A Guide to Mobile Broadband 'Dongles'

Published: 07th April 2009
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The term 'dongle' refers to any device that enables you to access the internet via mobile broadband connection. The name 'dongle', which came about when mobile phone network 3 launched its mobile broadband service, has stuck ever since and now most commonly refers to the smallest of the mobile broadband modems, also known as USB sticks.

As opposed to the bulky WiFi router (an alternative device used for home broadband connection), the modest, slim-line dongle is easy to use and is small enough to fit in your pocket or bag for transportation. Apart from the size, another great feature is that it can be used with PCs as well as laptops. You just insert the SIM card provided into the dongle, much like you do with a mobile phone, then plug the dongle into the USB port of your PC and wait a moment for the software to load - from then on, you can surf the internet from that PC every time you plug in the dongle.

So now we know that 'dongles' are small and easy to set up, it is also good to know that most are available for free with packages on 18 to 24 month contracts, and that they do not require a power source of their own; they run off the laptop battery.

Not all 'dongles' on the market are the same. They all have different things on offer to appeal to all types of broadband customer. Here are the dongles on offer from each mobile broadband provider:


3's dongle (Huawei E160) is hi-tech, and looks modern and sleek. With a data transfer rate of 3.6Mb, the 3 dongle is sufficient for someone who accesses the internet to check their emails and for light usage. It is a plug in USB stick weighing 50g, and is only just over 1cm thick.


Vodafone offer the USB stick and the USB stick pro. Both offer impressive download speeds of upto 7.2Mb, which are better for medium or heavy usage, and work abroad. Adopting the standard USB interface, these dongles are a little bigger, measuring up at just over 2cms thick.


Tipped the fastest mobile broadband USB stick around, the simple and sleek T-Mobile modem has a Micro SD memory card slot to store up to 8Gb of data. It weighs a light 30g and is compatible with Mac OSX and Windows Vista. If this wasn't enough, they are also offering a Share Dock (which works like a WiFi router in that it allows you to share your mobile broadband with other people) free with 18month contracts.


The Orange Icon 225 mobile broadband modem looks sleek and state of the art. It also boasts slim dimensions and weighs in at 40g. With download speeds of up to 7.2Mb, it easily accommodates the average to heavy internet user.

Virgin Mobile:

The Virgin mobile USB stick is slim and sophisticated in its looks, and easy to set up (self-installing). You can also use this mobile broadband dongle as a memory card reader. This Quad band dongle comes with a series of LED lights on the side, to let you know whether you are connected to the GPRS, 3G, or HSDPA network.


Like the Virgin Mobile USB stick, the O2 Mobile broadband USB stick is also Quad band, and offers upto 7.2Mb download speed. This black, sleek looking piece of kit weighs only 37g and is only just over 1cm thick.

Many of the mobile broadband packages that offer free dongles, also come with free laptops, so keep an eye out for good deals like this.

Once you know the basics about mobile broadband 'dongles', then you will be fully equipped to make an informed decision as to which will best suit your requirements, therefore getting the most out of your mobile broadband package.

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