SIM Only Mobile Broadband

SIM Only Mobile Broadband

Mobile broadband evolved rapidly from chunky wireless data cards that slotted into your laptop and connected to the 2.5g mobile networks at excruciatingly slow speeds through to discreet high speed USB dongles and free laptop deals. Now we are seeing more and more devices (principally laptops and tablet computers) with all the hardware built in to be able to access high speed mobile broadband anywhere, there is a mobile signal – they just need a SIM card to get up and running.

As a result we are now seeing the first examples of SIM only mobile broadband contracts, and these will surely only grow in the coming years. Much like SIM only mobile phone contracts, mobile broadband SIM contracts are cheaper and more convenient for the networks than dongle or laptop deals so they can pass on extra benefits to you, usually in the form of shorter contracts, less stringent credit checks, and perhaps even cheaper prices.

The first thing to be aware of if you have a device that only needs a SIM to connect to mobile broadband is that you don’t actually ‘need’ a SIM only deal to get this to work. Generally you will be better off taking one out for the reasons stipulated above but not every network offer SIM only mobile broadband yet and if you see a deal with a dongle that is the right one for you it is straightforward to remove the SIM card from the dongle, discard it and use that SIM in your laptop or tablet.

The critical exception to this is the Apple iPad, which much like the market leading iPhone uses a different shaped SIM called a micro SIM. If you intend to use your contract with an iPad it’s essential that you take out an iPad SIM contract.

There are a several factors you should take into account when deciding which is the right deal for you. One of the most critical is how much data do you need to use in a given month. If you intend to use your mobile broadband deal only lightly, principally for web browsing and email and as backup and plan to use Wifi most of the time then a low cost deal with around 1gb of data a month should be sufficient. If you plan to use more data, such as daily use for heavy browsing, watching You Tube videos or using lots of data intensive apps then you should consider 3-5gb and for the heaviest users, especially those downloading or streaming lots of video or music content or making Skype calls then a larger allowance of 10-15gb or even unlimited data would be more suitable.

The next factor you should take into is where you plan to use your device and then check the local coverage using our coverage maps carefully. Mobile broadband speeds are highly susceptible to changes based on how close you are to a network base station and the quality of the hardware in that station – a SIM that can deliver speeds of 3-5 megabytes per second in one location might limp along at less than 100 kilobytes per second just a mile or so along the road so be sure to choose a network that will give good quality coverage where you are most likely to be. As a rule of thumb Three and the combined Orange and T-Mobile networks (they can now share a signal) tend to offer the best 3G service but this is highly variable throughout the country.

Finally you should consider if and for how long you are prepared to sign up for a contract term. As with mobile phone SIM contracts, there are a variety of contract lengths on offer from one month to 12, 18 or even 24 months for mobile broadband. Generally the longer term the contract, the better the deal but you sacrifice flexibility to get a better price of larger allowance so you need to think about what is most important to you.


  • Mobile broadband SIM contracts are becoming much more common as more laptops and tablets have SIM slots built in ready to go
  • Remember that Apple iPads use a different shaped SIM and be sure to take out an iPad micro SIM contract if you are planning to use it with an iPad
  • When selecting your SIM only mobile broadband contract, remember to think about how much data you need, what the coverage will be like where you are likely to use it and how long you are prepared to sign up for a contract for.