Besides which carrier and which free laptops will I get to choose from, there are several fundamental questions you need to answer for yourself when choosing a mobile broadband package.

Contract vs Pay As You Go (PAYG)

Is this your main source of broadband, or are you looking for an occasional filler for when you’re away from home or the office?

If it’s your main source you should consider a contract as not only will you receive a faster connection speed, but also a higher data allowance.

If you’re looking for a connection that fills the gaps between home, work and your local cafe’s Wi-Fi, then a PAYG dongle is probably enough. Consider where you will be using it as remote locations aren’t always served. Don’t take the sales person’s word for it. Call the technical department of your chosen carrier. Ask if they have ‘broadcast cells’ in the intended location. Give them the postcode. This will save you time and the hassle of chasing a refund if the PAYG dongle doesn’t work in the one place you need it. And mobile communication companies in UK don’t like giving out refunds.

Data Limit

Monthly limits range from 0.1GB to 25GB, depending on the price of your contract. Consider what sites you intend on looking at. Do they stream video? Would you like to watch an entire football match or tennis match – some matches regularly last 3 hours – online? If yes, then consider a larger data allowance.

Free laptops or tablets

Are you interested in a free machine? The majority of deals cut the price of a laptop or tablet, while others absorb it into the cost of the line rental. Some “free iPad” deals, however, are grossly inflated, so do the maths before you speak to the sales adviser.

Price – what can you afford?

Or perhaps the question is what do you need? If you’re someone who uses mobile internet when you’re away on business, you might benefit more from a PAYG dongle that allows you to buy a chunk of data and use it at will, rather than an ongoing contract.

Data limits and ‘free’ machines all have a direct affect on the price of the contract. If you’re already paying for broadband at home and have broadband at work, ask yourself

‘What are my online habits when not at home, or at work?’

‘Does mobile broadband meet the needs of this habit?’

Length of contract

The majority of contracts are 24 months. Are your circumstances such that you’ll still be using mobile broadband on your laptop in 24 months time? Will you have upgraded to a tablet before then? Will your carrier provide you with a Micro SIM necessary to support 3G tablets? Technology is moving so fast that a contract you sign today will certainly be outclassed in two years time.

Answering these questions should help narrow down what type of mobile broadband package would suit you.

About the author: Marie-Paule Graham writes on behalf of Broadband Genie, the independent comparison website for broadband and mobile broadband.