If you’re new to mobile broadband or just unhappy with your current service provider, the choices of plans, operators and devices can be daunting. Here are few tips that should help you narrow down your search.
Unfortunately there isn’t a simple right or wrong here that affects everyone. Mobile broadband is very much location based and the quality can vary in different areas from year to year for each provider. Ironically, when a provider gets lots of press in an area, it can lead to a worse service as more people sign up and share the same signal towers!
Your choice of provider should be very much in the now. Take a look at provider websites, as they should have a coverage map that shows how well they cater to your local area, or other areas you want to get online on the move. You may also have a choice of quality, with some operators offering a faster service in some areas. Then, you can also simply ask around – personal recommendations from people who live where you’ll be using mobile broadband can be a really big help.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two providers, it’s time to compare tariffs. You’ll find everything from mobile broadband with free laptop deals to USB modems, plus everything in between. Once you’re confident about coverage, you want to make sure you will also be getting enough data for your needs at the right price – you may not need much if you’re just checking your email and looking at a few pages, but a big data package will be best if you intend to watch streaming movies or download large files.
You will also need to decide if you want to sign up for a prepaid deal, where you pay for what you need when you need it, or a longer term fixed monthly deal. You will tend to find you will get cheaper data and better deals on longer contracts, but you tie yourself down to that provider for a long period – so may miss out on great deals by other providers, or great new hardware. Going prepaid will let you move around when you like, if you don’t mind paying a little extra for your data.
Devices for getting online
The cheapest method of getting online is via a USB modem (sometimes called a dongle) which can come free on some contract deals. These simply plug into a USB port on any laptop, PC, tablet etc and get you online in no time. The only downside is you can only get one machine online with it.
If this is going to be an issue, you can opt for a mobile hotspot. This is a mobile broadband Wi-Fi device which will allow you to connect several internet ready machines at once. These are also light, compact and relatively cheap – just be careful about your date limits, as things can get pretty expensive pretty fast if someone you’re sharing with is hitting the downloads hard!
Finally, you’ll have the option to go all out and add a laptop or tablet to your deal. This can be a great way to get a good price all rounds, but remember you are likely to be tied in to a long contract in these situations. Will your shiny new laptop, netbook or pad still look great a year or so down the line?
Guest Post by Chris Marling, who writes for Broadband Genie, the online consumer portal for researching mobile broadband deals and latest choices in netbooks, tablets and smartphones.