Mobile internet access is now available from all main mobile phone providers, in a sector that is rapidly expanding. 73% of premises and 13% of the UK’s landmass can receive a signal outdoors from all five 3G networks, according to Ofcom, with lower coverage in areas with smaller populations. Thanks to the introduction of 4G mobile broadband, this looks set to increase as speeds, services and coverage improve across the country.
What is mobile internet?
Mobile internet is accessed via the mobile phone network wherever there is a signal. To get connected, a USB dongle is used which plugs into your laptop or PC. You an also acquire a mobile wifi unit which allows you to connect more than one laptop or tablet computer. Plus of course, you can use your phone to connect when on the move.
3G technology is the main means of mobile broadband in the UK at the moment, but 4G technology has also been introduced in the UK this year, offering even faster connections than its predecessor. 3G download speed is roughly 2Mbps to 6Mbps, with the quicker connections available on HSDPA networks (High Speed Downlink Packet Access ), which is sometimes called 3.5G.
3G networks are operated by main mobile providers such as Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, Three and O2. 3G stands for ‘Third Generation’ and is the standard for mobile broadband in this country. 4G (Fourth Generation) is a new type of coverage, offering speeds that are up to five times faster than 3G. These are typically 6Mbs to 20Mbs for 4G connections, depending on coverage. This new technology is an answer to the ever increasing demand for mobile internet deals.
What are the advantages?
The sheer portability of mobile access means that business people can prepare presentations on the train to an important meeting. Students can use it to access study resources or to work on their essays while travelling home. Travellers can keep in touch with family and friends when abroad.
All the main mobile phone companies offer a variety of mobile internet deals, from SIM-only rolling short term contracts to pay-as-you-go and standard contracts. 4G packages are currently offered by EE, but more providers are expected to launch their own 4G deals during 2013. The market is very competitive at the moment, so you should be able to find a great deal.
What are the downsides?
Mobile internet access is currently more restricted than that of a fixed line connection. The capped monthly download are not as generous as fixed line connections and you are unlikely to find an unlimited mobile download package. Heavy users may be better off with an unlimited broadband deal.
Also, the current state of 4G coverage means that there are limitations. 4G is much more expensive than 3G and is currently only available in certain cities and large towns. 4G is only available through EE, with mainly long term contracts being the only way of getting a 4G connection.