Long gone are the times when Internet access involved being stuck at home sitting in front of a desktop or laptop computer. Today, the mobile Internet is fast becoming ubiquitous, and it is rapidly overtaking desktop broadband usage as well. Instead of using fixed-line technologies like ADSL or cable broadband, mobile broadband uses the same networks which the mobile phone network operators use. By far the most common technology currently in use today is 3G, also known as the third generation of mobile broadband. This offers maximum download speeds of 8Mb/sec, although performance and reliability are heavily dependent on signal strength.
The fourth generation of mobile broadband (4G) is currently being rolled out in various areas of the country. Still not widely available, this will eventually replace 3G in the coming years. It offers vastly higher download speeds and improved reliability.
Orange broadband offers a number of mobile broadband packages, including prepaid and contract options. They provide the necessary hardware with all of their packages, allowing you to connect either your laptop, desktop or tablet computer to the Internet by way of a USB dongle modem.
Before you consider going for a mobile broadband package, you should be aware that mobile broadband is not really meant to be a substitute for fixed-line broadband, unless you live in one of the few areas of the country where ADSL or cable broadband is unavailable. Mobile broadband is usually significantly more expensive, and they come with relatively small monthly download limits. Whereas all of the fixed-line home broadband packages from Orange are unlimited, allowing you to download as much data as you like per month, their mobile broadband packages are more limited than most.
With Orange mobile broadband, you have a choice of two hardware devices to use for connecting to the Internet. The cheaper option is the standard Huawei E3131 USB dongle which you can connect to any laptop, desktop or tablet computer to enable mobile broadband Internet access. The more expensive option is the Huawei Wireless E5332. This allows you to connect to your mobile broadband service wirelessly from any device which supports Wi-Fi. This way, you will not need to rely on wireless hotspots or driver installation and other issues.
Only the standard USB dongle is available for prepaid connections. Prepaid mobile Internet with Orange allows you to pay per day, per week or per month at £2, £7 or £15 respectively. There is an upfront cost of £14.99 for the hardware and a £15 fee for the initial top-up of credit. Alternatively, you can choose to pay £29.99 upfront and get 90 days of mobile Internet access included without having to worry about additional monthly charges or contracts.
Regardless of whether you choose the Huawei E3131 or the Huawei Wireless E5332, contract options remain much the same. The only difference is that you will have to pay an initial cost for the E5332 with the cheaper packages. Orange broadband contracts are divided into three categories for light, medium and heavy users. These provide you with monthly download limits of 500MB, 2GB and 5GB respectively. Be aware that these download limits are far smaller than they are for even the cheapest of fixed-line broadband packages. For this reason, mobile broadband from Orange is best suited to light usage or secondary Internet access. All three options are available for thirty-day or eighteen-month contracts. Additionally, they all include free wireless Internet access on the London Underground.
How Much Data Do You Need?
All mobile broadband packages currently available in the UK are subject to monthly download limits. For this reason, mobile broadband is generally not to be considered as an alternative to fixed-line broadband. Many home broadband packages come with unlimited monthly data downloads, while even the cheapest have much more generous limits of fifteen or forty gigabytes.
If you only plan to check your emails, use Facebook and browse the Internet occasionally while you're on the move, then a 500MB limit may be just enough for your requirements, provided that most of your Internet usage is through a fixed-line connection at home. If you plan to use mobile broadband a lot, a higher limit is essential.