21st Mar 2018

What is Mobile Broadband?: A Quick Primer on Getting Connected


Remember when dial-up was the only way to connect to the Internet? This was a slow-moving process that meant you could only use the phone or the Internet at any given time. Such as hassle.

With the advent of other technologies, dial-up Internet was no longer the only way to get online, and here in 2018, that method has become all but extinct. In its place, a system known as broadband took over. Without getting too deep into the technical details, broadband enabled users to get connected to the Internet without tying up their phone lines. It also offered speeds of 10 to 20 x faster than traditional dial-up connection.

Broadband’s ease of connection and its speeds are desirable, but what can you do if you want to get online on the go? You could use your mobile phone over its 3G/4G network, but can you use your computer over the same network?

Mobile broadband can allow you to have have a connection in your home or on the go, on the same super-fast 4G network that you use on your phone. And we’d like to dive into it for you today.  

Let’s Define Mobile Broadband

Basically, mobile broadband is a service with which you’re connecting to the Internet using the same mobile networks that your phone uses. Just as your mobile phone requires a signal to send and receive data, mobile broadband works wherever a 3G or 4G signal is available.

Mobile broadband can be accessed through any of your Wi-Fi enabled devices. All you really need is your device and a data-only SIM card. With your SIM card installed in a smartphone, tablet, sim-ready modem or dongle, you’ll be able to create a wireless hotspot allowing you to surf the web on your laptop and multiple other devices. If you’ve ever used your mobile phone as a wireless hotspot, you’ve essentially created your own mobile broadband network. However, without a dedicated data-only SIM, this method relies on your mobile phone’s own data and can use it up fairly quickly, and your phone isn’t usually the best option for creating a strong signal throughout your home. Let’s talk about your other options, and all the different ways you might use mobile broadband.

Getting Connected to Mobile Broadband

There are a few ways to connect to mobile broadband depending upon your needs and your chosen equipment:

  • Data-only SIM & SIM-ready device

Your smartphone or your iPad or Android tablet are SIM-ready devices. With a SIM installed, these devices can be online instantly using 3G and 4G networks. If you want to use them for mobile broadband and connect other devices, you can use your tablet or smartphone as a hotspot, as mentioned above. However, you’ll want to be sure to install a SIM that is for data only. The SIM in your smartphone is typically a SIM that enables data plus texting and calling. Relying on the SIM that’s already in your phone will zap through your data allowance superfast.

Instead, get yourself a mobile broadband solution with a dedicated data-only SIM for these mobile hotspot moments. This might be easiest if you use the SIM in an iPad or another ‘extra’ device, so you can keep your regular SIM in your primary phone.

  • USB modem / dongle

Certainly one of the easiest ways to access mobile broadband is with a USB modem, sometimes called a dongle. These are usually the approximate size of a flash drive or memory stick. Need to get your laptop online? Simply pop the USB modem in the USB slot on your computer and voila, instant access. The drawback of this solution, of course, is that you can only use the dongle with one device at a time. Still, if you only need occasional, on-the-go Internet for your laptop, this could be an ideal option.

  • Portable hotspot

Yet another mobile broadband possibility incorporates a portable hotspot device, but not one of your phones or tablets. This is a separate device that serves as a mini router. Usually battery-operated, this device charges up and then provides wireless Internet access for a few devices at a time. The portable hotspot is also known by a few other names, such as a personal wireless device or MiFi (which is actually a brand name). A benefit of this method is that these portable wireless devices are generally quite small---sometimes even pocket-sized---making them perfect to bring along wherever you go.

  • Home wireless modem

It might seem as though mobile broadband is only useful when you’re on the go or away from home. But this isn’t always the case. In situations where your premises doesn’t have access to a fixed wireless connection, mobile broadband could be a smart alternative. To get online with a strong signal throughout the house, you will need a home wireless modem which will connect your devices to the Internet over 3G and 4G networks. If you’re in an area with solid 4G signal, this method can offer excellent speeds. In fact, in areas of good coverage, it is not uncommon for 4G speeds to be substantially faster than that of ADSL.

Benefits of Mobile Broadband

There are plenty of advantages to using mobile broadband.


Mobile broadband provides an extremely portable way to get online. Portable modems and dongles are small devices that are easy to pack and transport. For professionals, students, or those who need to rely on frequent Internet access as they travel, a dongle or portable modem could fit snugly in a backpack or briefcase, ready to provide connection wherever needed.

Frequent travellers and people who move around a lot, are often the people who see some real value in a mobile broadband solution. Even those going on a short holiday might find mobile broadband to be extremely beneficial if they just sign up for a month-to-month plan, because they don’t have to spend any of their holiday time searching for free Wi-Fi. Going camping? If you can get a mobile signal, you can get online!


Mobile broadband can often be faster than other methods of Internet access. Of course, this all depends on various factors such as your hardware, your provider, and your location. On a 4G network in a capital city CBD, you could potentially see speeds what are faster than a FTTN nbn™ connection.
Outside of the CBD, speeds ranging from 20 Mbps to 100 Mbps on 4G are not uncommon.

Fast Internet matters. If you’re still waiting for the nbn™ to come to your area, you could be accessing the web at fast speeds right now with mobile broadband.


There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to mobile broadband. You don’t necessarily need to be locked into a contract, you can instead opt into a month-to-month plan. If you require very little, your expense for mobile broadband could be very cheap.

You can also add more data as necessary. This is a helpful feature for those who use varying amounts of data at different times, and only paying for what you think you will use is great for those on a budget.

Mobile broadband can also serve as a temporary solution. Perhaps you’ve just moved into a new home and haven’t gotten your Internet service connected yet. Or maybe you’re living arrangements are only temporary. Mobile broadband would suit you well, and as it’s a very “pop and play” style of Internet, it’s super easy to get started.


Many people love the lack of equipment required for mobile broadband. You need just a SIM card and a device to get connected. And dongles and portable modems are usually battery-powered, so you don’t need to be connected to electricity to use them. This convenience and ease of use can’t be beat.

It can also be more convenient to have an Internet connection that can be up and running instantly. It can take weeks to get your fixed line Internet services installed in your home.

Many users also invest in mobile broadband as a backup service, much like having a generator at the ready in the event of a power blackout. If you’re using the nbn™ in your home, you might experience a power outage, in which case you won’t be able to use your Internet---or your landline phone. But a fully-charged device that is mobile-broadband ready could be a great backup option for getting connected.

This could be your emergency Internet solution---and a fast one at that

Some Drawbacks

Mobile broadband is not without its downsides.

One concern is the variation in speeds depending on your region. This can make your access more uncertain, particularly if you’re regularly travelling to new locations. On the positive side however, mobile networks are improving over time, which means your coverage could expand and improve.

Another issue with mobile broadband could potentially be its cost. Though the cost of mobile broadband for smaller data packages can be modest, those who are regularly using large amounts of data may find that they are paying more with mobile broadband, if it’s their only solution.

Should I Get Mobile Broadband?

Now that you better understand the facts about mobile broadband, you might be wondering: is mobile broadband best for me?

There are a lot of factors that will go into making that decision, but if you like the flexibility of a pay-as-you-go option, or if you travel frequently, mobile broadband might be just the right answer to your Internet needs.

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