What is a mobile dongle?
A mobile dongle is a small device that plugs into your USB port and allows you to access the Internet from anywhere using the 4G network. The only thing you need to make it work is a contract from a service provider and a 4G signal.Back to top
How does a dongle work?
Quite simply, it connects you to the web via the 4G / LTE cellular network instead of fixed line access. It’s ideal when you are on the move, whether you’re working on a train or in a motorway café, or need to get access from a remote location, such as a park or a holiday home.Back to top
What are the pros of a dongle?
Dongles are portable and very easy to use. You just plug them into a free USB port and start using them. This is very neat and compact, as there are no extra wires or additional devices to encumber you. Dongles can be used anywhere you can get a 4G signal, which is most places these days, and even abroad, if that’s part of the data plan that you have with your service provider.
They provide surprisingly fast speeds, so you can expect a decent performance, and when 5G options become available, performance will be even better.
You won’t need anything else to use the dongle, and as they run off the power supply of the device they are plugged into, you don’t need to charge them and there are no batteries to replace. They can thus be used with any laptop or tablet device, or even an e-book reader.
In terms of cost, they can be relatively cheap, with many service providers now offering ‘all you can eat’ data plans for as little as £35 a month. You can also get pay-as-you-go options, which are useful if you perhaps only need the dongle for a short period.
They are also great contingency cover for any failure of your home or office broadband. Should that go down for any reason, or if performance should drop off, you can just connect via the dongle instead. This would be especially useful in situations where you or perhaps a member of staff really needed to connect to a video conference and were having problems with the usual broadband connection.Back to top
What are the cons of a dongle?
There are not many, to be honest. Perhaps the main downside of a dongle is that you won’t always get a good reception, especially if you are on the move. During a cross-country train journey, for example, the signal may drop out now and then. You may have to reconnect to get it back when the signal returns. In extremely remote areas, there may be no signal at all.
While it’s usually quite good, performance is not assured either. Your mobile phone signal can sometimes drop off or seem to lose clarity on occasions, and it’s the same with a data service. You certainly can’t expect to see the same consistent, reliable level of performance that you would get from a fixed super-fast or ultra-fast broadband connection.
If you want to share the connection, this will be especially true. A 4GT dongle is designed for a single device and user, and while it is possible to share your dongle connection, that is going to impact the speed and performance you get.
As they run off your portable device battery, they will drain power a little faster, so you may find working time away from a mains charger is reduced a little.
Also, while you are fine if you have an “all you can eat” data plan, if there is a limit to the amount of data you can use, you may soon use that up.Back to top
Is a dongle a good choice for my business?
Whether a dongle is a good choice for a business or not depends on what you want to use it for. As a back-up for when your broadband goes down, or to provide an alternative connection where fixed line broadband performance can be patchy, it’s a good choice. But a basic dongle will only be really good for a single connection.
Dongles are also great for when you need to have mobile connectivity while travelling and staying away, where there is no WiFi, or the WiFi is just not good enough. On the whole, dongles are great for individual business or personal users. But for everyday business use, you will be better off with a fixed line service that will give you much higher levels of consistent performance and reliability.Back to top
What are the alternatives to mobile-dongles?
When working on the move, WiFi is usually the first kind of connection you will look for, but when that is not available or can’t be relied upon to deliver decent performance, a dongle is exactly what you need.
You can also buy mobile hotspot devices that are specially designed for multiple users. These are useful for when you have several people who want to connect devices in an area where you can’t be sure you will get a WiFi signal. Construction and field-based project teams would be good examples here, as there are plenty of potential uses.
Then, of course, there is your mobile phone hotspot, which will work just as well most of the time, but will drain the battery quickly. And on mobile contracts, data consumption will usually be quite limited, so while they are good for occasional use, they can’t be depended on all the time.Back to top
Where can I get a mobile dongle?
Most mobile operators and service providers can supply a mobile dongle, and if you want advice, you should consult your trusted reseller or IT solutions provider. There are pay-as-you-go and contract options and both short (usually 30 days) and long-term (one or two years) options are available.Back to top