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What Are Internet Dongles and How to Get One?

Written by, Andriana Moskovska

Updated May, 6, 2022

If you want to quickly access broadband on the go, you might want to consider getting a mobile dongle for the internet.

But, what are internet dongles and how to get one? 

Let’s find out.

 What Are Internet Dongles?

Internet dongles, also known as ‘internet sticks,’ ‘wi-fi dongles,’ or wi-fi sticks,’ are small portable modems that give users access to broadband. They’re ideal to access the internet in cafes, airports, or even taxis when it’s not possible to connect to a wi-fi network.

How Does a Dongle Work?

A dongle plugs into the USB port of a laptop or a tablet and automatically connects to the internet. It provides access to 3G, 4G, or 5G data in the same way that a smartphone accesses a provider’s mobile data network.

You may be interested in: Should I Buy 4G or 5G Phone?

How To Get An Internet Dongle?

Mobile network providers usually provide dongles with a data plan. 

Depending on the plan, you may be able to use a 4G or 5G network, connect to the Internet while abroad, and get access to unlimited broadband.

Even though over 9 million users get their internet connection through BT, many people choose other major mobile networks providers offer internet dongle deals in the UK, including:

  1. EE offers the fastest 4G network with speeds of up to 60Mbps.
  2. Three has a monthly contract that costs £20 per month which you can end anytime. It includes a 3G dongle with 15 GB of data.
  3. Vodafone provides plans with a speed that varies from 7.2Mbps to 21Mbps. Some plans include download allowances as well. 
  4. TalkTalk’s plans are yearly contracts with speeds of up to 17Mbps speeds and unlimited data, which cost around £20 per month.
  5. O2 offers a two-year contract that provides 4G connectivity with 20GB of data per month for £26 per month.

What To Consider When Buying A Broadband Dongle in the UK?

There are several things to take into account if you’re considering getting a dongle for your laptop.

Connection options

If you often work on the go or travel overseas for business, a wi-fi USB dongle will save you a lot of trouble when in places with limited internet coverage. You can also get a  temporary broadband dongle before going on vacation to ensure you have access to the internet whenever you need it.

Costs

Dongle deals generally range between £10 and £150. Some include upfront costs and most usually involve a contract where you’ll have to pay a flat monthly fee. You can also opt for a pay-as-you-go option and top up the SIM in the dongle whenever you need access to the internet.

Contract length

Dongle data plans can last between 30 days and 12-24 months. If you often find yourself in places with limited internet options, it’s more economical to take out an annual contract, but not if you need a temporary wifi dongle. 

Data allowance

Not all data plans are unlimited. Most of them range between 500 MB to 32GB per month. If you need the dongle for casual browsing, a smaller data package might be enough, but if you’re working on the go, you’ll likely need as much data as you can get.

Pros and Cons of Internet Dongles

Dongles have a lot of benefits, but they’re not the ideal solution in every circumstance.

Advantages

  • Getting a data dongle for your laptop doesn’t require a professional setup.
  • A dongle for the internet gives you access to a stable and secure connection.
  • It’s pocket-sized and is easy to carry around.  
  • There’s no need for an additional charger.
  • You can use it abroad if it’s part of your contract plan. 
  • It’s a backup option for a home broadband connection. 
  • You can get a temporary internet dongle. 
  • You can get a dongle for free as part of a data plan. 

Disadvantages

  • Dongle plans aren’t ideal for streaming or downloading large files.
  • Using a dongle overseas can be expensive.
  • You can connect it to only one device with a USB port. 
  • USB broadband dongle data plans have monthly data limits.
  • If you take out a PAYG contract, you need to pay for the device in advance. 
  • It’s slower than fixed-line broadband connections.
  • You can connect to the internet if 3G, 4G, or 5G isn’t available in the area.

Alternatives To Internet Dongles

If an internet dongle isn’t the best fit for your situation, you might want to consider one of the following to connect to the internet:

  1. SIM card – you can buy a SIM card with a data plan and insert it into your laptop or tablet. You can also use your smartphone as a wi-fi hotspot. 
  2. Mobile broadband devices – also referred to as mi-fi and pocket wi-fi hotspots, these devices connect to mobile broadband and emit a wi-fi signal. Unlike a dongle, you can connect several devices to the internet with a mi-fi.
  3. Mobile broadband router – The best part about these routers is that they don’t require a landline. All you need to do is plug the ‘hub’ device into a socket and it will provide access to the internet.

Bottom Line 

A data dongle is an ideal option when in places where internet access isn’t always guaranteed. They’re flexible, come with a variety of data options, and you can use them abroad (provided that it’s in your data plan). 

                           

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

1. What is a USB dongle?

It’s a small, portable piece of computer hardware that you insert into a USB port in your device to get broadband access. 

2. Does a dongle work without wi-fi?

A wireless dongle doesn’t need to (nor can it) connect to a wi-fi network to provide you with internet access. 

3. Do you need a SIM card for a dongle?

Dongles do require SIM cards since that’s how they connect to the internet, but they work out of the box. 

4. What are internet dongles and how to get one?

Internet dongles are pocket-sized models that allow you to connect to broadband by plugging them into a USB port into your device. They often come free with a data plan, which you can purchase from most carrier providers in the UK.

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