More and more people are catching onto the mobile broadband phenomenon, but it can be daunting if you’re new to the idea. There are lots of mobile broadband providers and a load of different gadgets to get you online, so we’ve put together five key considerations you need to think about to help find the deal that’s best for you.
First, you need to decide how you’re going to get online. If you have a laptop and just need to bring it broadband on the move, a USB modem (or dongle) will do the job just fine. It will simply plug into a laptop USB port and away you go. If you want to get more than one machine online at once, you can opt for a slightly more expensive mobile Wi-Fi (or MiFi) unit. These work just like your broadband Wi-Fi at home, securely sharing the mobile broadband signal. If you don’t have a portable device yet, you can go for a tablet or free laptop deal where you pay for the device as part of the package.
2. Coverage & speed
With this decision made, head to all the mobile broadband provider sites you’re considering and check their coverage maps (they all have them) to see who offers a strong signal in the areas you will be most using mobile broadband. There really is no point in going with a well respected provider if their signal in your area is poor, but it can be worth checking back often as mobile broadband suppliers are constantly improving their networks. Finally, there’s no harm in asking friends in the area how they’ve found particular carriers. You also want to consider if speed is important to you if 4G is available in your area. This will be more expensive, but offer a considerable speed boost – great for streaming and downloading, but possibly unnecessary if you’re just going to be looking at a few emails and checking out pages on the web.
3. Download limit
Next, consider carefully how much data you’re going to be using. If you’re online just reading pages or checking emails, you’ll likely only use up to 25MB per hour or so. That can increase to more like 150MB to live stream an hour of YouTube – or 1,000MB-plus if you downloaded a film in HD. You can save a lot of money by either making sure you don’t pay for a limit you’ll never reach, or by not going over your limit and therefore getting penalised at a higher rate per MB.
4. Contract type
Another important consideration is how long you want to sign up for. The longer the contract, the more value you will get – but you also have to tie yourself to one mobile broadband provider for a longer period. This can be both a blessing or a curse. If you go for a short term deal, you’ll get cheaper prices and the chance to move if someone comes into your area with a great deal, new gadgets or new speeds. But if you go for loyalty, you’ll be rewarded with cheaper data. also, if you want to include quality hardware in your purchase, you’re likely to be tied into a long deal whether you want one or not.
5. Extras & offers
Once you’ve narrowed down your mobile broadband criteria, it’s time to spot the bargains. Competition between mobile suppliers is always fierce, so you’ll find a stack of short term offers popping up all the time. These can range from reduced monthly costs and data to free hardware or other gifts, such as vouchers. These can really sweeten the deal and save a big chunk of change, so it may be worth holding off to find the right offer.
Mobile broadband is a fantastic service, but equally it can soon become next to useless if you buy without doing some basic research. For example, if you’re only going to be connecting one device at a time there’s no point in paying more for mobile Wi-Fi – or if you’re only going to be checking mails when you travel once or twice a month, don’t be tempted into that high cost contract with a data limit you’ll never use.