Mobile broadband is a very vague and confusing term. There are two ways to access the Internet when you are away from home, wifi and 3G/4G.

Wifi Internet Access

Free wifi hotspots are available in restaurants, shops and car parks. When you use one of these hotspots you are connected wirelessly to the facility’s router, which then sends and receives the data from the Internet that you require.

There is no password for free hotspots, so this tells you that the network is not secure. It is a simple matter for any amateur hacker who is on the same network to access your Facebook account, any passwords you type in and to copy any passwords that are stored on your computer.

3G/4G Internet Access

4G will be around in cities over the next year or so, but most of us are going to be using 3G for a  good while yet. The principles are the same, 4G is just faster.

3G and 4G are never free. You have to pay for them. If you have a smart phone then you can either pay for your Internet use as part of an inclusive package where you make regular monthly payments or by using a prepay account, where you pay for a set amount of data and when it is used up you pay for the next batch.

If you are using a tablet computer you will either need a sim card for it or you will need a mifi adapter and a sim card for that instead. The mifi adapter is more flexible because it allows you to connect your laptop and tablet to the Internet at the same time using the one sim card. It just sits in your bag and establishes your own mini-wireless network that all your Internet-capable devices use to connect to the mifi box, which in turn connects to the Internet via 3G (or 4G).

Again, you can buy sim cards that are pre-loaded with a set data allowance or you can purchase a monthly data plan from the 3G network of your choice.

Choosing a 3G Service

If you live in an urban area then you will have a choice of 3G/4G network providers. If you live in a rural area then your choice will be much more limited.

Once you have established which networks offer a 3G service in your locality you can ask about 4G services. If you are given a vague answer then it means that that operator has no plans for a 4G service in your area. Given a choice you should always choose a 4G service over a 3G one.

Apart from 3G or 4G different cell phone companies offer different mobile broadband deals, including different amounts of data, phone call minutes and texts. You need to decide what compromises you are prepared to make, because you will need to make some. There are very few unlimited everything deals around, and even those that say they are unlimited are not because every operator has a fair use clause hidden away in the small print.

Look for a package that includes a generous allowance of 8Gb a month along with your chosen inclusive texts and minutes. 8Gb will allow you to use the Net freely as long as you stay away from video, photo and audio sites.

The long and the short of it is that you cannot use a mobile broadband service in the same way as you would a fixed line optical fibre service at home. There are always data limitations and the service will always slow down at times of heavy usage. You need to adjust your browsing habits to the medium you are using at the time. Keep streaming video and YouTube for use at home for the best experience and to avoid hefty data usage charges.