If you only need infrequent access to the Internet then pay as you go mobile broadband might be an option for you.
Most Mobile phone companies offer contacts and pay as you go deals with Internet access over 3G/4G mobile networks..
Note: 4G is still new and not widespread (July 2012).
To use Pay as you go broadband on your laptop you will need a SIM card, and a laptop /tablet that has built in 3G/4G networking (e.g. Google Nexus 7) or you can:
- get a 3G/4G dongle (USB Modem) that fits into a USB port on your laptop.
- Use a MI-Fi Hub
A dongle is a small piece of hardware that attaches to a computer, TV, or other electronic device , and that when attached enables additional functions such as copy protection, audio, video, games, data, or other services.- Wiki
The dongle looks like a standard memory stick but it is in fact a small mobile phone without the keypad and screen.
Most dongles that you buy are locked to a network, and so you should first decide on the network operator based on your location and the reception in that area.
Dongles that you buy usually have the SIM card already installed and pre loaded with an allowance.
Here is a sample of a customer review from Amazon of the Three Mobile Huawei E353U Prepay 1GB.
MI-Fi Hubs are relatively new and allow you not only to connect any Wi-Fi device to the 3G/4G network but also to share the connection.
One side of the hub connects to the 3G/4G network and the other side to Wi-Fi equipped devices.
Note: Pay as you go rates are considerably higher that standard contract rates
Using Broadband Abroad
If you are purchasing a dongle to use overseas then you should be aware that North America and the Caribbean use a different mobile standard, and so the dongle must support the network technology used in that country.
If you travel to a particular country on a regular basis then it might be cheaper and easier to purchase dongle/or SIM and data plan there.
Also check on the charges, as they tend to be higher than when used in your own country.
There are two main alternatives to purchasing a pay as you go mobile package.
- Use Public Wi-Fi
- Use your existing mobile phone contract.
This is the cheapest and easiest option and will work for most people. There are a few precautions you need to take and thinks you should be aware of- See public Wi-Fi
If you are an existing BT broadband customer then you can also take advantage of the BT-Fon network
Use Existing Contract
If your mobile phone contact includes internet access then you can use the SIM card from your phone in the Laptop/Tablet or USB modem.
This will mean your phone is out of action while you do it and that you will need to swap the SIM between devices.
For the more technically inclined you can use a technique called tethering.
This involves connecting your phone to the Internet over the 3G network and then connecting your laptop/tablet to your phone.
Here is a youtube video that shows how it is done.
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