Can I get 3G in my area?
Our independent guide looks at whether 3G mobile broadband is available in your area, and what options you may have if it is not.
With 3G you can browse the web on your mobile phone, laptop or tablet at speeds of up to 7.2Mbps. But as with everything else in the mobile world, it all comes down to a question of coverage; if you can’t get a strong signal from your chosen network you could be left out of pocket, and out of luck.
Check your coverage
It’s as easy as pie to check 3G coverage. Just click on each of the buttons below to check each network in turn by entering your postcode. You’ll be told instantly if you can get a 3G connection there, how strong it’s likely to be and whether you’ll be able to get online indoors as well as outdoors.
Getting the best broadband signal
As a general rule the strongest 3G signals are to be found in heavily populated areas, as providers are more likely to install masts in areas where demand is highest. However, that isn’t always the case, and many rural communities today enjoy excellent 3G coverage with speeds above the UK average.
Reception may be better on high ground
In areas with poor reception you can usually boost reception by moving to higher ground, away from obstructions such as buildings or dense woodland. This is a trick that works at home too, so consider moving your device upstairs if your signal is weak. Also, upstairs walls tend to be thinner than downstairs, allowing for a stronger signal.
Choose the best 3G mobile broadband provider
Each of the UK’s providers has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s impossible for us to single one out as being “the best” overall.
Think about what you need
Start by checking coverage in the area or areas where you will want to access a 3G network, and then compare the various 3G mobile broadband packages on offer to find the provider and package that can offer you the best service for the lowest price.
Choose the right type of deal
Again, it’s impossible for us to tell you definitively which is the right option for you. However, a good rule of thumb is that a pay-as-you-go deal is the better option for occasional use, while pay monthly deals tend to suit regular and heavier users.
When looking at pay monthly deals, double-check how long you’ll be committing to the contract for, and how much you’d have to pay if you wanted to terminate your agreement early.
Compare different 3G mobile broadband deals
Our advice is to compare the different packages on our mobile broadband comparison page and decide for yourself which package is going to be able to let you spend as much time as you like online without paying extra for a higher download limit than you need.
Mobile broadband options
Different providers each offer their own range of 3G equipment, and the right technology for you will depend upon which type of device or devices you want to use.
Most 3G users access the network using their mobile phone. This has the benefit of being the most portable option, and you can also use it to connect your tablet or laptop to the 3G network using tethering – should your network permit it.
Dongles can get you online with a laptop
USB Dongles remain the most popular gadget for getting online with a laptop. If you’ve got a windows or Mac computer it’s usually just a simple matter of inserting the SIM card, plugging your dongle into a spare USB port and then following the on-screen instructions.
Dongles don’t work with all types of computers, such as Android or Linux machines, or for devices that lack a USB port.
MiFi units can be even better than dongles
The majority of providers also offer MiFi units, or portable wi-fi devices (also known as wi-fi pointers). These don’t rely on a physical connection between your devices, instead they generate a localised ‘bubble’ of wi-fi that you can access using the built-in wi-fi on your laptop or tablet.
MiFi units are often able to deliver higher download speeds than traditional dongles and they really come into their own if you want to connect more than one device at a time.
You can get 3G SIM-only deals
Finally, most providers will offer a range of SIM-only options. As the name suggests, these packages don’t come with any equipment but a SIM card, and they’re only suitable if you have a compatible device such as a 3G-ready iPad.
The chances are very good that you will be able to get a 3G signal in the UK, as a large number of providers offer the service and between them they cover around 97% of the country. However, each provider will have slightly different areas of coverage within the UK, so it makes sense to check you will be covered before you commit to any one provider.
Why do we need your postcode?
Once you enter your postcode, Cable.co.uk will perform a live lookup and check all the available providers in your area.
This ensures you receive accurate information on the availability of providers and packages in your area.
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