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Dongles: What are they, and how do I get one?

An alternative to regular fixed line broadband, dongles offers a more convenient way of getting online. Best of all they allow you to get online wherever you are in the country. In this guide we talk you through broadband dongles and offer advice on exactly what a dongle is, whether or not you should get one, and how to find a dongle deal.

What is a dongle?

It’s a small USB device that gives you access to the internet, and offers greater freedom when compared to a fixed broadband line as they can be used anywhere at any time; provided you have a signal.

Data allowance

The amount you are able to download each month will depend on which broadband deal you’ve chosen, but generally speaking allowances tend to range from between 1GBb and unlimited a month. Although some providers do offer unlimited mobile broadband deals. If you do have a dongle with an allowance be sure to keep abreast of how much of it you’ve used as there will be extra charges if you breach the limit and want to keep going online.

Contracts

Pay monthly: If you sign up to a monthly contract with a mobile broadband provider, you will normally get the dongle free of charge. However, to do this you will need to sign up to a contract for at least 12 months, so ask yourself if is the deal worth committing to just for the price of a free dongle.

Pay as you go: This option means you’ll have to pay for the dongle upfront, but pay as you go mobile broadband is arguably the cheapest way of getting online. All you need to do is top up your dongle as and when you need to use it. If you don’t go online that much then a pay as you go dongle is perfect.

Speeds

The connection speeds you get from dongles will be dependent on the provider you choose and other factors such as signal strength and network traffic. The actual speed you’ll end up receiving is likely to be slower than the speeds being advertised.

3G Dongles

3G coverage throughout the UK is very good and you can expect speeds of at least 5MB, there are also superfast 3G networks that can reach 20MB and up. If you are in an area that isn’t 3G covered the dongle will revert back to picking up a 2G signal, however the speed will drop dramatically.

4G Dongles

4G is currently in the process of being rolled out across the country and offers much greater connection speeds, however at present only the major cities and towns are truly covered. If you don’t live in one of these areas then you’ll be paying for 4G prices only be receiving 3G performance.

Pros and cons of using a dongle

Pros

> allows you to access the Internet from anywhere;

> easily portable, small enough to carry anywhere;

> 'plug and play', easy to use without any special technical skills;

> ideal for a temporary solution, easily available on PAYG plans;

> ideal for places where standard broadband is unavailable;

Cons

> reguires a USB, a dongle can connect to a laptop but will not be a solution for Internet on the mobile phone or tablet;

> can provide a connection for only one device at a time;

> capped - usually have strict download limits;

> usually more expensive than standard broadband.

Check Network Coverage

Many people are surprised with the mobile broadband speed they end up with when compared to what’s advertised, however you should view the speeds advertised as the very best you can expect and be prepared to receive speeds that don’t quite match those numbers. This is because the speed is dependent on several factors (signal strength, network traffic etc.) So to give yourself a better idea of what kind of speed you can expect it’s best to check the coverage in your area. All the major providers of mobile broadband have a coverage checker on their website; all you need to do is type in your postcode.

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