Mobile broadband deals

If you currently suffer from a lack of fibre availability, or if being free to connect wherever you are is a priority, then mobile broadband may be the perfect choice for you.

This table has been sorted to display the fastest average* speed deals first.

Vodafone R219 Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot 24GB

1 months discounted Broadband
Vodafone
Contract length
1months
Download limit
24000
*average speed
10Mb
£35 setup cost
£19/month
1 months discounted Broadband

Vodafone R219 Mobile Wi-Fi Unlimited - 1 month

Vodafone
Contract length
1months
Download limit
Unlimited
*average speed
10Mb
£35 setup cost
£28/month

Vodafone R219 Mobile Wi-Fi Unlimited - 12 months

Vodafone
Contract length
12months
Download limit
Unlimited
*average speed
10Mb
No setup cost
£28/month

Product nameContract lengthDownload limitDownload speed*Monthly cost
Vodafone R219 Mobile Wi-Fi hotspot 24GB1 months2400010Mb£19 /month
Vodafone R219 Mobile Wi-Fi Unlimited - 1 month1 monthsUnlimited10Mb£28 /month
Vodafone R219 Mobile Wi-Fi Unlimited - 12 months12 monthsUnlimited10Mb£28 /month

This table has been limited to display a maximum of 10 deals, sorted by the highest download speed first.

*The average download speed displayed in Mb is the speed available to 50% of customers with this product during peak time (between 8pm and 10pm). The actual speed you will get depends on a variety of factors such as your cabling, your area, how far you are from the telephone exchange as well as time of day. The majority of providers will tell you the speed you will likely receive when you begin your online sign up — this may differ from the average speed displayed on our table.

The deals available at your postcode are subject to local availability. The provider will confirm availability for your line.

Money services are provided at no cost to you, but we may receive a commission from the companies we refer you to.

What is mobile broadband and why would I need it?

Mobile broadband uses mobile network signals, usually from 4G or 5G mobile networks, to create wireless broadband networks which users can access wherever they are. This makes it very different to standard home or business broadband, which uses fixed landline/fibre connections and can only be used from one place.

Mobile broadband is usually accessed via a data-only SIM card that is placed in a mobile device or router, or by putting a mobile data dongle into the USB port of a laptop or PC. 

As its name suggests, mobile broadband is ideal for anyone who changes location, whether that’s travel for work, an around-the-world cruise or an annual two-week family holiday. However, it’s also useful for those who want WiFi at home without the hassle or expense of a phone line, or the commitment of a long-term broadband contract. 

While it is common to buy mobile broadband on a long-term contract, many mobile providers also offer ‘pay as you go’ and rolling monthly options. This flexibility makes mobile broadband a great home broadband option for many people, such as students and people living in short-term rental accommodation.

Indeed, the advent of 5G is making mobile broadband an increasingly viable alternative to fixed home or business broadband. Some mobile routers (such as the Vodafone GigaCube) are even able to support dozens of devices at a time.

Is it difficult to set up mobile broadband?

Setting up mobile broadband is very straightforward, and certainly much easier than setting up fixed home broadband. In most cases, it’s just a case of choosing the best mobile broadband deal, buying the SIM card or dongle from the provider, and putting it into a device.

How do I get mobile broadband?

Mobile broadband is usually accessed via a data-only SIM card or dongle, usually purchased directly from the mobile broadband provider. Most standard SIM cards come with a data allowance, but this is rarely enough to count as mobile broadband. 

There are three main ways to get mobile broadband:

  • Many mobile broadband users buy a data-only SIM and put that into their mobile device. Usually that device is a smartphone, but some laptops and PCs come with a SIM card slot for this purpose.

  • A dongle works like a data-only SIM but connects to a USB port rather than a SIM slot, so is generally used with laptops and PCs. Some mobile broadband dongles can be used as a hub/router for other devices when plugged into a laptop or PC. For that reason, they are sometimes advertised as ‘portable hotspots’.

  • Mobile routers (also called ‘Mi-Fi’ or ‘pocket routers’) are small hubs that have a SIM card slot for a data-only SIM. These can be used in much the same way as a home broadband router, often allowing multiple devices to stream at the same time. Many mobile providers prefer these to smartphones because the data SIM can be left in the router, which saves having to constantly swap between standard phone and data SIMs.

Another option is to put a mobile broadband SIM into a phone and then tether that phone to another device (such as a laptop) which uses the phone as a hub/router to access the data allowance. However, not all mobile providers permit tethering in this way.

Public mobile hotspots, which some broadband suppliers make available without charge to their customers, also count as mobile broadband. They can be a very cheap and easy option, but mobile hotspots are not always easy to find and sometimes come with security risks. 

Why should I get mobile broadband?

There are several reasons why mobile broadband may be suitable for your household:

You travel a lot

Mobile broadband is the only fully portable type of broadband. While standard fibre optic cabling gives rapid and dependable connectivity at home, mobile broadband can move around with you. As such, it’s a strong choice for people who need to work on the go, or who split their time between multiple properties. 

You’re a globetrotter 

The majority of mobile network providers have an extensive list of roaming destinations that let you use your SIM abroad without impacting on your bills. This is great news if your job or family life sees you jetting off from Blighty frequently. We have a full list of destinations across the four main mobile networks at the bottom of this article.

You don’t have a phone line

Although SOGEA connections are increasing in popularity, with telephone services unbundled from fibre cable broadband, most ISPs require you to have a phone line. Mobile broadband simply requires you to have a SIM and reasonable signal strength for a mobile network. Generally speaking, this ensures greater coverage than broadband providers. If you don’t have or want a phone line, mobile broadband is the perfect solution, though Virgin Media broadband can be taken without a phone service being included.

You’re renting

If you don’t own your property or can’t enter into a long-term contract for wired broadband, mobile broadband is a strong alternative. While many mobile deals still set their contract lengths to several months, this isn’t dependent on your location, so you can reposition the connection without breaking the terms of your mobile broadband contract. This also avoids any fees for cancelling your broadband contract early. 

You need temporary internet

Maybe something delayed your broadband switch, perhaps you’re only in your home during the weekend, or looking for connectivity in a holiday home. Mobile Wi-Fi deals are a great short-term option to keep you online.

Who offers mobile broadband plans?

Mobile broadband deals are offered by mobile networks, meaning consumer options vary compared to standard broadband providers. Some mobile networks specialise in both fixed and mobile broadband, which might allow you to combine a standard domestic broadband package with a mobile SIM.

EE

EE offers a wide range of equipment including a home router, a hub that clearly displays your speed and usage, and two sizes of portable Wi-Fi router. EE offers 4G and 5G coverage, and upfront fees vary based on what package you choose. Contract lengths range from one month to two years. 

O2

O2 also offers 4G and 5G options, with routers and mobile broadband dongles designed to join you on the move. Some dongles also double as Wi-Fi hotspots. Pay monthly options let you pick precisely how many months you want to commit to and how much data you need.

You will also be able to change the amount of data needed per month, so you can bring down your allowance, use it all up, pay off your current plan and then switch plan.

Three

Three offers 4G and 5G Wi-Fi coverage. Its hub options are easily unpacked and activated, with no lengthy installation needed. The Huawei AICube option doubles as a smart speaker.

Vodafone

Vodafone claims to have 99% coverage nationwide with its 4G Wi-Fi network. SIM only deals include 30 day and one-year options, while Vodafone’s Gigacube is their version of a mobile router and works across both 4G and 5G networks.

Other providers

Bear in mind that the networks listed above are the only ones who have their own physical tower infrastructure across the UK. However, other providers piggyback on these networks (such as Tesco and Sky, who both use O2’s network), and may offer comparable service at more affordable prices. 

Can I get unlimited mobile broadband?

At time of writing (October 2020) only Three and Vodafone offer unlimited mobile broadband deals. Three’s unlimited 5G plan is only available with a 24-month contract and promises speeds of around 100 Mbps in areas covered by its 5G signal. Three also offers unlimited home broadband using 4G. That costs around £22 per month on a two-year contract, and may be ideal for those living in areas where even ADSL coverage is poor, but the Three mobile signal is good.

Vodafone offers unlimited mobile broadband as an option with its Vodafone GigaCube router. That costs £50 a month, but it’s worth bearing in mind that Vodafone is among the fastest 4G networks in the UK and covers a very large proportion (around 99%) of the country.

Who offers mobile broadband deals?

Within the UK, just four mobile operators run their own networks (although other providers may purchase the use of those networks for their own customers – BT uses the EE network, for example). The network-owning companies are EE, Three, Vodafone and O2. All of these offer 4G and 5G mobile broadband; access to 5G is currently limited to relatively few locations but will be extended over time.

For those wanting to take mobile broadband overseas, all of the networks above have extensive roaming networks. That means customers can get mobile broadband abroad, although its quality may vary by location. 

At the moment, many providers include roaming to at least some destinations within their contracts. This may change after Brexit – although charges will still be capped.

Who provides the best mobile broadband?

Because mobile broadband runs on mobile networks, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer when it comes to provision. The quality of mobile broadband will vary by network coverage, speed and quality – such as the extent to which the network has rolled out 5G. Uswitch provides a comprehensive comparison of UK mobile network providers, which makes the options clear.

Where can I use my mobile broadband?

The UK’s mobile broadband providers all allow roaming in the regions listed below. The following information is correct in October 2002, but may change when the UK’s Brexit transition period ends at the start of 2021, so check with providers.

EE gives free EU roaming with all of its mobile broadband packages, and customers can add roaming to SIMs for a monthly fee. The countries covered may vary by package chosen, so if roaming is important it’s a good idea to check with the provider. 

The full list of countries covered by EE roaming is: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Ascension, Australia, Austria , Azerbaijan, Azores, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Dutch Antilles, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guernsey, Guiana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestinian Authority, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion Island, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin (French), Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St Helena, St Pierre and Miquelon, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, The Bahamas, The French Antilles, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tristan da Cunha, Tunisia, Turkey and Northern Cyprus, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, USA, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands (UK), Virgin Islands (US), Wallis and Futuna, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Three offers roaming in: Aland Islands, Australia, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France (inc. Corsica, Mayotte & Reunion), French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece (inc. Crete & Rhodes), Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy (inc. Sardinia & Sicily), Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Madeira, Malta, Marie-Galant, Martinique, Mayotte, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of Ireland, Reunion, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United States (inc. Florida Keys), Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Vatican City, Vietnam.

Vodafone roaming varies by item/deal bought, and the firm categorises countries on that basis. Customers for whom roaming is important should check with the vendor that their product covers the regions they need.

O2 divides roaming locations in a similar way. They provide free roaming for countries within their Europe Zones, but these vary according to tariff. So, there is a Europe Zone for pay monthly customers and a Europe Zone for pay as you go customers. For those who want roaming outside these countries will need an O2 travel bolt-on, which at time of writing (October 2020) costs £4.99 a day for monthly customers, and is not available for pay as you go users.