About unlimited mobile broadband deals
In this guide
- Best unlimited mobile broadband deals May 2021
- What is unlimited mobile broadband?
- Do I need unlimited mobile broadband?
- Coverage and data speeds
- What unlimited mobile data deals are on offer?
- Unlimited mobile broadband checklist
- Frequently asked questions
A good mobile broadband deal is a great stand-in, or in some cases even a replacement for the cabled variety of home broadband deals. But an unlimited mobile broadband deal is the Holy Grail of course.
Unlimited mobile broadband doesn’t have to use yourmobile phone either. It’s now possible to get unlimited mobile hubs (also known as routers) that have their own SIM cards. There are also dongles, tethering, which is also known as using a personal hotspot that will enable you to make wider use of your mobile phone’s data signal. So, let’s look at what is currently available for you in the unlimited mobile broadband market.
Best unlimited mobile broadband deals May 2021
Three 4G MiFi
£10 p/mZero one-off cost See Deal
- 4G download speed
- 2GB limit
- No phone line
Vodafone 4G WiFi Mobile Broadband 4GB
£11 p/m£20 one-off cost See Deal
- 4G download speed
- 4GB limit
- No phone line
O2 4G Pocket Hotspot Mobile Broadband 15GB
£19.84 p/mZero one-off cost See Deal
- 4G download speed
- 15GB limit
- No phone line
What is unlimited mobile broadband?
As the name suggests, unlimited mobile broadband enables you to have uncapped data using a 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G signal – the same as you would with your mobile phone – for your computer, TV or other compatible device’s wifi. With the introduction of 5G to more and more areas of the UK, mobile data speeds of up to 300Mbps max (which beats many cabled deals) are available. Even 4G could get you online at nearly 50Mbps (more likely 20-30Mbps), which is easily enough to use the web, watch and listen to streaming media, and even play some games online. So, how do you get online with unlimited mobile data?
- Dongles – These are small devices that usually plug into your computer’s USB socket. Dongles come with their own data plans so you don’t have to use your mobile phone data. However, this does mean that you’ll have two contracts to deal with
- MiFi devices – These are small, easily transportable, boxes that to all intents and purposes act like your home broadband router. The major differences between home broadband and Mifi are that a MiFi device can fit into your bag or even pocket. They’re usually charged by USB. A MiFi device can use the data from your mobile phone or it can have its own data plan and SIM (often a nano SIM to keep things small and portable). Basically a MiFi devices creates a local network that up to 64 devices can access at the same time
- Data-only SIMs – These SIMS (sometimes called ‘tablet SIMS’ but don’t be fooled by that name) are purely and simply that – you can’t use them for voice calls. While they certainly can be used in compatible tablets (hence that name), data-only SIMs are also available to use in mobile hubs (aka routers), and even some MiFi devices
- Mobile hotspots/tethering – Your mobile phone’s data can be shared with other devices if you ‘tether’ (connect) them to the mobile hotspot you can create using your phone (or in some cases tablet) settings. Because we’re talking about unlimited data plans in this guide, tethering won’t mean that you have to keep an eye on your phone’s data cap
- 3G/4G/5G home broadband – Very similar to the MiFi devices we talked about earlier in this guide, a mobile home broadband router uses its own SIM to create a local wifi network. The big difference here is that your mobile router (or hub) plugs into your power supply rather than using batteries. It’s very much like a standard home broadband router except that it uses a mobile phone-like data SIM rather than being cabled into your provider’s physical network
- Public wifi – Free public wifi is available in more and more towns and cities in the UK when provided by local authorities or commercial organisations in partnership with local authorities. Of course, you can also opt to use your local cafe or pub’s free wifi as well. The problems with free public wifi usually boil down to very bad security, and inconsistent signal
Do I need unlimited mobile broadband?
The answer to this depends very much on where you are (and where you’re going), how much you rely on an internet connection. Let’s have a look at the situations where you might want unlimited mobile broadband.
You have terrible fixed line broadband
superfast broadband is available to the majority of UK households but this doesn’t mean it’s always a reliable connection, or that you’re not one of the minority who can’t get superfast speeds. With mobile broadband speeds highly competitive with their fixed-line competitors, if your mobile signal is consistently better than your fixed line then a data SIM and a mobile wifi of MiFi hub (router).
You travel a lot
If you’re forever on trains or buses, at airports or even on ferries but you need to work or simply while away the time then unlimited mobile broadband could be a godsend. This is also true if you travel internationally. Be aware though that it’s a good idea to check the mobile coverage at your destination before you spend money on an additional data SIM rather than simply tethering your mobile phone data.
An unlimited mobile broadband plan (or even phone tethering) provides the same capabilities of sending and receiving emails, trawling the web, and with 4G and 5G speeds, even playing games and streaming audio and video. Therefore if your cabled home broadband is down or you can’t get a decent speed, then a mobile data dongle, router, MiFi hub or even your phone’s data are great backup options.
No other options
If you live in an area that just doesn’t get fixed-line broadband, thankfully a rarer and rarer sight, but you do have a mobile data signal, then an unlimited mobile data SIM plan with a wifi or MiFi-enabled router will be a godsend.
Mobile broadband coverage and data speeds
Although there are myriad unlimited mobile data deals out in the market from numerous suppliers, there are only four physical networks: EE, Vodafone, Three and O2. Every other provider uses one of these networks.
This means that when you’re looking for your unlimited mobile data deal, find out which of the four network providers are providing the actual network. This will enable you to check out the network coverage where you live (and where you want to travel to) before signing up. After all, there’s no point in paying out for data if you can’t actually access it.
In terms of the speeds (of uploading and downloading) you can expect, the days when mobile data couldn’t compete with a fixed-line broadband connection are rapidly disappearing with the roll out of 5G (in theory up to 20Gbps but in reality you’re lucky to get 300Mbps), and the ubiquity of 4G (in theory up to 50Mbps but again, expect somewhere in the 20-30Mbps range).
So, what was once a stop-gap or last resort is fast becoming a serious contender for your primary connection. A note of caution on 5G: be wary when you see 300Mbps or up quoted as this is likely to be a single burst, and in London, rather than the average 5G mobile data speed.
What unlimited mobile data deals are on offer?
In this guide we’ve looked at the fact that there are only actually four main network providers for mobile data in the UK: EE, O2, Vodafone and Three, all of whom offer unlimited mobile data deals. However, other companies 'piggyback’ (make use of those networks) and they try to offer value-adds to attract you. Starting with the big four, we’ll now look at what’s on offer.
- EE unlimited mobile broadband – EE offers a four mobile data routers most of which offer up to 4G speeds, with one the ‘5Gee Wifi’ router providing, as the name suggests, 5G speeds. EE also offers unlimited data SIMs
- Vodafone mobile broadband – Vodafone covers all the mobile data device bases offering data dongles, mobile wifi routers, a GigaCube that offers up to 5G speeds, and the old faithful data-only SIM
- Three mobile broadband – Three has teamed up with Huawei for its unlimited mobile data provision. It offers both wifi and MiFi-enabled Huawei routers for home use and travel use. You can also get dongles and data-only SIMs
- O2 – In terms of unlimited mobile data, O2 only offers a single unlimited SIM. This means that you will be tethering your other devices to your mobile phone’s personal hotspot
- Virgin Mobile – Virgin’s mobile data is provided by the EE network, so it has decent coverage in the UK. In terms of unlimited data deals though, it only offers that in standard mobile SIM form. So, this means tethering your other devices to your Virgin mobile
- Virgin Media – Virgin’s mobile data is provided by the EE network, so it has decent coverage in the UK. In terms of unlimited data deals though, it only offers that in standard mobile SIM form. So, this means tethering your other devices to your Virgin mobile
Unlimited mobile broadband checklist: What you need
Interested in unlimited mobile data deals, first things first: find out what you’ll need to make the most of the megabytes. Here’s our quick checklist.
You need a good signal
The most amazing unlimited data deal in the world isn’t going to be any use to you if you don’t have a reliable 3G, 4G or 5G signal. And frankly 3G is not really up to snuff if you want to replace your home broadband completely. So, check with the provider as to what their coverage in your specific locality is, and also ask them for the median (average) download speeds before forking out for an unlimited data SIM, dongle or hub. It’s also a good idea to check for the areas you regularly visit.
Will a temporary solution work for you?
If your home broadband is fine for your needs but you travel for work or just for fun then your own phone can do the trick. If you already have a mobile phone that offers the ability to create a personal hotspot so you can tether (connect) other devices to it, then investing in an unlimited data SIM deal could be perfect for you.
To dongle or not to dongle
Frankly dongles are becoming less and less available due to the wide availability now of smartphones that provide personal wifi hotspots. However, if your phone can’t provide a hotspot, then a dongle that plugs into your computer’s USB slot could be the way to go for a quick fix.
MiFi or wifi?
A broadband hub (also known as a router) that uses mobile data rather than being cabled into the outside world via your service provider can be a hugely useful back-up. In fact, with 4G and now 5G speeds it can be your primary device to connect to the internet. So, do you need a mobile data hub (router) of a MiFi one? Frankly, unless you intend to share your connection with more tens of fellow users it shouldn’t make much of a difference. It will in fact come down to the provider you choose.
Frequently asked questions
Can I get unlimited mobile broadband?
Very probably yes you can. However, you need to check that you’ll get reliable coverage. Use our comparison to find the best deals.
What's the fastest unlimited mobile broadband I can get?
EE has consistently offered the fastest average mobile data speeds in the UK. Its 4G average is somewhere in the 20-30Mbps region. Its 5G average download speed is around 130Mbps (although 333Mbps is quoted, but is realistically a one-off burst speed and only in London).
Is a MiFi device better than mobile tethering?
If you want a separate data SIM from your phone’s then yes, MiFi is definitely better for you. Also, if you want to reliably share your mobile data with more than a couple of people, then Mifi with up to 64 people is the way to go. If, however, you’re after a temporary solution on the go, then tethering is definitely cheaper and quicker.
Is there such a thing as pay as you go mobile unlimited broadband?
All of the big four network providers – EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 – offer unlimited data broadband deals (PAYG)/top-up basis. Several of the providers who make use of those four networks (piggybacking) are also in the market. These offers are mostly for data-only SIMs though.
How does mobile broadband work?
The big difference between home broadband using fixed-line or fibre optic, and mobile data is that the latter is delivered wirelessly using mobile network masts rather than cables running into your home.
Should I get 3G, 4G or 5G mobile broadband?
Of course this depends on the coverage in your area (or the area you’re travelling to). 4G is widely available in the UK, however, if you can find a good deal on a 5G unlimited data deal, this will obviously provide the fastest speed if your home, or intended usage area, has 5G coverage. A 5G router, hub, dongle or SIM will be able to downgrade its reception to 4G and even 4G.
Are there business mobile broadband packages?
Yes. However, we do not compare them on Cable. If you're looking for a business mobile broadband package, each of the UK's four network providers offer them – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – so you should pay a visit to their websites.