Do Cheap 3G Contracts Give You Enough Bandwidth For What You Need?


Mobile broadband is an attractive option for some consumers; however, it’s not always the cheapest choice that you can make. If you’re money conscious then you might be considering going for one of the many cheap 3G contracts on the market, but are you really going to get a satisfactory plan? This article discusses cheap 3G contracts, 4G mobile broadband contracts and whether or not they’ll give you the kind of bandwidths that you’re looking for.

Why Do I Need a 3G Contract?

Before we start getting into details, it’s probably a good idea to briefly summarise how mobile broadband works, so that you know what you’re getting into. Basically, mobile broadband allows you to harness a mobile phone operator’s 3G Internet signal to get an Internet connection to your computer.

You’ll go to an operator, sign a 3G contract and receive a device such as a dongle or Mi-Fi connection that will plug into your computer. You’ll then use this device to access that operator’s 3G network on your computer. Your contract will include a certain amount of data for a fixed monthly price, and every time you go online, data will be subtracted from this limit.

Once your limit has been reached, one of a couple of things can happen. Most probably you will lose your Internet connection altogether until the next monthly billing cycle begins, or Internet speeds will be slowed down so much that you won’t be able to effectively use the connection. It’s also possible that your provider will let you continue using the Internet, but for expensive extra charges on top of your monthly bill.

The Cheapest Contract

The reason that mobile broadband is attractive to customers is because it gives a lot of flexibility. You’re not tied to a cable, you don’t need to find a Wi-Fi hot spot and you will have an Internet connection anywhere that you have a mobile 3G signal, which is pretty much everywhere these days. There is a down side though. Firstly, mobile broadband speeds are not as fast as home broadband speeds, and secondly, prices are high, which means that data limits are low.

If you’re on a budget, you’ll be looking for the cheapest mobile broadband contract that you can get, and a brief search will reward you with plenty of options. Head to a tariff comparison site such as and you’ll find a plethora of cheap contract options. How cheap is cheap? Have a look at what some of the top companies are offering.

With T-Mobile you can pay a mere £7.50 a month, with Three you can pay £7.83. Vodafone’s cheapest plan is for £10 a month, and O2’s is just a little more at £10.21 a month. Orange’s cheapest plan is the most expensive of the major operator’s at £12.50 a month. Not too bad, right? You might be able to afford that mobile broadband after all.

The problem with all of these plans is the data limits that they include. The Orange contract contains a mere 500 MB of data a month, whilst the other plans all include a little more at 1 GB a month. Is that really worth paying for? That depends a lot on what you’re going to be doing with your connection.

The Data You Need

It’s difficult to say how much data you need, since data usage varies tremendously depending on how you’re using the Internet. This data limit is occasionally referred to as a download limit, which can be confusing to customers. The limit does not refer to how many downloads you can make, instead it refers to how much information you can download, and every time you use the Internet you will need to download information, whether you’re opening a web page, streaming a video, playing a game or checking your email.

Say you opt for that Orange contract that has a 500 MB data limit, what are you going to be able to do? 500 MB of data will allow you to stream videos for around an hour and a half. You can send plenty of emails though, around fifty thousand emails for 500 MB. Web surfing is a little more difficult, since how much data you use will depend a lot on the size of the web page you’re opening, but in general you can count on about five hours of surfing for every 100 MB of data you have.

Is this enough? That very much depends on you. If you’re looking for a quick, on the go Internet connection to send emails from, you’ll probably be fine. If you’re looking for a plan that’s going to replace your home broadband plan, then no, 500 MB isn’t going to cut it, and 1 GB probably won’t either for that matter.

What about More?

The good news is that mobile broadband plans are getting cheaper, and by spending just a little more cash you can get a much higher data limit. The mobile operator Three in particular is striving to provide low cost plans with high data limits, and you can get their hefty 15 GB data plans for around £20 a month, which is a pretty good deal. Even 4G contracts are starting to fall in price and over the next year these will come down nearly to the 3G contract price point.

Fast is Good, But Pricey

Finally, there is a concern with speed. Cheaper 3G contracts do tend to offer slower Internet speeds than more expensive ones. The very cheapest deals are only going to get you around 7 Mbps, which isn’t a lot, though a few pounds more will usually get you about 21 Mbps. The most expensive contracts are going to be 4G mobile broadband, rather than 3G, and these will give you super-fast speeds of up to 80 Mbps.

The only person who knows whether a cheap 3G contract is going to give you a large enough data limit is you, since this all depends on what you’re going to be doing on the Internet. However, in general, it’s probably worth spending a little more to get a higher limit, at least around 2 GB for everyday use.

Author Phil Turner was unsure whether or not 3G or 4G mobile broadband was available to him where he lives, so he visited this page at uSwitch to view all the information he needed

Exit mobile version