While mobile broadband deals may seem like a strange concept, they actually fulfil a frequent need for a large group of people who either don't have traditional broadband available in their area or temporarily need an internet solution.
Very simply (as you've most likely guessed from the name) mobile broadband is internet that you can take on the move. It most commonly comes as a hub that you can connect your phone, laptop and other gadgets to. However, there are a few different options available, including dongles, routers and SIM cards.
With PAYG options, contracts and big upfront spending plans all available, there is a lot to consider when investing in any mobile broadband deal.
And right now, mobile broadband has never been more useful. However, Mi-Fi isn't for everyone and anyone with a big data mobile phone deal or SIM only deal will likely find mobile broadband redundant thanks to tethering abilities and anyone needing it for their home will find 4G home broadband to be a better option.
That said, for parents trying to keep kids entertained on long trips, people trying to work on trains or people who simply travel abroad a lot, mobile broadband deals could well be a logical option for you.
Think Mi-Fi might be right for your needs? Or do you have questions about how the technology works? Well, this is the guide for you. Here, we've answered all of your popular questions about mobile broadband and revealed the very best deals on the market.
What is mobile broadband and how does it work?
Mobile broadband is, in essence, a portable internet router. It can come in multiple forms - dongles, hubs, SIM cards etc - and simply provides you reliable internet when you're out and about.
Unlike regular broadband deals, fibre broadband deals or even 4G home broadband plans, the major pro of these routers is the ability to take them on the move. It doesn't (in most cases) require a plug or any power and most options are small and portable.
Depending on what kind of option you choose, you can use it on multiple devices simultaneously or even get unlimited data on the move.
The main and most popular form is where a SIM card and a router are combined. The SIM card provides your internet access and the router boosts its power and range throughout your house.
Mobile broadband from Three:
Three 4G Mi-Fi | £19 upfront | 12-month contract | 40G data | £20 a month
This pocket-sized 4G Mi-Fi option from Three provides download speeds of up to 300Mbps and doesn't require a landline. Whether you're working on the go, streaming your favourite TV shows or even making video calls, this device should be quick enough for your needs. Plus, the battery lasts for 9 hours, so you can get a full day of work done before it needs to recharge.
Mobile broadband from EE:
EE 5G Wi-Fi | 24-month contract | 125GB data | £45 a month | £0 upfront
This particular mobile broadband option is EE's fastest. It provides you with a whopping 125GB of data and excellent max. download speeds of 100Mbps. With this particular plan, you can also gift any unused data to family and friends, too. It's portable, rechargeable and can be used anywhere on the go. We think this package is excellent, but it is expensive. If you're looking to save some cash, options with lower amounts of data are available.
EE Smart 4G Hub | 18-month contract | 100GB data | £35 a month | £0 upfront
This 4G mobile broadband option from EE offers speeds of up to 40Mbps. Although it's not as quick as the deal we highlighted above, it will still be quick enough for most people. Yes, you do get 25GB less data, but it's also £10 per month cheaper and it comes with an 18-month contract rather than a 24-month commitment.
EE 4G WiFi | 24-month contract | 5GB data | £14 a month | £0 upfront
This option really showcases just how cheap mobile broadband can be. Yes, you only get 5GB of data, but it also only costs £14 per month. It may not be suitable for heavy use, but it's great for long train journeys and nights away. Need more data than this? Options with 25GB, 125GB and unlimited amounts of data are also available. The 25GB option is still only £17 per month!
Mobile broadband from O2:
Alcatel Pocket Hotspot 4G | 24-month contract | 150GB data | £23 a month | £0 upfront
We think that this Alcatel Pocket Hotspot 4G option is O2's best. This is because this impressive device can provide you with a stable internet connection no matter where you are. Added to this, the device's localised wireless mobile broadband signal can be shared between multiple mobile broadband-enabled devices and its battery can last for up to eight working hours. Looking for extra perks? Until 6 December it's available for as little as £3 for the first three months. Plus, you get double the data when your household also has Virgin Media broadband.
Alcatel Dongle 4G | 24-month contract | 150GB data | £22 a month | £0 upfront
This dongle option from O2 is lightweight, pocket-sized and can provide you with download speeds of up to 150Mbps. However, you need to be aware that it only works when it's plugged into your laptop's USB port. Right now, it's on offer and you can pay as little as £2 per month for the first three months. But, you'll need to be quick because this offer ends on 6 December. Right now, you also get double your data if your household has Virgin Media broadband.
Mobile broadband from Vodafone:
Vodafone 5G Mobile Hotspot 2022 | 24-month contract | Unlimited data | £35 a month | £0 upfront
The Vodafone 5G Mobile Hotspot 2022 allows users to enjoy 5G speeds and WiFi 6 on the go. It also provides up to 8 hours of battery life and allows up to 32 devices to be connected. Looking for something cheaper? 30GB and 4GB plans are both available, as are one-month deals and 12-month contracts.
Vodafone 4G Mobile Hotspot | 24-month contract | £0 upfront | Unlimited data | £20 a month
Searching for something a little cheaper than the 5G option we mentioned above? Vodafone's 4G Mobile Hotspot is a great choice. As well as being quick and reliable, its battery can run for 11.8 hours. It even provides you with the option to set up data control using Web UI.
Vodafone K5161z | 24-month contract | £0 upfront | Unlimited data | £20 a month
The Vodafone K5161z dongle is cheap, portable and reliable. However, it only works when it's plugged into your laptop's USB port. That said, it's a really good option if you're constantly working on the go and it's only £20 per month.
Can I get 5G Mi-Fi plans?
While 5G is still a relatively new concept, a number of networks have already jumped on it. As you can see in the deals we've highlighted above, EE and Vodafone now offer 5G Mi-Fi options.
However, with Three, getting access to 5G will mean upgrading to a home broadband plan. For what it's worth though, we do think that Three's 5G home broadband deals are among the best on the market today, so they're well worth taking a look at if you're desperate for 5G and you're not fussed about a solution that's completely portable (it needs to be plugged in to work).
How is Mi-Fi different from Wi-Fi?
There are a few key differences between the two. Firstly and most obviously, with broadband deals you need to have a landline and go through the set-up process. That means that broadband can only be installed in a home, office or stable location.
Mobile broadband on the other hand can be taken on the go and requires no set-up to get started. While Mi-Fi will remain faster than ADSL (slower broadband) in most cases, it will struggle to match full fibre packages in its consistency and speed. That said, mobile broadband packages can be quicker than entry level fibre broadband deals (particularly 5G mobile options), you'll just need to check what speeds are like where you live.
Overall though, if you can get a home broadband deal where you are, we would advise that as your main Wi-Fi connection due to its affordability, consistency and overall performance. Can't get it where you live? Mobile broadband could be the perfect option.
Are Mi-Fi routers faster than regular broadband?
Sadly, there isn't a 'yes' or 'no' answer to this one. Allow us to explain...
Lots of broadband deals are out there at the moment, and they range from painfully slow ADSL options right the way through to gigabit-capable and lightning fast deals. How quick is mobile broadband? Well, it falls somewhere in between.
Mobile broadband deals will easily outperform ADSL packages and will usually be quicker than basic fibre packages. However, they will also be outperformed by faster fibre and gigabit-capable options.
So, although it's true that some mobile broadband options will be quicker than your current home connection, they might also be considerably slower. If speed is a concern for you, then it's worth asking your chosen provider about whether they offer a minimum speed guarantee.
Still want more options? Then head to our main broadband deals guide for all the best tariffs out there right now.
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Alex is a journalist who has written extensively about all things broadband, SIMs and phone contracts, as well as scouring the internet to land you the best prices on the very latest in gadgets and tech. Whether that be with the latest iPhones and Android handsets, breaking down how broadband works or revealing the cheapest SIM plans, he's in the know, and will help you land a bargain.