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  Mobile Broadband  
     
These days we’re all pretty familiar with broadband internet connections, with most of us using them at home or at work for emailing, browsing, shopping and banking. But did you know that there is another kind of broadband which allows you access to the internet from anywhere, allowing you to work, chat or browse on the move ?

Mobile broadband uses the mobile networks to deliver data, so you can connect to the internet anywhere that you have a mobile phone signal – all you need is a USB modem, or dongle. It’s a similar service to the 3G connection on smartphone handsets like the iPhone, except that with mobile broadband you use a laptop computer, so you still have a keyboard and screen to work with.

Mobile broadband is available through any of the UK’s six mobile phone networks: O2, Vodafone, 3, T-Mobile, Orange and Virgin. Packages start from as little as £5 per month; although you can spend as much as £50 per month; depending on the data allowance and what extras are thrown in. You can choose from 12, 18 or 24 month contracts, or if you prefer not to sign a contract you can opt instead for a pay-as-you-go arrangement.

The advantages of mobile broadband are that it provides a great way to stay connected on the move. It does not require a landline telephone – so it is useful for anyone who moves home frequently, such as students, or for anyone living anywhere that fixed-line broadband has not yet reached. It is very easy to set up and use – with the USB dongles featuring ‘plug and play’ functionality; and because it is a competitive market, tariffs are very reasonably priced, making the whole thing inexpensive.

However, before buying mobile broadband, you should be aware that it differs in two significant ways from your home broadband. Firstly, mobile broadband is slower than home broadband. The fastest UK networks boast 7.2Mbps, but even then the speed you experience is governed by factors such as geographical location and how busy the network is. And secondly, where with home broadband we are used to paying a flat rate fee for unlimited usage, mobile broadband contracts have download limits, which limit you to a certain amount of usage per month. 3GB per month is considered sufficient for most general browsing purposes, but download limits range between 1GB and 15GB per month.

Mobile broadband tariffs vary greatly, with contract or pay-as-you-go options, different download limits and extras – and different suppliers are able to offer different coverage and speeds. The best way to find the right deal is to use an independent comparison website such as Mobile Broadband Genie, which has comparison tools as well as plenty of additional information about mobile broadband.

Whichever tariff you decide on, mobile broadband provides a very useful way to get online without being restricted to home or work, limited to a tiny screen, or having to search for a hot-spot.