You travel a lot.
A USB dongle is a small device that you can carry around in your pocket. If you commute to work, then dongles can be handy to access the internet on buses and trains. If you’re in an airport with busy WiFi hotspots, just plug it in and you’re good to go. With a dongle you always have the option to connect without having to locate a WiFi hotspot or ask for a password.
You work in unreliable locations.
If some days you find yourself in shared workspaces, cafés or coffee shops, and have to battle to access their WiFi, a dongle for internet access can be a real saving grace.
How fast is the internet on a dongle?
The internet speed you can achieve while using a WiFi dongle depends on the mobile device you are using, the network it’s connected to and the strength of the coverage where you are.
If you are using a modern device, are connected to a 4G network and have excellent coverage, you should find doing most things online to be plain sailing. However, if you are looking to download and upload big files or watch 4K movies with poor network coverage on an old device, you may find the whole process a little cumbersome.
What are the drawbacks of Wi-Fi dongles?
Until 5G is fully rolled out, 4G is the most widely available signal and it’s not ideal for streaming or uploading big files. When you’re using your dongle, it’s best to keep your online tasks pretty basic.
The stability of your internet connection will also depend on your mobile provider’s reception in the area: if it’s not very good, your internet connection won’t be very good either.
Another thing to consider is download limits. Your home broadband package probably doesn’t come with any, but mobile broadband usually does. You’ll need to get the right package for your needs from your service provider, something we’d be more than happy to help with at Virgin Media.
Speaking of fast connections, you should also note that until 5G arrives with solid nationwide coverage, a Wi-Fi dongle is simply no substitute for a good home broadband connection. The speeds you can achieve are minimal in comparison to the superfast speeds delivered by Virgin Media.
What are the alternatives to dongles?
If you want to get online on your laptop fast, then there is no better way than a mobile broadband dongle. You don’t need to locate a WiFi hotpost and enter a password, you simply plug it in and you’re away.
However, should you wish to get multiple electronic devices online at the same time, then you will require an alternative with a bit more oomph: you’ll be in the market for a MiFi dongle.
A little smaller than your smartphone, a MiFi dongle is another compact, wireless device that’s dead easy to carry around and keep you connected on the move. The main difference between a WiFi dongle and a MiFi dongle is that MiFi dongles enable multiple users to share one mobile broadband connection. That’s why you may hear them being referred to as “mobile broadband routers”, because they behave in much the same way to the routers you have in your home.
MiFi dongles find 3G, 4G or 5G networks and create a mini hotspot for you and your friends or colleagues to connect to. As with WiFi dongles, they can usually be acquired on monthly, yearly or pay-as-you-go tariffs.
MiFi works using wireless signals and once it’s connected to a mobile network it can broadcast its signal wirelessly to multiple devices. iPads and some newer laptops don’t have USB ports and you probably don’t want to buy USB adapters should you own one of those devices. MiFi dongles are totally hassle-free: all you have to do to connect to the internet is to find the wireless network and enter the password.
Of course, having the ability to connect a number of devices to your MiFi signal also gives you more options when you’re on the move.
MiFi dongles don’t really have great range: 10 metres seems to be the general limit across the board. This doesn’t matter when you’re on the move as such, but could pose problems if you’re using multiple devices in different rooms at home. You will only be able to connect 5 of those devices at any time, which should be enough but represents another restriction nonetheless.
You should also bear in mind that if you do share your MiFi signal across a number of devices – consoles, smartphones, tablets, PC, laptop computer etc – you can easily approach your data allowance quicker.
Oh, and another thing: most dongles can also only connect to one type of network: so, a 4G one will not connect to 3G, and vice versa.