Mobile broadband deals: cheap broadband providers, devices, and WiFi dongles

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Mobile broadband makes it possible to access the Internet from wherever you are – even when away from home. It’s an ideal portable WiFi solution to power smartphones or laptops – but shopping for the right mobile broadband deal can be overwhelming. Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about mobile broadband and WiFi deals.
Last updated in: April 2022

To help you find your ideal portable WiFi solution, we’ll explain all your options, such as dongles, MiFi devices, and 5G technologies. This guide also lists the most popular and cheapest providers, including Vodafone and Three.

Disclaimer: All deals are valid as of 21/04/22, but are subject to change.

What is mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband is a way of connecting to the Internet by using mobile networks. It uses a ‘portable’ WiFi connection instead of a fixed-line router.

The appeal of mobile broadband is that it lets you complete online activities, such as sending emails or using social media, away from your home or office broadband. Mobile broadband is versatile as it works with any Internet-compatible devices, including smartphones and laptops. There is a variety of mobile broadband deals to choose from.

How does mobile broadband work?

Unlike standard broadband which relies on a fixed-line connection, mobile broadband uses 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile networks to provide Internet access. This is the same network mobile phones use for calls and texts, so you can stay online while on the move if you’re in a coverage area.

Ways of accessing mobile broadband

There are many ways of accessing a mobile network to receive a WiFi connection. You might need to use an additional device to connect to mobile broadband:

Dongles

A dongle is a small device that connects to your laptop’s USB port. It contains a modem that provides a mobile broadband connection wirelessly.

They’re simple to use and highly portable, and as they’re powered by the device they’re connected to, they don’t need charging. However, they only work with laptops and can’t connect multiple devices at once.

MiFi Devices

MiFi devices are portable gadgets that create a broadband connection wirelessly. They can support multiple devices at once, including tablets and phones, and are also known as mobile WiFi routers.

Unlike dongles, MiFi devices are battery-powered, so they require regular charging.

Data-Only Sims

These are SIM cards that only provide mobile data – not phone calls or texts. Data-only SIMs are an ideal mobile broadband solution for tablets, but can also work on phones. This can be cheaper than purchasing a SIM card including calls and texts, but the savings are minor.

Mobile hotspots or tethering

Smartphones can connect to the Internet wirelessly via their built-in mobile hotspots. You can use these hotspots to connect other devices to the Internet too. Your phone can act as a portable router for other devices. This is known as ‘tethering’.

As they’re wireless, they can support multiple devices at once, but this can quickly drain your phone battery.

Can mobile broadband be used like WiFi?

Mobile broadband can connect devices to the Internet wirelessly in the same way as a WiFi connection – like fixed-line broadband can. You can use it in your home or office, but it doesn’t offer the same speeds as modern fibre broadband. As mobile broadband uses mobile data, your online activities will be subject to download limits, so it’s not as simple or reliable as traditional broadband.

What do I need to use mobile broadband?

There are three components for using mobile broadband:

  1. Have a compatible gadget or mobile device.
  2. Sign up to a mobile broadband deal.
  3. Purchase enough mobile data for your needs.

What is 5G mobile broadband?

5G mobile broadband uses a 5G mobile signal to connect to the Internet. It works like 3G and 4G wireless technology, but offers faster speeds and a greater capacity to connect multiple devices.

You can access 5G mobile broadband by using 5G-enabled devices and plans from providers including Three, EE, O2, and Vodafone. Currently, Virgin Media offers 5G-ready phones and SIM cards – but its dongles and Mi-Fi devices only support 4G technology.

What are the best mobile broadband deals?

Mobile broadband is available from a range of providers that can provide a number of deal options to meet your needs.

Which broadband companies provide mobile broadband?

In the UK, the following major providers offer mobile broadband deals including gadgets:

  • EE
  • O2
  • Three
  • Vodafone
  • Virgin Media

There are also many more providers offering mobile broadband via mobile hotspots/tethering and SIM cards. However, these providers don’t offer portable hubs:

  • giffgaff
  • BT Mobile
  • VOXI
  • TalkMobile
  • Tesco Mobile
  • SkyMobile
  • Plusnet
  • iD Mobile

mobile phone outside

Best mobile broadband deals available

Providers often allow you to customise your mobile broadband deal. You can change the contract length and data allowance of your plan, which may change your monthly and one-off costs. There are also options with unlimited data allowance. The effect of changing each factor is detailed in this table:


Customise your mobile broadband deal
Factor Effect on price Example #1 Example #2
Monthly data allowance Higher data limits usually come at an increased price.
O2 Alcatel Dongle 4G
12-month contract
15GB monthly
£15
O2 Alcatel Dongle 4G
12-month contract
50GB monthly
£23
Contract length Longer contracts result in lower monthly payments.
Vodafone Unlimited Max Dongle
12-month contract
£29
Vodafone Unlimited Max Dongle
24-month contract
£26
One-month contracts One-month contracts result in higher monthly and upfront costs.
EE 4GEE WiFi Mini 2020
One-month contract
4GB
£15 monthly with £40 upfront cost
EE 4GEE WiFi Mini 2020
24-month contract
4GB
£13 monthly with no upfront cost
Generation of technology 5G-enabled devices usually cost more than 4G devices.
Three 4G Hub
24-month contract
unlimited data
£10
Three 5G Hub
24-month contract
unlimited data
£10


To help you find affordable deals, our tables list the standard, cheapest version of each plan.

These are the three best mobile broadband deals currently available.


Best mobile broadband deals
Provider Deal Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Average download speed
Vodafone logo 4G Mobile Hotspot £6 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 4GB 10Mbps
EE logo 4GEE WiFi Mini 2020 £13 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 4GB 31Mbps
Three logo 5G Hub £21 24 months 5G N/A MiFi router Unlimited Up to 3.8Gbps


Cheapest mobile broadband deals

Currently, these are the three cheapest mobile broadband deals available as of 21/04/22.


Cheapest mobile broadband deals
Provider Deal Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Average download speed
Vodafone logo 4G Mobile Hotspot £6 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 4GB 10Mbps
Virgin Media logo Huawei E5576 £8 12 months 4G N/A MiFi router 3GB 150Mbps
Three logo 4G Hub £10 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router Unlimited Up to 600Mbps


Fastest mobile broadband deals

The fastest mobile broadband deals available use 5G technology to deliver high Internet speeds of up to 3.8 Gbps.


Fastest mobile broadband deals
Provider Deal Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Average download speed
O2 Logo Alcatel Pocket Hotspot 4G £15.00 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 15GB Up to 300Mbps
Vodafone logo GigaCube 5G Mobile Router £30 24 months 5G £100 MiFi router 200GB Up to 1Gbps
Three logo 5G Hub £21 24 months 5G N/A MiFi router Unlimited Up to 3.8Gbps


All mobile broadband deals available

Here are all of the deals available from the leading UK providers.

EE Mobile broadband deals

EE offers a range of mobile broadband deals with customisable plans.


EE Mobile broadband deals ee logo
Deals Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Average download speed
5GEE Router 2021 £50 18 months 5G £100 MiFi router 500GB 150Mbps
5GEE WiFi £20 24 months 5G £100 MiFi router 400GB 150Mbps
4GEE WiFi Mini 2020 £13 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 4GB 31Mbps
4GEE Home Router 3 £35 18 months 4G N/A MiFi router 100GB 30Mbps


Three Mobile broadband deals

Three’s mobile broadband deals allow you to customise your plan to suit your preferences.


3 logoThree Mobile broadband deals
Deal Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Maximum download speed
4G Hub £10 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router Unlimited Up to 600Mbps
4G Plus Home Broadband Hub £10 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router Unlimited Up to 600Mbps
5G Hub £21 24 months 5G N/A MiFi router Unlimited Up to 3.8Gbps
5G Home Broadband Hub £11 24 months 5G N/A MiFi router Unlimited Up to 3.8Gbps


We compare the market to find you the best broadband deal

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O2 Mobile broadband deals

O2 provides a choice of customisable mobile broadband plans with WiFi dongles and MiFi routers.


O2 Mobile broadband dealsO2 Logo
Deal Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Average download speed
Alcatel Dongle 4G £14.00 24 months 4G N/A Dongle 15GB Up to 150Mbps
Alcatel Pocket Hotspot 4G £15.00 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 15GB Up to 300Mbps
Huawei 4G Pocket Hotspot 2020 £15.38 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 15GB N/A
Huawei 4G Dongle 2020 £15.00 24 months 4G N/A Dongle 15GB 150Mbps


Vodafone Mobile broadband deals

You can choose a Vodafone mobile broadband deal and customise it to your preference.


Vodafone Mobile broadband deals
Deal Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Average download speed
5G Mobile Hotspot 2022 £16 12 months 5G £100 MiFi router 4GB Up to 3.8Gbps
4G Mobile Hotspot £6 24 months 4G N/A MiFi router 4GB 10Mbps
GigaCube 5G Mobile Router £30 24 months 5G £100 MiFi router 200GB Up to 1Gbps
4G K5161z Dongle £10 24 months 4G N/A Dongle 4GB 150Mbps
Data-only SIM £10 24 months 4G or 5G N/A Data-only SIM card 4GB 10Mbps


Virgin Media mobile broadband deals

Virgin Media currently offers one mobile broadband product, but you can choose your data limit and contract length from either one or 12 months. The one-month mobile broadband deals include a £39.99 upfront cost, but the 12-month plans don’t.


Virgin Media Mobile broadband deals
Deal Monthly cost Contract length Generation of technology One-off cost Equipment included Monthly data limit for basic plan Maximum download speed
Huawei E5576 £8 12 months 4G N/A MiFi router 3GB 150Mbps


How to pick a mobile broadband deal

You should consider your specific needs to find the right deal for you.

Choose the right gadget

When deciding on a mobile broadband deal, you’ll need to choose an included ‘gadget’ that suits your requirements:


Choose the right gadget
Type of gadget Connects via: Can it power multiple devices at once? Does it need charging? Ideal for:
Dongle USB port No No Laptops and computers
MiFi router Wirelessly Yes Yes Most devices
Data-only SIM SIM card slot No No Tablets and phones
Mobile hotspot Wirelessly Yes Yes (phone battery) Most devices


The main factor affecting your download/upload speeds is whether your gadget uses 3G, 4G, or 5G technology. However, if you’re using a mobile hotspot (tethering), your speeds may be lower than those of other gadgets, as the hotspot also has to connect the ‘gadget’ (smartphone) itself.

Coverage and data speeds

Mobile broadband is only available in areas where you can receive coverage from your provider. Coverage can vary across locations, so it’s worth checking a provider’s network coverage before purchasing a plan.

You can check your local 3G or 4G coverage with Ofcom’s checker or by referring to providers’ own coverage checkers.

Data speeds vary by provider, with most offering either 4G or 5G options. 5G offers the highest average speeds for mobile broadband:


5G and 4G options
Generation of technology Average download speed Peak download speed
4G 41Mbps 90Mbps
5G 148Mbps 753Mbps


Data limit

Mobile broadband deals often come with a limit on how much mobile data you can use each month. Exceeding this limit may result in additional charges.

To figure out how much data you’ll need each month, think about what you usually do online, and how often or long you do it. Some tasks are more data-intensive than others:


Choose your data limit
Activity Data used
Streaming music for an hour 80MB
Streaming a two-hour long, HD film 4.2GB
Browsing through 60 web pages 140MB
Playing games online for one hour 43MB
Using Google Maps for an hour 5MB


If you use your mobile data occasionally for simple activities such as scrolling a few web pages or using maps, a lower data limit (e.g. 4GB) should suffice. However, if you frequently use mobile broadband for data-heavy activities such as streaming movies, a plan with 100GB+ or unlimited data will meet your demands.

Contract lengths

Providers often set minimum contract lengths of 12, 18, or 24 months. If you choose to end your mobile broadband plan before this period ends, you may have to pay an early cancellation charge.

If you don’t want a contract, you can choose a pay-as-you-go plan instead. With these, you can top up your data whenever you like – but you may have to purchase your gadget (e.g. WiFi dongle) upfront.

Can I get 5G mobile broadband?

5G mobile broadband is not yet widely available. However, providers such as EE, Three, O2, and Vodafone offer 5G mobile broadband deals.

Before signing up to these plans, it’s best to visit your potential provider’s website to check their network coverage map. This will tell you whether 5G networks are available near you. You can access the major providers’ 5G coverage maps below:

How to decide on the best mobile broadband deals

To get the best mobile broadband deal for you, you’ll need to consider a few factors:

  • The monthly cost of a plan
  • Whether you want 4G or 5G networks
  • Contract lengths/pay-as-you-go options
  • Which/how many devices you want to connect
  • How much mobile data you’ll use monthly

Why choose a mobile broadband deal?

Mobile broadband deals are ideal for people who need an Internet connection while on the go. They allow you to get online in most places without having to connect to a wired router or public WiFi. This makes it a portable and versatile broadband solution.

Can mobile broadband be used as home or office WiFi?

Mobile broadband deals are designed with portability in mind. However, some providers offer 5G and 4G routers as an alternative to fixed-line home broadband.

With this approach, you’ll get more contract flexibility than home broadband while also avoiding a fixed phone line. However, you’ll need a strong signal to use mobile broadband at home, and you may face data limits.

Are MiFi, Mobile WiFi the same as mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband refers to a way of connecting to the Internet via phone networks. MiFi devices are gadgets used to provide a mobile broadband connection.

Mobile WiFi is simply using a portable mobile broadband device to access WiFi (a way of connecting devices over a wireless network).

woman with mobile phone outside

When do I need mobile broadband?

There are many situations where mobile broadband is a suitable solution.

You have terrible fixed-line broadband

If you live in an area with slow broadband, you can access higher speeds by using mobile networks. 4G broadband can be faster than a standard Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) connection, with 5G offering speeds rivalling fibre broadband.

You travel for work

If you’re often working while commuting, you can use mobile broadband to get online while traveling. It can offer better speeds and a more reliable connection than you’d get by using the WiFi on public transport!

No other options

If you just can’t access a fixed-line broadband connection in your area, mobile broadband may be your only option. This might be the case in rural areas without broadband infrastructure.

You need a temporary solution

As you can get short-term contracts for mobile broadband, it’s ideal as a temporary solution. A mobile broadband deal can be useful if you only use the Internet during certain periods, or if you’re facing a lengthy broadband outage.

How secure is mobile broadband?

When compared with fixed-line WiFi, mobile broadband is often more secure. It usually features built-in encryption measures, which fixed-line broadband lacks, so you’re better protected from threats when using mobile data.

Can I use mobile broadband abroad?

Mobile broadband can work abroad, but you should use a data roaming plan to avoid high charges. You’ll need to check this with your mobile provider before leaving the UK to ensure your plan allows you to use data abroad, and additional charges will apply.

What else should I look out for?

When shopping for mobile broadband deals, look out for bonuses or special offers. This might include a free router or WiFi dongle, or a lower monthly charge for the first few months.

Call us to find the best broadband and/or phone provider for free!

0330 818 6395

Available Monday to Friday from 8.30 am until 5.30 pm

FAQ

Is mobile broadband a good option?

If you need an Internet connection away from home, mobile broadband is ideal – but for heavy-bandwidth activities, fixed-line broadband is best.

Is mobile broadband the same as WiFi?

No. WiFi is what facilitates Internet access, whereas mobile broadband is a way of accessing the Internet via mobile networks.

Can I get 5G MiFi deals?

Yes. Many UK providers offer mobile broadband deals that include MiFi devices with 5G capability.

Which mobile broadband is best in my area?

Mobile broadband coverage varies between locations and providers. You can find out which providers will offer the best coverage in your area with Ofcom’s online checker.

Updated on 9 May, 2022

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