Before signing up to a mobile broadband contract, you should check the 3G mobile network coverage in your area. Good quality mobile broadband depends on a number of factors, and whilst the coverage checkers linked to below will give you a strong indication of the 3G signal in your area, they are not a guarantee that mobile broadband will work in your exact location. Scroll down the page for details of the other factors which will affect coverage in your area.
The postcode checkers above will give you an indication of the availability of mobile broadband in your area, but are not a guarantee that you will receive good broadband performance and a seamless, uninterrupted service. In the event that you sign up for a contract and find that coverage and internet accessibility are poor, most of the network providers give you a trial period in which you can return your dongle and get a refund. Some of the other issues to consider when researching mobile broadband are outlined below;
If there are a lot of other broadband users in your immediate vicinity, this can put a higher load on the 3G network. Whilst this won’t necessarily mean you can’t access the internet it can make download speeds and general performance painfully slow. For this reason most mobile broadband providers impose data download limits, in order to effectively ‘cap’ usage and ensure the networks are not overloaded. To see what download limits are available, click here for a selection of mobile broadband deals.
Download speeds and performance are also generally slower at peak times when many people are accessing 3G services at the same time, putting a strain on network resources. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to ascertain whether mobile broadband is viable in your locality, and will give you an idea of the best performing network provider.
If you can’t receive a 3G signal in your area, mobile broadband may not be suitable for you. Whilst most of the UK has coverage, around 10% does not, and some rural areas have little or poor 3G coverage. Without 3G coverage, your network will normally revert to GPRS, a less efficient and slower method of data transfer. Whilst mobile internet connectivity is possible via GPRS, it cannot cope with many internet related activities such as streaming video and downloading music.
3G is short hand for 3rd Generation and is the current generation of standards for mobile communications, allowing higher bandwidths and data transfer rates than the older telecoms standards. Roughly every ten years since 1981, a new data standard becomes available, and we are on the cusp of seeing 4G standards being adopted into wider usage. 4G will make the performance of mobile broadband considerably better and is discussed further in our article about 4G Mobile Broadband.