DongleOn the hunt for a decent broadband dongle? We round up the very best deals.

When dongles were first introduced to the broadband market, we wrote about how they could potentially save you £203 a year compared to a BT landline, and examined whether they could be the next big thing for internet users. (Dongles are a gadget which enable you to access broadband via a 3G mobile connection.)

Today, they are still a popular option,but come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. How do you know what kind to get and will they actually save you any money?

The basics
Below are the dongles designed for people who only need a very basic package.

Supplier

Plan

Cost per month

Minimum Contract Length

Maximum Data Allowance

Cost If Exceeded

3

Standard Broadband

£7.87

18 months

1GB

10.2p per MB

Vodafone

Very occasional user

£3 (£19 one-off cost)

30 days

250MB

Each additional 250MB costs £2 daily

T-Mobile

Mobile Broadband USB Stick 615

£10

18 months

1GB

n/a*

Orange

Small

£12.50 (£10 one-off cost)

One month

500MB

£3 per day

O2 Pay monthly £10.20 (£10.21 one-off cost) One-month rolling contract 1GB £10.21 per GB
As you can see, these packages range from the flexibility of a one-month rolling deal to the commitment of an 18-month contract, the sort of thing normally associated with a traditional mobile phone contract. These deals offer fairly limited data allowance, so are best suited for those people who only need to do things like access their emails or do some general surfing.

Internet access for £3 a month for someone who only needs to check their emails and the football scores every now and again is a decent deal.

Bigger users
However, if you need more data at your disposal, there are yet more tariffs to choose from! Below are my favourites from each of the big five networks.

Supplier

Plan

Cost per month

Minimum Contract Length

Maximum Data Allowance

Cost If Exceeded

3

Standard Broadband

£15.99

18 months

5GB

10.2p per MB

Vodafone

Regular user

£15 (£9 one-off cost)

30 days

2GB

£15 per MB

T-Mobile

Mobile Broadband 15

£15

18 months

10GB

n/a**

Orange

Medium

£17.50 (£5 one-off cost)

One month

2GB

£3 per day

O2

Pay & Go Starter Kit

£35.74

One month

2GB

£10.21 per GB

** Unlimited access to internet and email but a T-Mobile 5GB fair use policy applies to watching videos and downloading files.

These deals all offer more significant data usage, without breaking the bank - well, except the O2 deal anyway! These are a better option if you are likely to use the dongle for downloading or streaming.

Finding a dongle to fit you
Obviously, coverage varies immensely depending on where you live, so doing your research is vital.

If you're considering getting a dongle, use these links for 3, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2, Orange to check the coverage in your area. However, though the sites will tell you if your area is covered, by no means will you get the advertised speeds.

The best thing you can do to test mobile broadband speeds in your area is to borrow a dongle. That way, you'll know how fast it will perform where you live.

For those who do not have that luxury, if your existing mobile phone has 3G capability and your tariff supports internet browsing, simply hook it up to your computer (there should be a cable to connect it in the box your phone came in), and conduct a broadband speed test which will give you an idea of speeds in your area.

One final word of warning!
Although services within the UK are becoming more competitive, overseas broadband charges continue to be high.

To give you an idea of how expensive overseas dongle surfing is, if you downloaded a 20Mb podcast abroad with an O2 dongle, it would set you back £13.80 within the EU or a whopping £120 if you're outside the EU.

So the moral of the story is; avoid using your dongle abroad and if you have to, choose a Wi-Fi connection instead, or even seek out a trusty internet café. Even in the UK, exceeding your allowance could cost you dearly.

Healthy competition?
So, are dongles worth it? It really depends on your individual circumstances, how much data you need and when you need it.

Most of us rely on our smartphones for internet access, while others stick to their home broadband system, but dongles can be a good alternative for access on the go. As most providers offer shorter contracts, you could always try one out to see if it will save you money compared to another broadband system.

Dongles may not be the next big thing, but if you're looking for broadband on the move -- or simply an alternative to landline broadband, then a dongle may just be right up your street...

This is a lovemoney.com classic article that has been updated.

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