Cancel Your Phone Line (Part 1)

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Ditch your expensive landline and switch your broadband to 3G. You’ll get fast, unlimited downloads and free calls!

Mobile phones now dominate our lives, meaning that for many people a traditional landline exists only for broadband. Basically, you have to pay landline rental in order to get online.

But, as we’ll show in this article, it’s possible to save money by ditching the landline and its expensive line rental and switching to 3G mobile broadband. 3G speeds have improved to the stage where mobile broadband can now match or even better many traditional ADSL broadband connections. Some deals offer unlimited downloads for just $37.9 per month, with free calls and text messaging thrown in. In short, you’ll be able to do everything you normally do, but without having to pay rental for something you don’t need. And this isn’t just for home-dwellers - people running small businesses will save a small fortune, too.

We’ll start with a Q&A section that answers some common questions about mobile broadband, then we’ll take a look at the best deals on offer. We’ve also rounded up some of the latest 3G smartphones and other devices that you’ll need.

Ditching landline broadband won’t be for everyone, but for those with a good reception area, it can be a real money-saver.

What’s the basic idea?

Simple - cancel your traditional telephone landline and instead use a smartphone or other device to connect to the internet using 3G mobile broadband. You’ll be able to create a Wi-Fi network to share this connection around your home, just as you do right now. As you’ll see - compared with BT’s cheapest unlimited ADSL broadband ($24 a month, plus $22.9 for line rental) - you’ll save up to $108 a year.

Can I get coverage in my area?

A very high percentage of the UK population live in areas with good or excellent 3G coverage, with all the main mobile phone networks claiming more than 90% coverage. The networks have coverage-checker maps on their websites, so use these first. Just tap in your postcode to see predicted coverage and signal strength. Coverage can vary a lot locally, but all contracts have short cooling-off periods allowing no-penalty cancellation. Check the details of the contract before you sign up.

Use mobile phone company websites to check 3G coverage in your area

Use mobile phone company websites to check 3G coverage in your area

How fast is mobile broadband?

3G is a general term covering several different technologies. Standard 3G has download speeds of up to 2Mbps. HSDPA (sometimes called 3.5G) has a maximum speed of 7.2Mbps. HSPA+ (sometimes called 3G+) increases this to 21Mbps, and dual-carrier HSPA+ (DC-HSPA+) doubles it to 42Mbps. Some networks advertise ‘3G 900’, which is standard 3G using the 900MHz radio frequency rather than the normal 2,100MHz. This has a better range and is more reliable for indoor usage.

Many phones and tablets can be used as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Many phones and tablets can be used as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot

4G, or LTE, is the latest mobile broadband standard, with speeds of more than 100Mbps. It’s expensive and available only on the EE ( network, but Vodafone (, 02 ( and Three ( will soon launch competing services, so prices should come down.

Do I need a MAC number to switch?

No. To avoid paying for two services you’ll need to cancel your existing broadband service and landline. Avoid penalty charges by switching when the contract is due for renewal. Your internet service provider (ISP) doesn’t need to be informed of the switch to mobile broadband - just cancel the service when you’re ready.

Are there any upfront costs?

No. All the deals we explore - starting on - are available with a free smartphone, dongles or mobile hotspots, and there are no installation costs. If you want a top-of-the-range smartphone or dongle, though, you may need to spend money up front - see the best 3G devices for the job.

How do I connect my Wi-Fi computers and devices to the internet?

Almost all recent Android, Apple iOS and Windows Phone smartphones support tethering, meaning they can share their 3G internet connection via Wi-Fi. In effect, they work like a miniature wireless router. However, some superficially attractive contracts ban tethering, so be sure to check the small print (it’s sometimes referred to as “using the phone as a modem”).

Can I get mobile broadband without a smartphone?

Yes. Personal hotspots, sometimes called Mi-Fi devices, are miniature wireless routers containing a SIM card. Most networks sell them with data bundles, or you can buy your own device and get a SIM-only contract. Another option is a 3G USB dongle, but these cannot share the connection unless plugged into a 3G-compatible router (see the next question).

One thing to check before buying is the 3G standard supported - some older devices only support HSDPA (7.2Mbps) speeds.

Can I use mobile broadband with an existing wired home network?

Yes, but not via a tethered smartphone. A 3G-capable router is needed - these use a 3G USB dongle for the internet connection and share this via standard network ports and Wi-Fi. This is a good way to connect wired non-computing devices such as TVs, game consoles and Sky boxes to the internet. You can buy a 3G-capable wireless router for as little as $37.9.

An alternative method that doesn’t need a 3G router - but is a little more technical to configure - is to use a wireless Ethernet bridge. A wireless bridge connects to the hotspot via Wi-Fi, and has standard network ports for wired devices.

Use a wireless bridge, such as the Linksys WES61 ON, to connect a hotspot to a wired network

Use a wireless bridge, such as the Linksys WES61 ON, to connect a hotspot to a wired network

Are unlimited deals truly unlimited?

Very few are. However, The One Plan from Three has no fair-use policy, traffic management or blocked services. It offers truly unlimited 3G broadband with tethering included, and is great value.

Is there a limit to the number of wireless devices I can use?

Sometimes. While there are usually no contractual limits on sharing an internet connection, some smartphones and personal hotspots have technical limitations. For example, some of Three’s Mi-Fi devices support only five simultaneous connections, while with Windows Phone 8 you can share up to 10. If more wireless connections are needed, consider using a 3G-capable router instead.

Is a smartphone’s Wi-Fi compatible with my existing devices?

Yes. Most smartphones and personal hotspots use the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, which is also compatible with 802.11b and 802.llg devices.

If I use a tethered smartphone, can I still use it for calls (including emergency calls)?

Yes. Tethering works transparently in the background, so the smartphone can still be used for calls or texts without disrupting the internet connection. Emergency calls can be made as normal, as long as the smartphone is switched on and has a signal. And as a bonus, you get the benefit of any bundled free voice minutes or texts.

Skype and other internet phone services will work, if the contract allows their use

Skype and other internet phone services will work, if the contract allows their use

Are any internet sites or services blocked?

Not usually. Some companies do block certain services or restrict them at peak times, such as file-sharing or internet phone calls (the likes of Skype, for example). It can vary between specific plans, so always ask about a particular service before signing up. Some companies also filter adult content, which can be turned off if desired. This won’t cost you anything. T-Mobile and EE have anti-spam restrictions that block email services not requiring a login, but these shouldn’t affect many users.

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