Guide to Mobile Broadband Plans
Buyers Guide

Guide to Mobile Broadband Plans

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Over recent years, mobile broadband has become increasingly popular.

The wide choice of mobile devices along with an excellent choice of mobile broadband plans has made it easy and convenient for people to use this type of service. Thanks to mobile broadband technology, we can now stay connected even when on the go.

You will find a choice of service provider options for your mobile broadband service. This makes it easier to find a mobile broadband internet plan that is both affordable and suited to your requirements.

All you need is a mobile phone, a SIM card, and access to a mobile broadband service. You can then enjoy going online no matter where you are as long as you can get mobile service.

What is Mobile Broadband?

The term 'mobile broadband' is pretty self-explanatory – it is a broadband service that is used on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Our increasing reliance on mobile phone technology has led to an increase in demand for mobile broadband.

This is reflected in both the impressive choice of mobile broadband plans and the huge numbers of people who are signed up to a mobile broadband service.

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With a mobile broadband service, you can go online wherever you go providing you have mobile broadband coverage from your provider. You can check an online coverage map before you sign up with a particular service provider. This will help to ensure you do not experience connectivity problems when you are out and about in the area.

Related: Alternatively, you can use our coverage maps here to compare which carrier is the best.

Guide to Mobile Broadband Plans

Devices & Plans

When it comes to mobile broadband devices and plans, there are various providers you can go through. This depends on your budget and your preferences. You can purchase mobile broadband devices from a number of retailers both online and offline.

You can also choose from a range of mobile broadband devices and plans from network providers including Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-mobile. So, let's take a closer look at what these providers can offer:

T-Mobile Broadband Plans

T-Mobile is one of the best known mobile providers. You can choose from a range of devices and plans from this carrier. You will find plenty of options to suit different needs and budgets. In addition, the provider offers great broadband coverage on a national basis, so you should be able to access the service with ease.

In addition to phones and plans, you can also access a range of devices. This includes the Rocket USB modem, which is a handy device that provides high-speed internet on the go. You can benefit from unlimited mobile hotspot access with this device. It is a great option if you only use mobile broadband now and again.

Related: T-Mobile Cell Phone Plans

AT&T Mobile Broadband Plans

Another leading name in the world of mobile broadband, AT&T offers a variety of option in terms of plans and devices. You can choose from smartphones, tablets, and even wearable devices from this provider. You can also select from competitively priced mobile internet plan options so you can look forward to an affordable internet connection on the go.

There are also a number of USB modem options from AT&T, which are ideal for mobile hotspot or 4G LTE access on the go. You can choose from several different modem options, including one for in-car use to enable multiple devices to connect to the same WiFi hotspot.

Related: AT&T Cell Phone Plans

Verizon Mobile Broadband Plans

When you go through Verizon, you can access some of the latest smartphones. There are some great value plans to choose from, so you can look forward to low monthly payments and plenty of perks. You will be able to choose the mobile internet plan option that is best suited to your needs and budget. Again, you can look forward to great broadband coverage through Verizon.

Verizon also offers its own USB modem in the form of the MiFi 4G LTE Global USB Modem U62OL. This is a great device to getting high-speed internet access on the go. It is even ideal for international use and is effective in more than two hundred countries.

Related: Verizon Cell Phone Plans

Sprint Mobile Broadband Plans

Another big name in the mobile broadband industry is Sprint. This provider offers plenty of choices when it comes to mobile devices and plans to suit different needs. You can look forward to excellent coverage with this provider, so you should be able to get good service pretty much anywhere. In addition, you can look forward to competitive pricing on mobile broadband plans and contracts.

Sprint also offers the handy Franklin U772 USB Modem, which provides a simple means of accessing the Sprint network. You can look forward to the convenience of browsing at 4G LTE speeds on the go with this device. It also doubles up as a memory stick.

There are also various other providers you can use, such as NetZero DSL and Mobile. This provider offers NetZero DSL internet plans as well as NetZero mobile broadband services. It is one of a wide range of providers that can offer various internet solutions for home and mobile internet.

Related: Spring Cell Phone Plans

Internet Access Options

You have several main options when it comes to your wireless broadband service. This includes:

Purchasing just the device (SIM free)

Some people want to purchase just the mobile device without any plan or contract in place. This provides the freedom of being able to go with any network provider of your choice. The phone comes without a SIM card (SIM free) so you simply contact the provider you wish to take your service through.

While there are benefits with this option – namely the freedom and flexibility you get – there is also a downside. It means you have to pay for the mobile device in full upfront, which can be costly with newer devices. However, on the upside, it means that you don't have to sign up to a lengthy contract in order to get the phone of your choice.

Opting for a mobile internet provider plan

The second option you have is to go for a phone and internet plan from one of the many service providers available. This is a great choice if you want a good, up-to-date mobile phone but cannot afford to pay in full upfront. By taking a wireless broadband and phone plan with a network provider, you get the phone of your choice but you pay monthly.

Your monthly plan will include your minutes and texts along with a monthly allowance for your data. The amount of data you get will depend on the plan you choose. If you use a lot of data while on the go, it is worth opting for a plan with unlimited broadband allowance.

The cost of a plan with unlimited data will be higher. However, it means that you won't have to worry about overage fees, which could actually save you money in the long run.

Related: Buyer's Guide to Cell Phone Plans

Use your existing phone for SIM only

If you already have a smartphone, you have the option of continuing to use that phone but with a SIM only plan. This is where you choose a provider for your phone service and mobile broadband internet access. However, you only get a SIM card from the provider, which you insert into your existing handset.

This is a much cheaper option than a plan that comes with a handset. You are not paying for any handset as part of your plan, which makes a big difference when it comes to the monthly price. The amount you pay will depend on your choice of plan, including the monthly allowance you choose for your data. If you are happy to use your old phone, these plans can represent great value for money.

Related: What is a SIM Card?

Choose a prepay plan

Another option you have is a prepay plan, which means that you don't have to worry about a lengthy contract. A prepay plan, such as AT&T prepaid cell phone plans, means that you can enjoy greater freedom and flexibility.

This type of plan is ideal for those who only need occasional mobile internet access. However, if you need regular mobile internet access, this will work out more costly because of the data usage charges involved.

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How to Use Your Mobile Broadband Device

If you want to make the most of your data allowance, it is important to learn a little more about the best way to use your phone. You have a number of different options available when it comes to accessing data while you are on the go. Unless you have unlimited data, you should try to look at the cheapest options available to you.

Free WiFi

Free Wifi is a great way to stay connected while you are on the move but without eating into your allocated monthly allowance. To access free WiFi, you may need to obtain a code from the establishment you are in or it may just allow you to automatically connect. You can then benefit from access to the internet without having to pay or use your data allowance.

You should also use the free WiFi connection if you are using your mobile device at home and have wireless broadband. This far more secure than public free Wifi, as it is your own wifi connection rather than one that can be accessed by anybody.

You can use our comprehensive guide to learn how to secure your WiFi.

Mobile hotspot

Another means of connecting to the internet while you are out is via a mobile hotspot. These use mobile broadband services from cellular providers in order to provide 3G or 4G internet access.

Multiple devices can be connected at the same time, and you can get decent speeds as well as a range of additional benefits. You can even learn how to make your phone a mobile hotspot through tethering.

Using your data allowance

Of course, the other option for getting online when you're on the go is to use your data allowance via your device. Depending on how often you go online while out, your monthly allowance could be depleted quite quickly.

This is why you should always try to use free alternatives wherever possible, as this will enable you to conserve your data allowance. Alternatively, you should opt for an unlimited broadband plan so you don't have to worry about exceeding your data limits.

Related: What is Data Throttling?

Wireless Hotspots vs 4G Mobile Broadband

To help determine the best internet access route for you, it is advisable to find out what the pros and cons are with both wireless hotspots and 4G mobile broadband. This will enable you to determine if and when each of these should be used. So, let's take a look at the pros and cons a little more closely.

Wireless/mobile hotspots

There are various pros and cons that you need to consider when it comes to portable mobile hotspots. These are devices that act like a mobile broadband router.

The pros include:

  • Greater security than using public WiFi networks
  • Improved bandwidth and performance with a portable mobile hotspot
  • The ability to connect multiple devices through the same hotspot connection
  • Conserves battery life on your device compared to tethering

The cons of mobile hotspots include:

  • It may mean carrying another device around
  • It might not be suitable for everyone, such as those with varying data usage needs
  • It could increase your data usage

4G mobile broadband

You also need to consider the pros and cons of using 4G mobile broadband when you are on the move. This is the data allowance that you get from your service provider.

The key pros of this method of internet connection include:

  • You know what you are paying each month as long as you don't exceed your data
  • The convenience of getting online wherever there is coverage
  • No need to take an additional device around with you
  • You can benefit from a choice of plans and decent download speed

The main cons of using this method include:

  • The risk of exceeding your allowance and being charged overage fees]
  • You can only connect the device that has your SIM card in
  • Accidental usage if you leave your mobile data on and the device starts updating while you are out

As you can see, there are pros and cons that need to be considered with both internet connection methods. You can get decent download speed with both, and you can take a look at a coverage map to ensure decent accessibility.

How Much Data Will You Need?

Before you sign up to any mobile broadband plan, it is worth trying to determine how much data you will need. This will enable you to choose the right plan for your needs. If you only plan to use your mobile occasionally then you may find a prepay plan could be ideal.

However, if you plan to use your phone for internet access regularly – and for high-bandwidth activities such as streaming – you need a generous data allowance.

You need to bear in mind that if you exceed your allocated data allowance, you will have to pay overage fees. These can be costly, so it is well worth looking at an unlimited data plan instead. While this may cost you more each month, it may also save you a lot of money in overage fees. So, it could actually end up being the most cost-effective and convenient option.

When working out your data usage needs, do remember that you won't have to use your allowance all the time. As mentioned above, you have other options available such as using free WiFi, which is freely accessible in many locations and venues.

You can also limit your high bandwidth activities to the house if you have wireless broadband, as this will reduce your data usage significantly.

International Use

Whether you are traveling abroad for business or pleasure, you may need to access the internet while you are away. It is important to look at the best ways of connecting to the internet abroad, as otherwise, you could end up paying a fortune.

There are various options available when it comes to mobile broadband for international use. For instance, you can use a suitable USB modem such as the MiFi 4G LTE Global USB Modem from Verizon. This is ideal for use in more than two hundred countries and provides ease and convenience when it comes to getting online.

There are also global roaming services available from providers such as T-Mobile. This is a simple way to get international mobile internet access, and depending on the T-Mobile plan you are on you can access free data in more than 140 countries. It can be very slow in terms of speed but there are options to upgrade if you want faster internet speeds while abroad.

If your phone is not locked to a particular network, you may want to consider using local SIM cards depending on the country you are in. You can simply insert and remove these based on your needs and you can purchase them from a wide range of places.

Recap

Accessing the internet while on the move has never been as simple as it is today. With such a wide choice of mobile data plans, devices, and options, there is something to suit every need. For data plans on other devices, like tablets, check out our buyer's guide to tablet data plans.

All you need to do is determine your individual needs so that you can make a more informed decision. Your budget, data usage requirements, online activities, and the location you are in will all play a part in the choice you make.

You can even use a cell phone data usage calculator to help you work out what you need.

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