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What is wireless broadband?

Wireless broadband — or Wi-Fi — is a broadband connection to the internet that's accessed without cables.

This is different from 3G or 4G mobile broadband, which uses mobile phone signals. With Wi-Fi, it's only the connection between your computer and the router that is wireless, not the actual broadband connection itself.

Wireless broadband is made possible by a wireless router, so any ADSL (phone line) or cable broadband service can be turned into a wireless connection simply by changing the router; you don't need to sign up for a new broadband package to get it.

Many current broadband packages do come with wireless routers, so if you're looking to get Wi-Fi and are unhappy with your current provider, compare the best wireless broadband deals at uSwitch now.

How do wireless routers work?

Using the same principle as a cordless phone, a wireless router converts incoming signals and broadcasts them around an area. This signal is then picked up by wireless-enabled devices, such as laptops and tablets, giving them wireless broadband connectivity throughout the house.

Who should use wireless broadband?

Anyone who doesn't like to be tied down with cables and wires should switch over to wireless broadband. In particular, wireless broadband is ideal for:

  • Families or flatshares where multiple people want to access broadband at once from different rooms of the house.
  • Gamers using wireless gaming consoles.
  • Laptop users with no need to be tied down by the location of their telephone point.
  • Handheld devices, like smartphones or tablets, which have no cable input.
  • Large houses or buildings, as well as places with gardens, where the distance between user and router might be too far for cable.

Wireless routers are commonly included in wireless broadband packages, and many ISPs supply customers with wireless routers free when they take out a new deal. New routers can range from £30 to £150, depending on range and technical specs.

How to go wireless

Most broadband providers will give you a wireless router when you sign up for a new contract. The 'plug and play' wireless equipment they provide involves little more than simply swapping the hardware. You may also need to run your ISP setup again, though, so double check with your provider before making any major changes.

Most ISPs provide excellent customer support to help you set up your home wireless network. Alternatively, you can always take a look at our guide to solving wireless broadband problems.

Mobile broadband

Another type of wireless broadband is mobile broadband, or 3G/4G broadband. It's a form of wireless broadband aimed at consumers who need a connection while they're on the move, allowing them to access the internet from wherever they are, even abroad.

All you need to access mobile broadband is a wireless broadband dongle or a MiFi unit — these are typically provided when you sign up for a mobile broadband deal, or you can buy your own and then purchase a pay-as-you-go mobile broadband SIM — and you're away. You don't need cables or wireless hotspots, just somewhere with mobile signal.

Mobile broadband dongles:

  • Don't require a source of electricity
  • Are small and discreet
  • Are perfect for transporting

Click here for more information on our latest mobile broadband deals.