are often free when taken with a contract.
  • USB dongles give internet users greater flexibility with the convenience to access the Internet when away from the home or office.
  • Developments in mobile broadband technology have seen mobile dongles become smaller, sleeker and faster.
  • Mobile broadband 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, too.
  • The advent of 4G mobile broadband means a dongle is now a genuinely viable alternative to fixed line home broadband, depending upon your area.

Cons

  • Speeds can be low, reaching a maximum of 21Mbps for 3G and having an industry-recognised average of 1.5Mbps. This is perfect for basic tasks like e-mail, calendars and Twitter, but for more demanding applications, or those involving media streaming, this probably won't be enough.
  • Coverage is dependent on mobile phone reception, so the mobile blackspots that have you cursing your provider will also affect mobile broadband.
  • Data limits are small compared with home broadband. Again, this is okay for basic tasks, but for mobile broadband to truly become an alternative to home connections, there is a long way to go.
  • Overseas charges have come down, but it's still not cheap to use a dongle abroad.

What about MiFis?

Like a mobile broadband dongle, a MiFi unit connects you to the internet over 3G or 4G networks. Unlike dongles — which only offer a connection for just one PC or laptop — Mifis create a localised wireless mobile broadband signal that can be shared between multiple mobile broadband-enabled devices.

One major consideration for those opting for a MiFi is that if you share your monthly allowance between multiple mobile broadband-enabled devices, such as consoles, smartphones, tablets and laptops, you're likely to find that you get through your download limit a lot quicker.