Best mobile broadband

Blog Wayne Williams Aug 5, 2009

With mobile broadband, web access on the move is now cheaper, faster and easier. We show you how to pick the right dongle deal.

Check availability in your area

There are three types of mobile telephone network – 2G (which allows voice, text and picture messaging), 3G (adds video calling and internet) and 3G+ or HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access). The last one offers fast internet access and is what you really need to get the most from mobile broadband. Coverage in the UK is generally good, but it varies depending on which provider you choose. Fortunately you can check what the support is like in your local area before deciding who to sign up with.

T-Mobile's street checker is a bit sparse but will still give you a reasonable idea of how good the coverage should be. Orange's UK mobile coverage checker lets you check three postcodes at a time and shows you what the 2G, 3G and 3G+ coverage is like in those areas. This is handy if you want to know what speeds to expect at home, at work and down the pub! Virgin Mobile's Coverage map also lets you check three postcodes and displays the locations on a map. Make sure you select the ‘3G Video and high speed internet’ tab though.

The 3 coverage map shows the full range of the company's network. 2G areas are marked in yellow, 3G in red and HSDPA in blue. You can zoom in on and out of the map or click and drag it around. Vodafone's coverage checker shows 3G, standard and variable regions. If your area is a bit patchy you can click the Future Coverage option to get an idea of how it's likely to improve.

Finally, the O2 mobile broadband coverage checker uses a traffic-light system to tell you if mobile broadband is recommended in your region (green), available but limited (amber), or currently not recommended at all (red).