Which packages are best for staying connected while on the move?
Today’s mobile broadband solutions are designed to keep employees connected at high speeds without any drop-off in connectivity, allowing for flexible working patterns and more reliable communications. Providers offer various solutions at varying costs to suit a range of data demands - so much so that there is little excuse to be left with understrength, stuttering mobile broadband.
Here, we look at the options available and some of the pros and cons of each.
PAYG Or Contract?
Recognising that some for some users mobile broadband might be a short-lived requirement at short notice, several providers offer pay-as-you-go data options. So if an unexpected business trip announces itself with little advanced warning, or perhaps a long-standing broadband provider becomes suddenly unreliable, PAYG offers a useful way of dipping your toes in the water.
Under a pay-as-you-go data option, you’ll be provided with a USB dongle to plug into your laptop, and the dongle will be preloaded with a set amount of data that you can use over a set period, typically between 30 and 90 days. Pay a little more and you can have more data preloaded, if you think you’ll need it, and as with all of options available to you, it’s worth shopping around for the current deals - uSwitch is a good starting point.
PAYG is a good option for keeping track of how much data you’re going to use and any associated cost, because once that data has gone, you’ll have to either top it up with your chosen provider or pay for another preloaded dongle elsewhere. It isn’t a cheap longer-term solution, though. Users wanting a more regular mobile broadband solution would be better served choosing a contract, sometimes avoiding an upfront cost for the device itself while paying a monthly fee for a set amount of data. The negatives of a monthly contract are obviously being tied into a contract, plus the overall higher cost of the service over that contracted period, but if you know you’re going to take advantage of the service over a set amount of time, if does make sense.
A data dongle is also only as powerful as the signal available, so a 4G dongle is great, provided you’re in an area that allows you to receive that 4G signal; you may have to make do with a lower-strength 3G signal if that’s all that’s available to you. The data dongle can also only be taken advantage of by the user of the connected device itself, of course, so it is limited in that respect. An alternative for those looking to share the web across multiple users is MiFi.
A MiFi (Mobile WiFi) device acts as a personal WiFi hotspot, utilising a 4G/3G network and then allowing several devices to access the same broadband connection. Some devices enable as many as ten different WiFi-enabled devices to connect at any one time, which obviously affords additional opportunities to businesses. Some providers even offer car MiFi, offering additional connectivity when on the move.
MiFi devices again come in both 4G and 3G forms, with 4G ones naturally costing more. Devices have decent battery life (upto 24 hours in some cases) and can be paid for on a PAYG or contract basis.
MiFi devices work in much the same way as how a smartphone can be used as a personal hotspot. However, as it’s a dedicated device, you’re not having to impact on your own mobile device’s performance, and for bigger groups and frequent users, a MiFi device remains an appealing option. Compared with a data dongle, MiFi devices can also be positioned wherever the signal is strongest, which in theory should mean better and more flexible coverage/connections.
Mobile Broadband Limitations
The reality is that any mobile broadband device lives or dies on the strength of the signal you are working in at the time, and while operator EE in particular has made great strides in this area, providing over 90% of the UK population with 4G coverage, that figure still isn’t 100%. As your own smartphone experience will also tell you, when you drop from 4G to 3G, this simply doesn’t cut it in a working environment these days.
Mobile broadband also isn’t cheap, depending on your data usage. What it is, though, is a flexible means of communicating and working while on the move, and for now that’s arguably a service that’s worth paying a premium for.