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Wireless dongle for occasional use

I use a small office ocassionally, but don't have any telephone connection or broadband there. I am looking for recommendations for a wireless dongle to use - at a low running cost.

I don't mind if there is a cost to purchase the device.

I don't think I will need large MB limits, as I won't do any 'browsing' as such - but it would be helpful for checking email and specific sites such as HMRC.

I have a 'desktop' pc there, so the dongle would be attached to a USB port.

Many thanks


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Many people I know use 3 but I think you have to use it within a certain period. Eg my wifi is playing up at present so I've just bought £10 of credit from 3 but I did it online for the iPad so no dongle. I need to use the credit within 30 days. My friend has a 3 dongle and has used it all the time for over a year.

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I use a 3 dongle regularly. Have it on a monthly contract. Works very well, good coverage, reliable service

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If you have a mobile

Why not use that instead ?


Depending on the make/model you should be able to plug it in using USB and then use it as a modem.  Or if the computer has wifi then setup a mobile hotspot using the mobile.

If it's capable of 3/4G then the speeds will be the same as using a dongle.

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I use a Mifi from 3. it is a wireless dongle and you can connect it to up to five different devices. You have have it on  a monthly contract on but a bundle and use it whenever you want with a year. ( if my memory serves me right)

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Thanks for the replies. I think 3 may be the one to go with. Before I do that, I am going to experiment with 'Samba' which I found from Moneysaving Expert. Apparently you watch adverts to get free online access with no expiry.

I will report back with how that goes...



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Is ok if you are looking for free access, however worth mentioning that it doesn't work with Internet Explorer so you will have to use Chrome or Firefox.


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Have a look at T-mobile as well - I paid £30 for the dongle and 3 months useage. There was no bligation to renew on expiry but various tariffs available if you want to continue using it eg £7.50/month on contract or £2/day for PAYG.

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Double check reception in your area

In large conurbations, most mobile operators will be fine, but if you're on the fringes of a town it's worth checking.  In my experience, their coverage maps are pretty useless - better to ask around to see what other people's experience is like.  I have always assumed that if you can get, for example, a Vodaphone mobile signal, then you'll get dongle-based broadband, but maybe others know better on this point.

Also, if you use BT broadband at home, you may be eligible to use BT Openzone.  Basically, you let other people use a small, secure chunk of your broadband in return for being able to "borrow" some of theirs when you're away from home.  This depends, of course, on having one of the BT Openzone hotspots very close to your office, but you should be able to check this quite easily via the BT website.  Then, all you need is wi-fi on your laptop or a wi-fi dongle plugged into your desktop.  I know this is a long-shot, but it's worth checking if you are already a BT customer (and may even be cost effective if you have to switch broadband suppliers).

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Vodaphone dongle does not always work even when mobile phone signal is good e.g in coastal East Anglia


Get advice from Carphone Warehouse or other outlet not tied to a network.

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Tether mobile phone ..

per @merlyn suggestion - if you have 3/4G already, why pay twice

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Make sure whichever dongle you choose, make sure you have AT LEAST 3G signal from that provider, or whatever you browse will take forever... !

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I have a dongle from orange with a 3gb limit at £12.50pm on a rolling 30 day contract and cost £5 for the dongle has 3G coverage and hasn't let me down so far.

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GiffGaff an option unsing smartphone

GiffGaff do sim bundles that allow tethering [internet sharing] to your mobile phone. For £10/mth you get 250mins, unltd text and 1gb data with tethering.

GiffGaff is piggybacked on O2


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@tom123 - you haven't commented on the very sensible suggestions from merlyn and JC to use your existing mobile phone as a wireless 'dongle'. What mobile phone and operating system are you currently using? We can then suggest how to use it.

If your phone offers WiFi tethering (sometimes called a mobile hotspot), then this is exactly the same as a specialised dongle that you buy and plug into the USB socket. The only reason to buy a separate dongle is if your existing mobile phone offers neither the ability to generate a WiFi signal nor the ability to plug directly into the PC's USB port and act as a wired modem.

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Technically a wifi hotspot and mobile tethering are slightly different.

Tethering is the process of using your mobile to get another device online (laptop, pc etc) and can be done either by plugging your phone into your pc using a cable, or using bluetooth, wifi etc.

A wifi hotspot is using your mobile phone to create a wifi network which your laptop can then connect to in order to get internet access.

So in reality using your mobile to create a wifi hotspot is a form of mobile tethering.

Mobile tethering itself isn't limited to just using wifi and can use a cable or any other connection type you like.

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Thank you for clarifying, Merlyn. I tried to distinguish cabled from wireless tethering by describing the latter as WiFi tethering rather than mobile tethering (I've not seen Bluetooth and other wireless technologies used as often as WiFi for tethering, but the market is constantly changing). But you're right that plugging the phone into the PC, so as to give internet access to the PC via the phone, is also a form of tethering.

The key point for tom123 is that he probably already has a device (his mobile phone) that can connect to the internet, so why buy another device (cellular network dongle) and pay another monthly contract) if he can connect that phone via USB or wirelessly to his PC.

He will need to ensure that his phone contract provider allows tethering in his contract (they sometimes restrict it, so as to keep data consumption down if, for example, he has unlimited data usage). If so, a call to his provider for another contract with appropriate data allowances will usually be easier and cheaper than a second contract for the mobile dongle.

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bluetooth is old
Tbh bluetooth isn't used that much anymore, but was the only way to do it prior to wifi hotspots being invented.

As it's just for infrequent use then will work out much cheaper if his phone supports it.

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Tethering and Dongles

The only comment I would offer - having used both tethering via an HTC Sensation and a MiFi 3 Dongle is the power usage ... The mobile phone's battery died very quickly whereas I got a good

4 hours continous use from the MiFi device.



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As it's for a desktop PC

Provided you buy the right cable to connect to the PC then it will also charge the phone.



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Mobile Wi-fi

I use a mobile wi-fi from 3.  Its not on contract and I like the freedom of only toping it up when I want to use it.  Each top up is for one month and the amount will depend on what data usage I want.  

The divice is a portable wi-fi about the shape of a cedit card (thicker due to battery) and allows you to connect up to five wi-fi enabled devices at the same time.  You can connect it to usb if no wi-fi.

Alternatively devices that are not wi-fi enabled I have in the past used a non-contract dongle which was £10 for a month.

Like people above I recommend checking which supplier works the best for your area, and  which provider has the better deal for the usage you want. No point in buying 5gb when you only use 1gb.   In regard to using the phone you would need to check what internet allowance you have to ensure you will not have additional charges.

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Thanks for all the new replies - just noticed several have come in recently.

Here is where I admit to being a bit behind the times phone wise, as I only have a Nokia phone on PAYG.

I will shortly be trying out the Samba dongle that has now arrived. If that doesn't work, then I may well look at the mobile phone option in conjunction with upgrading the phone - which I really need to do anyway.

I hadn't really thought of working via the phone, given that my phone is old, = thanks to this thread I can now see how I could combine both a new phone together with using it for occasional broadband.




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Not a problem.

If you do upgrade your phone make sure you ask the provider if unlimited tethering is included as part of the monthly cost and that you have a suitable data limit.


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