Pay as You Go Mobile Internet (3G & 4G)


Updated: May 17, 2016

sim-pay-go-broadbandIf you only need infrequent access to the Internet then pay as you go mobile Internet might be the option for you.

Most Mobile phone companies offer contacts and pay as you go deals with Internet access over 3G and 4G mobile networks.

Note: 4G is still new and not widespread (July 2015).

To use Pay as you go broadband on your laptop you will need a SIM card from a mobile phone operator and a data plan.

Smart phone support 3g and 4G network access but most laptops and tablets don’t.

If your device doesn’t support 3G/4G network access the you can:

  • Get a 3G/4G dongle (USB Modem) that fits into a USB port on your laptop.
  • Use a MI-Fi Hub.

Pay as You Go Internet Dongles (3G and 4G)

dongle-pay-go-broadbandA 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 Internet dongle looks like a standard memory stick but it is in fact a small mobile phone without the keypad and screen.

Most mobile dongles that you buy (in the UK) are locked to a particular network.

Therefore you should first decide on the network operator based on your location or intended location, and the reception in that area.

Dongles that you buy usually have the SIM card already installed and pre-loaded with a usage allowance.

Here is a sample of a customer review from Amazon of the Three Mobile Huawei E353U Prepay 1GB.

3-dongle-Huawei-E353U-review

The dongle is inserted into a USB port of the device and tend to be used with laptops.

Mi-Fi Hubs

MI-Fi Hubs are relatively new, and allow you  to connect any Wi-Fi device to the 3G/4G network,and 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.

These are the ideal solution when sharing a mobile Internet connection and for tablets which can’t normally use a mobile dongle..

Using Pay as You Go Internet Abroad

If you are purchasing a mobile 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 the 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.

Pay as You Go Alternatives

There are two main alternatives to purchasing a pay as you go mobile package.

  • Use Public Wi-Fi
  • Use your existing mobile phone contract.

Public Wi-Fi

This is the cheapest and easiest option, and will work for most people. There are a few precautions you need to take, and things 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.

Note: Other operators both in the UK and abroad offer similar network services to BT-Fon.

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 or 4G network and then connecting your laptop/tablet to your phone over Wi-Fi.

Here is a youtube video that shows how it is done.

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